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Darcy Todd wins the North American Baristas Championship organized by Starbucks

Darcy Todd wins the North American Baristas Championship organized by Starbucks

June 07 - 2024

Coffee Geography Magazine


Todd, a four-year partner (employee), was chosen from an original group of more than 17,000 baristas across the U.S. and Canada, capping a five-month long celebration of community, connection and craft. 

As green and white confetti fell from above, the winner of Starbucks first-ever North America Barista Championship was crowned: Darcy Todd from Arlington, Texas.

Todd was named in front of a live audience at the Starbucks Support Center in Seattle, chosen from an original group of more than 17,000 baristas representing company-operated, Siren Retail and licensed stores across the U.S. and Canada. The announcement caps a five-month long competition celebrating community, connection and craft that started with store selections in February.

Twenty-one regional champions flew to Seattle for this week’s three-day final event, which was broadcast live and took place in front of about 400 family, friends and Starbucks partners (employees), under green-tinted spotlights on a specially constructed stage designed to look like dueling store coffee bars. Nearly 3,000 people watched online. 

“I'm shocked and very honored,” Todd said, moments after winning. “A lot of us might struggle to find our passion and who we are, but when you have people like this (motioning at her fellow champions) who are all really supporting you and creating that community, it helps you find that sense of self.” 

During the competition, the champions created and presented unique signature beverages made from in-store ingredients, crafted core Starbucks drinks like lattes and iced shaken espressos, led coffee tastings and told stories about favorite customers and key moments in their career. 

At the end of the second day, judges selected three finalists – Todd, Holly Kang from Vancouver, British Columbia, and Adrian Mata Pantoja from Tempe, Arizona – to compete in one last coffee and storytelling finale.

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Todd will be awarded a trip to Hacienda Alsacia, Starbucks research and development farm in Costa Rica, and will present her signature beverage – an Iced Peaches and Cream Latte with Coconut Milk – to Starbucks beverage innovation teams in Seattle.

Todd also advances to next year’s first Starbucks Global Barista Championship, which will also take place at Hacienda Alsacia, facing off against winners from markets around the world. 

 Along with the other regional champions, she’ll also be able to nominate a nonprofit organization to receive a $2,500 Neighborhood Grant from The Starbucks Foundation.

Sara Trilling, president of Starbucks North America, paid tribute to all the regional champions at the end of the competition. 

"These 21 baristas represent all of our Green Apron partners across the U.S. and Canada, showcasing their exceptional skills in coffee craft and storytelling,” Trilling said. "The North America Barista Championship was meant to be a thoughtful and intentional investment in our baristas, celebrating how unique and special they are.”

After Todd’s name was announced, the audience erupted, and confetti rained down from cannons attached to scaffolding around the stage. The competitors cried, hugged, danced, took selfies and threw confetti at each other. 

“Everyone has their role to play but baristas are the heart and soul of the company,” Todd said. “They are who customers see and connect with every day. When we were at dinner the other night, I was looking around and taking it in that we’re in a room full of the most talented baristas (in North America). I’m so honored to be here.”

Darcy Todd majored in psychology in college and has always been interested in theories relating to how different cultures interact with each other. 

 “There’s the Peach versus Coconut Theory in which there are different ways that countries approach relationships,” Todd said, explaining the inspiration behind her signature beverage, an Iced Blonde Vanilla Latte with coconut milk and Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Foam with a splash of peach juice. “This drink represents how Starbucks is the Third Place and it doesn’t matter what culture you’re from. Differences go away because coffee is our common ground.” 

 Presenting her creation to a panel of coffee experts and judges in Seattle has been the latest in a year full of coffee milestones for Todd. She also completed her Coffee Master certification. 

 “I keep thinking, ‘How did I get here?’” she said. “Looking back on this entire journey, I think I’ve grown. I have more faith and pride in myself, and there are so many people who supported me along the way. There is a balance between being humble and owning our craft, but also knowing that I am good at what I do, and that's how I got this far.” 

 A four-year employee, Todd’s coffee passion started at a young age, when she was inspired to become a barista, just like her cousin, who was “the coolest person in the world.” She said Starbucks has always been her place to study and hang out, long before she joined the company. During the competition, she reminisced about some of the moments she experienced in stores as a customer and partner, the good and the bad, and all the people who helped her along the way. 

 “My store manager and assistant store manager were there for me every step of the way, and I want all my partners to know that I miss them and they’re the reason that I’m here,” Todd said. “Thank you to the customers who cheered me on, and of course my family: my mom, dad, brother and sister-in-law.”