After a three-year hiatus, P&O’s annual barista competition is finally back! This exciting contest has been a staple in the 20-year-plus partnership between Nestlé Professional and P&O.

The first of the three competitions took place on Monday March 20, onboard the Pacific Adventure; P&O’s newest, largest, and most impressive ship yet.

Docked in Sydney’s Circular Quay, the ship provided the perfect venue for some fierce competition between the six talented baristas from around the country who were selected to compete. Their challenge was to create an espresso, flat white and cappuccino for each of the of the judges, using the heavenly Dark Spark roasted coffee blend from Buondi.

The Dark Spark blend from Buondi is the coffee of choice on P&O cruises and is increasing in popularity in Australian pubs and clubs due to its rich, enticing roast.

A battle of the (coffee) beans

A panel comprising of senior P&O and Nestlé Professional judges were on the edge of their seats as they critiqued the competitors’ technical ability, cleanliness, self-conduct and creative latte art.

Judge Jo Yuen, Master Barista at Nestlé Professional, said: “As judges, we were looking for a golden-brown crema on the espresso, a full-bodied mouthfeel and a well-balanced taste.”

In addition to their technical skills, the baristas were required to showcase their expert knowledge of the blend while preparing each cup. They discussed what they saw in a cup of Dark Spark, including the brown sugar aroma, caramel tasting notes, quality, and smooth drinkability of the blend.

“The dark roast cuts through milk well and delivers a rich tasting coffee, which is perfect for our guests who enjoy their coffee with milk,” said Michelle Fernandez, P&O barista.

While all six competitors created a delicious brew with beautifully manicured milk, there had to be one winner. Ultimately, it came down to a show of exceptional latte art skills and superior attention to detail behind the machine.

The champion barista’s secret weapon

Gilbert Mapa (Bar Waiter, at NZN Ice Cream & Coffee Bar) and his dazzling cup of Buondi Dark Spark took the crown to become Pacific Adventure’s champion barista, with Michelle Fernandez (Bartender, Charlie’s Bar) named as the runner-up.

All of the expert baristas did an incredible job and were praised by the judging panel for their skills and knowledge, as well as showcasing the versatility of the blend.According to Graham Willshere, Senior Manager Guest Experience – Bar Operations, Systems & Hotel Compliance at P&O: “The staff are very proud of their coffee knowledge and skills. Events like this keep them engaged and give them the opportunity to showcase their passion.” 

After yet another fun and exciting barista competition on board, one thing is for sure – P&O’s baristas know how to make a mouth-watering cup of Buondi Dark Spark!

See the expert baristas live in action here:

Buondi – Crafted for Now

Nestlé Professional launched Buondi in Australia in 2015, aligning the brand’s positioning with its origins in Portugal. From January 2023, the Buondi brand launched a brand-new look and feel.

The new brand positioning was created to better reflect Australia’s sophisticated coffee culture, and is designed to elevate those unique coffee moments within pubs, clubs and café’s (and ships!).

The recently refreshed Buondi range features new modern blend names and stylish, contemporary packaging which characterise the flavour profile. The brand features three hero SKUs; Steady State, Complex Soul, and the blend used onboard P&O cruise ships, Dark Spark.

Buondi sources the finest beans from all over the world which are expertly roasted and blended in Gympie to suit the Australian palate and lifestyle, and the Dark Spark blend from Buondi contains 100 per cent Rainforest Alliance Certified™ coffee beans.

Buondi believes that people deserve experiences and moments that are enriched by good coffee.  Whether it’s smooth cup of coffee after dinner, or something to help smash out the day, Buondi is crafted for now.