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The 12th Costa Coffee ‘Barista of the Year’ competition is underway, with four UK finalists competing for the title which will be awarded on 24 January.

The competition pits 12 worldwide baristas against each other to display their ‘passion and flair for coffee’ from countries including Poland, Ireland, Kuwait, China, Czech Republic and the Philippines.

The four UK ‘extraordinaires’ will compete in challenges to create hand-crafted coffee to a high standard. Chelsea Geary, 19, Yvonne Corcoran, 22, Freddy Whittle, 21 and Kinga Sobczynska, 21, face challenges like the espresso race, where finalists must pour the most perfect espressos in one minute and latte art.

Geary, representing Costa Coffee Liverpool, said: “The reason I became a barista is quite simply because I was always a huge fan of coffee and the idea of making it and having a duty to serve it to the public to a high standard was very appealing to me.

“The customers are also a big part of my role, as I love people.”

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Sobczynska, from Brent Cross Shopping City Costa, said: “I was inspired to enter Barista of the Year by the amazing people around me as well as Costa’s values, mission and vision.

“It made me want to become a brand ambassador; sharing my passion, personality and knowledge. To get to this point in the competition feels unbelievable and I feel very proud to be a part of it.”

Participants are also challenged to create their own signature drink for the judges to try. ‘The Cherry and the Goat’, ‘Café Gourmand de Macaron’, ‘The Eco Blend’ and ‘Plum Cake’ are among the entries from the UK team.

Whittle, from Leeds Costa Coffee, said: “I have loved coffee from a young age and always admired the skill of the baristas crafting it. When I needed a job, I decided to become a barista so I could learn to make the coffees I enjoyed drinking.

“I decided to enter Barista of the Year as I love being on the coffee machine and practising my skills. I was excited at the chance to design my own speciality coffee,” Whittle added.

Corcoran, from Queen Alexandra Hospital Costa said: “I decided to enter Barista of the Year because I wanted to challenge myself and see what I could learn along the way.”

Costa Coffee stated: “The contenders are judged on a number of criteria, including technical skill, presentation and personality, but critically, they’re also judged on the passion they show for their craft – an essential ingredient of every cup of Costa coffee.

“We believe that coffee is more than just a drink; it’s a way of life.”