How 23-year-old Geetu from Bhopal became Asia’s coffee champion


My name is Geetu Mohnani and I am 23 years old. I was born and brought up with two siblings in the City of Lakes, Bhopal, in Madhya Pradesh, where I completed my schooling. My mother, a teacher, was always our source of inspiration and motivation. I wonder if she ever guessed that, one day, her daughter Geetu would be a national coffee champion!

I completed my graduation in hotel management from IHM-Goa. During my college days, I was always fascinated with the different techniques of brewing coffee and aspired to actually master this art. After completing my graduation at IHM, I was fortunate to get employed at a Starbucks store in Delhi through a campus placement. At first, I joined as a store management trainee and now I am the store manager at the Delhi T3 Domestic Terminal.

My two-and-a-half year journey with the brand has truly been a memorable one, the most exciting part being the kind of management opportunities and exposure to growth that partners get, whatever level we may be working at.

My passion and love for the bean grows each day. I have always been proud of my ability to showcase my skills and love for coffee craft to my customers and it is this confidence that motivated me to participate in the Starbucks Coffee Championship last year. This is a worldwide initiative by Starbucks to recognize and appreciate the efforts of us partners who man Starbucks counters and make the coffees. My fellow partners and senior managers motivated and encouraged me no end. This Howard Schultz quote was a huge inspiration for me at the time: “When you’re surrounded by people who share a passionate commitment around a common purpose, anything is possible.”

Geetu Mohnani and Monica Kithodiya at the Championship in Taiwan
Geetu Mohnani and Monica Kithodiya were India’s representatives to the Taiwan championship

At the Coffee Championship in India, I was judged on the grounds of my interactive coffee tasting, beverage artistry and blind tasting skills as well as ideas how to elevate coffee leadership in the India market. First came the regional levels, when 450 Starbucks partners and coffee masters participated; only six made it to the India finals in Mumbai.

You’ve probably guessed by now that I won the all-India championship in Mumbai!

Based on this, I was selected to represent my country at the Asia Pacific championship on March 31 this year, which was conducted on the same grounds but on a much more advanced scale. Sixteen Starbucks partners from fifteen countries competed for the trophy in Taiwan.

Geetu Mohnani with other participants at the Coffee Championship in Taiwan
Geetu Mohnani with other participants at the Coffee Championship in Taipei

A motto that I have always lived by and that helped me a lot during Annual Barista Championship in Taipei is to be myself in everything I do. Yes, I’m very good at brewing a cup of coffee and making Latte Art, but one of my biggest strengths is my storytelling ability. Whilst interacting with the judges, I built on this strength, which helped to elevate the interactive experience.

And yes, I made it to the top three winners – the other two were men. I was the first female coffee master to win one of the top spots!

The Taiwan championships were the most beautiful five days of my life, full of excitement, adrenaline-rushes, scares and surprises all experienced at once, all together! I couldn’t be happier!

Geetu Mohnani with her ticket to the Starbucks Coffee Hub in Seattle
Geetu Mohnani (right) with her ticket to Seattle

Next up is the global championship at Seattle, USA. I’m very excited to visit the city as I’ve read and heard so much about it. I’m hoping to learn a lot from my visit and bring the knowledge back to all my fellow Indian partners. Not to mention, I have been brushing up on my knowledge of coffee as well as speaking to partners and customers here regarding their questions that they would like answered from the Starbucks hub!

And oh, if you must know, my favourite coffee at Starbucks is the India Estates Blend. Come on over and I’ll brew it up for you!