Michalis Katsiavos on His First WBC Appearance

At his very first WBC appearance, Michalis Katsiavos of Greece placed fourth. He takes us on a journey from behind the bar to the top of the podium.


Photos courtesy of World Coffee Events

Michalis Katsiavos is an experienced barista: He has spent eight years behind the bar, and currently works as a barista at The Underdog in Athens, Greece. He built on this foundation to put together an impressive run at the 2018 World Barista Championship (WBC). In his first-ever appearance at the WBC, Michalis made it to the finals and placed fourth, becoming the first competitor from Greece to make the WBC finals since the 2014 WBC, when Christos Loukakis placed third. We talked to Michalis about how he got into coffee, what he learned from his 2018 WBC experience, and his advice for other barista competitors.

Michalis Katsiavos is the barista champion of Greece and placed fourth at the WBC in Amsterdam this year.

Chris Ryan: Can you tell me how you started working in coffee?
Michalis Katsiavos: I studied economics at the American college of Greece. When I finished my studies I had to find a job in the business industry, but I quickly found I was not so interested. I was in love with coffee and I started working as barista.

CR: What is your current job? How long have you been doing it, and what do you like about it?
MK: I have worked as a barista for eight years. Getting involved with coffee, I realized there are many variables that come into play to serve delicious cups of coffee. Trying to understand all of these variables and taking control of them, I started working in the coffee industry with higher professionalism. This is the most interesting part of my job, serving delicious coffees every day here at The Underdog in Athens.

Michalis is currently a barista at The Underdog in Athens. In his first appearance at the WBC, his main goals were to present his routine and do the best he could.

CR: What expectations did you have going into the World Barista Championship? What did you hope to gain from the experience?
MK: Competing in the WBC was already a success for me. The expectations I had for myself were to present my routine the best I could, to enjoy the competition, and of course to serve delicious cups of coffee. I like setting small goals, and as I achieve them, setting more goals. This is how I encountered the WBC. The first challenge was to qualify for the semifinals. Then the goal was completed, so I had to think the same about qualifying in the finals. And finally I can say that being in the finals and winning fourth place among 56 countries was really an enjoyable moment.

CR: How would you describe your 2018 WBC experience? What did you learn from it?
MK: The 2018 WBC was an amazing experience for me. I met many people, I made new coffee friends sharing ideas about coffee, and I got inspired by many competitors by the way they approach coffee. What I experienced from the WBC 2018 is like The Underdog team motto: “Work Hard, Be Kind, Stay Humble.”

Throughout the competition, Michalis repeated a mantra popular with his team at The Underdog: “Work Hard, Be Kind, Stay Humble.”

CR: Do you have any advice for current and future competitors?
MK: I believe coffee competitions are really important for those who want to improve their skills and develop their coffee knowledge. It is a way to achieve progress faster and give them motivation. In order to achieve this, you have to work hard, be focused, and not care about which place you get.

CR: Do you think you’ll compete again in the future?
MK: For now, I am not thinking of competing again. I need some rest after this year’s hard work and training almost every day for many hours. My personal goal is to open my own coffee shop in Athens that serves The Underdog’s coffee. I want to focus little bit more on this.

CR: Is there anything more that you want our readers to know?
MK: I want to say that the most exciting thing in coffee for me is that from such a small coffee bean you can make other people feel so many different feelings and emotions.

About Chris Ryan 261 Articles
Chris Ryan (he/him) is Barista Magazine's online copy editor and a freelance writer and editor with a background in the specialty coffee industry. He has been content director of Sustainable Harvest and the editor of Fresh Cup Magazine.