Everyone loves backstage passes; getting the opportunity to see behind the scenes and being part of the structure of events. Being backstage is not always what it claims to be, as it could be more than glamour, but a desire wanting to be achieved. This is Kiah Parangue’s coffee story.
Some of the best stories require the protagonists to challenge themselves, and Kiah is one of them as she moved from her home country of the Phillippines to the United Arab Emirates, and eventually got hired to work as a secretary at the Dubai Coffee Museum. She has performed her role excellently, but her blissful six years as a secretary is not why we shared her story.
We present to you, the 2023 International Lavazza Barista Challenge Champion, representing UAE. Here’s a little back story.
Kiah Parangue got into the coffee industry as a secretary at the Dubai Coffee Museum in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood of Dubai, UAE. She honed her skills diligently and got an opportunity to become advanced after her superior, the Coordinator of the SCA chapter in Dubai found out about her experience organizing events and suggested that she volunteered. She took that chance and volunteered in the organization of the National Coffee Championships that were held in UAE, and since then, she was hooked.
She became very interested in coffee events and started learning more about it. She began to take more involved positions in organizing events until she became a main organizer. Courses relating to organizing coffee events became her goals as she talked to everyone around her about organizing coffee events, showing her desire to learn more, and always pushing herself out of her comfort zone.
She would have consumed a lot of coffee in this period, but none of them were as memorable as her first filter Ethiopian coffee. The drink brought her coffee love to life,
“and that’s when I started loving brewed coffee, never thought how coffee can be so good with so many flavors.”
Remembering this always brought happiness to her, a crucial ingredient in her definition of success – “Being genuinely happy and being able to inspire others.” But as with a lot of jobs that involve the satisfaction of people, organizing these events was no small feat as Kiah would try to please as many people as possible,
“I try to do my best to help provide a good competitive platform to reciprocate the efforts of all the competitors who have invested their time, energy, and resources to showcase their skills and coffee and set the bar for the UAE community.”
Doing this job repeatedly, made her comfortable, and as the saying goes, “A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.” Kiah’s desire didn’t grow anymore. She began to wonder if this was her limit, and if organizing these events was all she could do. She decided to challenge herself, and she made a decision that opened a whole new world for her. The world of coffee competitions.
In 2022, Kiah competed alongside other baristas in the UAE Lavazza Barista Challenge and came out on top, to represent UAE at the International Finals in Turin, Italy in 2023. With Inspiration from her coach, Lyndon Recera, Michaela Ruazol Recera, Mondrick Alpas, and her family, who are her greatest supporters, she came out on top again, winning the competition for herself and the United Arab Emirates.
These events culminate with the things Kiah is most proud of, alongside being a volunteer organizer of the UAE National Championship and supporting the 2022 World of Coffee Dubai. These still don’t stop her from cringing whenever she remembers how she adored competitors from backstage. She always wondered about the feeling of competing, traveling around to compete, and also becoming a champion. An experience she now fully has.
Kiah is open to meeting people, as she jumped on a podcast with one of our friends, Irina Sharipova, Coffee People in the Middle East. Meeting people and learning from them is the favorite part of her daily work. She loves the tight-knit community that the coffee community is, as it is always full of support when she needs it, making her always willing to support when she can. She has seen this community grow in coffee education and innovation, and sometimes, it can be hard for her to keep up.
In her non-coffee time, she enjoys watching movies, eating different foods, listening to acoustic music, and will always be willing to travel more, although, she is happy to receive visits at the Dubai Coffee Museum.
For Kiah, leaving the comfort zone builds everyone’s coffee journey as she believes,
“Never stop learning new skills, always grab the opportunities where you can showcase and develop your skills, or just find that one thing you love to do that will give you genuine happiness, and do it.”