A degree in food technology may seem like the perfect springboard for coffee lovers to dive into the hows and whys of the coffee industry, but Mariam Erin Pinza wanted more. We recently had a coffee chat with her on one of our podcast episodes.
Mariam Erin Pinza, the UAE Brewers Cup Champion in 2021 and UAE Cezve Ibrik champion in 2022, who is originally from the Philippines and based in the United Arab Emirates, had a lot to say and share about her experiences and, of course, her love for coffee.
“I do what I love, and I love what I do, and I’ll keep choosing it every day.”
Mariam has always had a special place in her heart for art, mostly influenced by her three brothers, who were into design and engineering. She went with them to their exhibitions and galleries and fell in love with painting. She considers herself a self-taught artist and loves to keep or sell specific artwork. She proudly shows off her artwork on her Instagram page, @mariam.erin, as well as her favorite cups of coffee.
Mariam obtained a degree in Food Technology from the Philippines, worked in a food laboratory, and had some experience with the Coca-Cola company doing chemical analysis, microbial analysis, quality control, and research for two years. She didn’t want to spend her early youthful years doing the same thing and thought of a way of breaking out of that cycle.
She then decided she was going to move out of the country. The best avenue for her then was in food service — working as a barista.
Even though it was a commercial coffee business, in a short time, she was promoted from barista to operations and became even more engrossed in the coffee community. She also fell in love with working in a country that is widely known for its investment in specialty coffee.
“I fell in love with specialty coffee when I went to a coffee shop, and then the barista was full-heartedly talking about one cup with a guest.”
This moment took her down a wondrous path that has made her gain recognition, even as an immigrant in the UAE. In her five years living in the Emirates, she has seen significant growth in the specialty coffee industry, mainly due to its consumers. Especially after the pandemic, people returned as home brewers and were more enlightened about the type of coffee they enjoyed and were interested in drinking.
Coffee shops have sprouted like mushrooms to meet the demand of the ever-increasing coffee community. People now take a keen interest in how their coffee beans are made and where they’re from, making their best efforts to properly compensate and promote the farms, farmers, and baristas involved in the production of the cups. This creates a trend that other interested parties follow, which in turn, develops the coffee scene in the UAE.
Mariam recalls her first specialty cup of coffee as an experimental coffee, a very chocolatey Panama cup, which she didn’t even buy. It was in stark contrast to her normal coffee – black, no sugar. She always loves having conversations and educating people about coffee and how it progresses from one stage to another.
Her inspiration to remain in the coffee industry:
“It’s the people. We’re so connected over a single cup of the crop, that innovations don’t stop. People keep learning about it, and people keep arguing about it as well. But it’s good because, at the end of the argument, there is a conclusion.”
Her involvement in the coffee industry inspired her to want to be a part of the entire process, even if she couldn’t work everywhere; she began exploring specialty coffee, gaining knowledge, and part of her exploration led her to compete in coffee competitions.
As the UAE Brewers Cup champion, she ensures that she keeps an open mind to trends in the coffee community, whether it involves using specific species of coffee beans during competitions or using a specific brand of instrument. She is aware that whatever she brings on stage can influence the decisions of coffee drinkers around her.
Before, during, and after competitions, Mariam ensures she takes notes on peculiarities she notices from her coffee interactions and experiences.
In preparation for competitions, she makes use of a training lab, where she spends long hours just experimenting. She takes her time to achieve the best results, paying close attention to how she pours and the like. She plans her calendar for upcoming events and the time she wants to spend learning and relearning specific coffee elements.
She also relies heavily on her support team, who help her to iron out kinks for the competition. From getting her a personalized table to brainstorming solutions to the wildest problems, like a cup falling from her hand. Mariam tries her best to inspire others whenever she speaks and makes sure to judiciously use her speaking time.
Her advice to all competitors:
“Don’t forget to enjoy it. It’s always hard. But don’t forget to have fun. “
She sees her future self, more invested in competitions and the community, sharing her views and ideas with people and inspiring them to do more.
She doesn’t have a go-to coffee because she is open to experimenting with different types, but her preparation is the same. 12 grams, maybe 15 first, brew for less than 2 minutes, then make adjustments from there.
You may find Mariam at Seven Fortunes Coffee Roasters in Al Quoz. She works as the head of coffee quality. She could be wearing her favorite bucket hat, which she can’t seem to get rid of because it’s so comfortable. During her non-coffee time, she runs, skates, or takes bicycle rides. To relieve stress, exercise and painting help.
One thing she hopes to leave in the minds of people:
“Whatever you’re doing right now may not be significant the next day. So, make sure you don’t stop learning, don’t base your knowledge on something in just the now, because maybe tomorrow it will change.”
She is to represent the UAE in upcoming coffee competitions, and we can’t wait to see her on the big stage once again.