Darcy Todd, who has worked for Starbucks for four years, was chosen from an original group of more than 17,000 baristas across the US and Canada as the company’s first-ever North America Barista Championship.

The announcement caps a five-month long competition celebrating community, connection and craft that started with store selections in February. Twenty-one regional champions flew to Seattle for this week’s three-day final event, which was broadcast live and took place in front of about 400 family, friends and Starbucks employees (as well as nearly 3,000 people watching online), under green-tinted spotlights on a specially constructed stage designed to look like dueling store coffee bars.

During the competition, the champions created and presented unique signature beverages made from in-store ingredients, crafted core Starbucks drinks like lattes and iced shaken espressos, led coffee tastings and told stories about favorite customers and key moments in their career. 

At the end of the second day, judges selected three finalists – Todd, Holly Kang from Vancouver, British Columbia, and Adrian Mata Pantoja from Tempe, Arizona – to compete in one last coffee and storytelling finale.    

Todd will be awarded a trip to Hacienda Alsacia, Starbucks research and development farm in Costa Rica, and will present her signature beverage – an Iced Peaches and Cream Latte with Coconut Milk – to Starbucks beverage innovation teams in Seattle. 

Todd advances to next year’s first Starbucks Global Barista Championship, which will also take place at Hacienda Alsacia, facing off against winners from markets around the world. Along with the other regional champions, she’ll be able to nominate a nonprofit organization to receive a $2,500 Neighborhood Grant from The Starbucks Foundation.

“I'm shocked and very honored,” Todd said, moments after winning. “A lot of us might struggle to find our passion and who we are, but when you have people like this (motioning at her fellow champions) who are all really supporting you and creating that community, it helps you find that sense of self.”

“There’s the Peach versus Coconut Theory in which there are different ways that countries approach relationships,” Todd says, explaining the inspiration behind her signature beverage, an Iced Blonde Vanilla Latte with coconut milk and Vanilla Sweet Cream Cold Foam with a splash of peach juice. “This drink represents how Starbucks is the Third Place and it doesn’t matter what culture you’re from. Differences go away because coffee is our common ground.” 

Presenting her creation to a panel of coffee experts and judges in Seattle has been the latest in a year full of coffee milestones for Todd, who also completed her Coffee Master certification.