For Major Cohen, coffee changed his life as he approached mid-age.
“I began working as a part-time barista in 1995, for a team that was opening a new store in Boston. It was when I was 45 years old,” Cohen told The Korea Herald at a Starbucks Korea’s The Jongno branch in downtown Seoul. At 1,097 square-meters, it is the biggest Starbucks store in Korea and was designed to do much more than simply serve coffee.
Starbucks’ global ambassador Major Cohen speaks during an interview with The Korea Herald in Seoul. (Starbucks Korea)
“Before joining Starbucks, I had been a school teacher and a part-time photographer for 19 years. Who would have thought that I would be in Korea speaking with Korean Starbucks customers?”
He progressed from barista to store manager to a learning specialist who educates Starbucks partners including employees and baristas at Starbucks, and now the 68-year-old is Starbucks’ first and only Coffee Ambassador.
“I’m now part of the team which covers regional offices in China and Asia Pacific regions. It’s a very small team but has great works to do with growth (of Starbucks’ coffee business) in Asian markets,” Cohen said.
Cohen was named to the unique post based on his experience as educating baristas in Seattle, now representing some 300,000 Starbucks baristas around the world. He is mainly tasked to spread his expertise to baristas in Asia Pacific countries for the caffeine empire that now has over 150,000 stores in 50 countries. His main job is to travel to each part of the world to meet with global customers and empower local coffee masters at Starbucks.
Cohen said constantly pleasing each customer’s taste buds with a variety of drinks are one of the reasons behind Starbucks’ expansion.
“Customers find a new, wide range of coffees at Starbucks every time they visit – from a cup of a freshly brewed black coffee to frothy Frappuccino,” he said.
“Our partners in Korea constantly research about coffee and delve into the education given by Starbucks to provide a new coffee experience for customers,” he added.
He cited space as another reason.
“I also know that customers come back to Starbucks because of what we provide at our stores is not just coffee, but space,” he said.
In Korea, a phenomenal appeal of Starbucks is revolutionizing the modern cafe experience. Many say that it is not only the drinks that attracts customers, but the Starbucks ambience -- mellow lighting, peaceful lounge, and cultured music curations, all within a safe and comfortable space.
During his two-day visit in Korea last week, Cohen held coffee-inspired talks with Korean coffee lovers and shared his idea behind the sustainable coffee business and Starbucks’ unique culture.
He also gave a special lecture for some 120 Starbucks Korea employees.
Starbucks’ global ambassador Major Cohen gives a lecture at Starbucks’ Jongno branch in downtown Seoul. (Starbucks Korea)
“There are so many talented baristas in Korea. They want to keep learning, from brewing methods to coffee tastings. My role is to keep inspiring them by leading education programs in Starbucks.”
Cohen is also the head judge of the Starbucks Barista Championship, where some thousands of Starbucks baristas compete each year. Based on the region and area levels, they are evaluated on categories such as barista craft, coffee knowledge, customer service and passion.
“Starbucks baristas are extremely passionate about beverages. Partners take a lot of pride in making the perfect beverage for their customers, and we want to continue to show that to our customers in Korea,” Cohen said.
By Kim Da-sol (firstname.lastname@example.org)