Becoming a barista – making and serving coffee – seems to become a trend as a career choice in South Africa with its high youth unemployment rate, at 39%. The barista career is also gradually developing in the Free State. This career has attracted two young men from Bloemfontein, Tshepo Modiakgotla (25) and Thabo Kheleroa (28). Both gave up on what seemed to be their dream career to take up this exciting venture.Kheleroa quit his football career as a semi-professional player for the fresh coffee aroma. Modiakgotla, a BA Agriculture degree graduate of the University of the Free State (UFS), gave up his future career in agriculture to make mouth-watering coffee.The pair said they were not regretting becoming baristas, as in the current economic climate there was not always correlation between what you are qualified for and what you are doing for a living. Modiakgotla and Kheleroa said they have discovered a new passion as baristas. Both have worked hard to unlock their full potential to become baristas of note who serve coffee addicts in the City of Roses. With valuable hands-on training and experience gained, they have become masters around an espresso machine. They have learnt the traits of the perfect barista at a local coffee roaster, Jaru Coffee in Northridge, Bloemfontein.Kheleroa said the downside about the career of being a barista is the misconception that the coffee business has no niche market and those in it cannot afford to pay bills. “Barista is an exciting career. For me it is life and culture. I have taken it seriously due to its value for job creation,” he said.Kheleroa has vast experience, having been with the coffee café since its inception. As the main barista he even helped to train Modiakgotla to brew coffee that tastes delightful and looks great.“Barista is beyond making and serving clients coffee. “I am looking forward to imparting my knowledge to youth in my community,” said Modiakgotla.Their individual abilities to brew coffee saw them finish top at the Free State’s first Barista Championship held at the Windmill Casino in Bloemfontein in August. They are among the finalists to compete at this year’s national Barista Coffee Championship to be held from 21 to 24 February at the Ballito Lifestyle Centre in Durban.In the Free State’s championship Modiakgotla scooped a prize in the latte art category, while Kheleroa ended top in the barista coffee extravaganza category. Other finalists in the latte art category are Stevo Kühn (Urban Brew Coffee), Lizé Taljaard (Royal Roastery) and Simeon Snyman (Stereo Café).The competition is held under the auspices of the Speciality Coffee Association of Southern Africa.