Editor’s note: As we approach the beginning of the 2014 World Barista Championship, which takes place in Rimini, Italy, June 9 “12, at the SCAE’s World of Coffee event, we would like to introduce you to the National Barista Champions who all worked incredibly hard to earn a position in this preeminent coffee contest. Profiles of all 54 competitors will appear on Barista Magazine’s blog between Monday, June 2, and Monday, June 9, and can all be accessed under the category header “WBC 2014 Rimini.”
BARISTA CHAMPION OF COLOMBIA
Coach: Federico Bolanos
About you: I’m a chemical engineer. I paid [for school] with my job as a barista. I began working as a barista 9 years ago. The love for coffee quickly grasped my heart and now is the big passion in my life. Now I’m the head roaster for a a quality driven roastery in Colombia called Amor Perfecto. I respect very much the work that farmers do to produce outstanding coffees. So I try to connect with them by visiting coffee plantations as much as possible. It is at origin that the magic of great coffee begins! I’m engaged to Liliana Torres and we plan to get married soon! I’m a big fan of football and my favorite team is Manchester United.
How many years have you worked with coffee or in the coffee industry?
Before coffee, did you work in a different job or industry, or what did you study in school?
I graduated [with a degree in] chemical engineering. My only work experience is in coffee.
How did you get started in coffee?
I needed to pay for my university. So I went to find a job and got hired on a convenience store from Exxon called On-The Run. There I was assigned to prepare coffee in a Astoria espresso machine. After 3 years, I got hired as a chief barista in a coffee bar called Dilletto. After a year, I got the opportunity to begin working for the best coffee roastery in Colombia: Amor Perfecto.
What was your first amazing experience with coffee?
It was the first time I visited a coffee plantation. There I realized all the effort that goes into producing great coffees. It was simply eye opening to see the many steps from picking, sorting, transporting, processing, etc. It made me understand the importance of doing justice to all this hard work by roasting it with craftsmanship and then brewing well so it could taste in the cup like it was intended from it’s inception.
Who has been your greatest influence in coffee? Why?
Luis Velez, the founder of Amor Perfecto, because he is very passionate about quality and always demands the highest standards in my work with coffee. This made me a better professional and now I demand [from] myself nothing but the best.
What would you like to see change about the coffee industry/community?
That a wider audience around the globe has access and learns to appreciate specialty coffee.
Name a coffee luminary (famous person) you would like to meet, and why:
Sadly, it is someone I won’t get the chance to meet in person anymore: Michael Sivetz, because he developed the technology of hot air coffee roasting. I have learned a lot from his theories and research from the books he wrote.
Name a barista you admire, and why:
Alejandro Mendez, because he was the first barista from a coffee producing country to win the World Barista Championship. He is a huge inspiration to me personally and for all baristas at origin countries around the world! He is living proof that if we dream big and work very hard, our dreams can become true.
Do you have a favorite customer? If so, tell us about him or her.
Not one in particular, but all the customers who walk into our cafe that appreciate quality and have a desire to learn more about coffee.
Besides your own cafe, what cafe do you think everyone should visit?
A cafe called Mecca in the region of Huila, Colombia.
Which coffee producing country you would like to visit, and why?
Africa, because the production practices are very different from those here in Colombia. I would like to see what they do in their coffee plantations and mills that makes their coffees so amazing.
What are your interests outside of coffee?
Football and video games.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I see myself working in coffee. I don’t have specific plans at the moment, but I like the idea of opening my own cafe in the near future.
Is there anyone you would like to thank or who helped you prepare for the WBC?
Luis Velez, the owner of the roastery where I work, for the support/resources given to me to train for this championship. And to Federico Bolanos, my coach, for all the training, knowledge, and experience in my preparation for the championship.