Barista Champion of Costa Rica

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.”

Maria Auxiliadora Bonilla
Cafe Don Mayo

Costa Rica's Maria
Costa Rica’s Maria Auxiliadora Bonilla

Coach: Jose Solis

About you: Since I was born I have been living [among] coffee production. And seven years ago I had a dream: to have a coffee shop were I could offer the coffee that my family produced. So I became a barista in 2008, but it wasn’t until 2012 that I could open my dream coffee shop. However I never thought that someday I would become a Barista Champion. I competed for the first time because I wanted to learn more about coffee preparations, latte art and infusions, but I certainly have to say that this changed my life. This year is my second World Barista Championship, and the barista that I am now is [different from the one I was before].
I am a barista, a business woman and a mom. It has been two years of lots of work, sacrifice and learning, but the most important thing I always say, is that the goal in life is enjoying what you do. That is why I feel like a lucky woman.

How many years have you worked with coffee or in the coffee industry?
I have been working in the coffee industry for 15 years.

Before coffee, did you work in a different job or industry, or what did you study in school?
I am a RRPP (Public Relationist) and I have a degree in Comunications and Marketing.

How did you get started in coffee?
I am part of a generation of coffee producers. So all my life I have lived with coffee production. When I finished college I started to help my family in our coffee business. We have our own Coffee Mill Don Mayo, and because of that I became a barista. Now I have my own coffee shop and I love to prepare coffee because somehow I can deliver the work of lots of people…in a cup!

What was your first amazing experience with coffee?
I can say that with coffee I have lived great moments, but I will never forget my first performance in the WBC in Melbourne Australia. When I saw the Costa Rican flag, and I knew I had the oportunity to represent my country, it was amazing. Those 15 minutes were the result of months of work, and this experience was thanks to coffee. One more time I will live that opportunity and for sure I know it will be unforgettable, too!

Who has been your greatest influence in coffee? Why?
He is not a famous person in the coffee industry, but all the inspiration that I needed for dedicating my life to coffee is thanks to him. I am talking about my father Héctor Bonilla, a coffee farmer who taught me to see in coffee as a way of life. I appreciate him giving me such a beautiful heritage.

What would you like to see change about the coffee industry/community?
I would like to give more recognition to coffee producers. They put so much effort to producing quality coffee and also I would like to motivate young people to learn about coffee and I know they will discover an interesting lifestyle.

Name a coffee luminary (famous person) you would like to meet, and why:
I really admire Reg Barber’s art, so it will be amazing to meet him in person.

Name a barista you admire, and why:
I really admire Alejandro Mendez, World Barista Champion 2011, because he is a really nice guy, very charming and humble.

Do you have a favorite customer? If so, tell us about him or her.
Well, I have to say that I have many frequent customers with different preferences for coffee, but there is one that always buys different kinds of coffee and he goes to my coffee shop because he needs to drink the first cup with me. I really appreciate that.

Besides your own cafe, what cafe do you think everyone should visit?
I recommend the coffee shops from coffee producers like Mutute Coffee Shop and Brumas del Zurqui Coffee Shop.

Which coffee producing country you would like to visit, and why?
I would like to visit Brazil, because it’s the largest country in coffee production and the culture behind this activity seems interesting.

What are your interests outside of coffee?
I love to travel and for sure I love shopping! But I really love when I enjoy that with my son and my husband!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Good question! I dream [of owning] more than one coffee shop besides the one I have right now and I dream of helping new baristas compete.

Is there anyone you would like to thank or who helped you prepare for the WBC?
First of all I would like to thank my family for their support, my husband who has been my strength when I feel that I couldn’t go on anymore, and has been my emotional trainer. Thanks for supporting me in this crazy thing. To my baby boy, because he is my inspiration; My official trainer Jose Solis because he has been more than that. He is my brother, he believes in me, and I really appreciate his interest in making me a World Barista Champion.

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