Barista & Farmer: The Talent Show Competition Comes to Colombia

Barista & Farmer celebrates its fourth year in Colombia, with 10 new baristas traveling to coffee farms to learn about producing and processing coffee, all while competing against one another.


Photos courtesy of Barista & Farmer

Barista & Farmer is one of the most interesting coffee competitions on the scene. Born of an idea by Francesco Sanapo, a multi-year Italian barista champion and owner of Ditta Artigianale in Florence, the annual Barista & Farmer is part game show, part hard labor on a coffee farm. The event brings together baristas from around the world to take part in a 10-day competition on how coffee is grown, harvested, processed, and exported. Francesco has hosted the competition every year since 2015, and this year he’s working with partners including the Italian Exhibition GroupSigep, and the Specialty Coffee Association (SCA), as well as institutional partners like the Istituto Italo-Latino Americano (IILA) and the Servicio Nacional de Aprendizaje (National Learning Service, or SENA), in collaboration with World Coffee Events.

Every year, Barista & Farmer brings together 10 baristas from all over the world to learn about coffee farming and battle it out in a series of coffee-related competitions.

This year, 10 baristas from all over the world (nine of the competitors have been announced—the 10th will be revealed at Melbourne International Coffee Expo in March 2018) will spend 10 days traveling throughout Colombia’s coffee-growing regions, making stops in the Meta and Huila departments, as they learn how coffee is grown, picked, and processed. The baristas are a mix of experienced pros and newbies to the coffee world, and were picked out of a pool of 250 applications. The baristas will attend the Barista & Farmer Academy and take classes from certified Q-Graders on botany, agronomy, and coffee extraction. Afterward they’ll work on farms, picking coffee cherries that they will ultimately use to produce a cup of coffee. In between, baristas will learn about experimental processing methods, testing new ways to process coffee and studying how they affect the final cup. 

Barista & Farmer is not a glamorous competition—participants are cut no slack and are expected to pick coffee cherries and help on the farm throughout their stay.

Competitions will be scattered throughout the event—in the past they’ve included latte art competitions and relay races, but they are ultimately designed to bring baristas closer to farmers and prepare them to be global ambassadors for the craft of specialty coffee. The goal is for baristas to understand what coffee growers do every day, and connect them fully with the coffee they serve in their cafés. Every year, the competition travels to a different producing country, and this year’s competition in Colombia will be its most ambitious yet. “The new edition … adds sustainability to the values of education’ and competition,’ proposing itself as a cultural bridge between Colombia and Italy, between the reality of the coffee producers and the international scene,” a press release states.

Along with working on the farm, baristas will take classes and experiment with new processing methods, and ultimately roast, blend, brew, and taste the coffee they picked and processed.

So what makes the competition a reality show? All the competitions, challenges, and events will be broadcast! The event, which will be held May 3-13, will be taped, and segments will be continuously added to the Barista & Farmer YouTube channel and social media channels. At the end of each event, the group produces a short film, showcasing the highlights of the week. You can learn more about the event, and see videos from past events, by checking out their website.

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Ashley is the Online Editor for Barista Magazine. She's based in Chicago. If you want to share a story or have a comment, you can reach her at