Baristas from all around the world met in Colombia to participate in Barista & Farmer, learning about every step of the process that goes into producing a cup of coffee. We recap some of our favorite moments.
BY ASHLEY RODRIGUEZ
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
“Release the baristas!” shouts Daniel Murani, a barista from Brazil, as a horde of yellow-shirt-wearing coffee pros from across the world pile off a bus onto Finca El Paraiso in the Huila district of Colombia. Between the 10 baristas, all chosen to compete against each other in Barista & Farmer, the coffee competition that immerses baristas fully in the daily lives of coffee farmers, there’s some excitement and some light banter (the baristas, although competing independently, were divided into two teams earlier in the week and often engage in playful ribbing) as they get ready for their fourth day of picking coffee. Today, for the first time, they’re alone—they’ve been picking with coffee pickers and farmers every day up until this point—and they have to use the skills they’ve collected to pick as much coffee as they can of the best coffee cherries they can find. An over- or under-ripe cherry, the judges say, can cost you points. Likewise, so can dropping cherries or leaving ripe cherries on the tree, they say. “We’re watching everything,” Sonja Grant, a World Barista Championship judge and founder of Kaffibrugghúsið in Iceland, tells the baristas.
This scene is just an example of what happens during Barista & Farmer, the self-described “coffee reality show” hosted by Francesco Sanapo, the multi-year Italian National Barista Champion and owner of Ditta Artiginale in Florence, Italy (we covered some of the initial highlights a few days ago). I have to admit, I wasn’t 100 percent sure what to expect when I first heard about this competition—a coffee reality show sort of sounds like what baristas would joke about doing if they got seven dramatic coffee pros in a house and forced them to live together and record their thoughts via taped confessionals. But after following the baristas for almost two weeks, I can confidently say that Barista & Farmer is pretty much the exact opposite: It’s a chance for coffee professionals to engage fully with the coffee supply chain and build worldwide connections—not just with farmers, but with each other.
This engagement was most clear on the very last day. Although the event is sold as a competition—and a winner is named—Barista & Farmer is much more about bonding, meeting new people, and learning new skills. As the baristas were lined up, awaiting Francesco’s announcement of the winner, the 10 baristas all held hands, often stopping to hug one another and offer encouragement. When Diego Campos’ named was called, the baristas immediately ran to circle him, happy to see their friend win and take the victory home to his country of Colombia.
“Colombia is all about kindness and giving, as you all saw throughout our time here,” Diego said as he accepted the victory, referencing the number of gifts and acts of kindness the baristas received at every stop along their trip. “I hope that I was able to give you some of that as well.”
Diego’s win was based on a combination of competitions (in addition to picking coffee cherries, the baristas were constantly working on one competition or another, including a chivas-painting competition and a dancing competition where teams of two had to dance a traditional Colombian dance called El Sanjuanero) and impressions from the judges (who, along with Sonja Grant, included Scott Conary and Rebecca Atienza, whose farm hosted the very first Barista & Farmer event in Puerto Rico) and other participants. Baristas could be given points for anything, such as kindness to others or leadership, and the baristas themselves were asked about their impressions of one another, to be considered during final judgment.
As the winner of Barista & Farmer, Diego has earned the chance to participate in the next edition of the event as a team leader (the two aforementioned teams were led by 2011 WBC winner Alejandro Mendez and Stefanino “Nino” Conti, owner of Donminzoni 54 in Rimini, Italy), but the event isn’t really about winning or losing. When Diego’s name was announced, the baristas were thrilled, only showing sadness about the fact that the competition was ending—for at least 20 minutes after Diego won, the nine other baristas went around the room, hugging each other and promising to either keep in touch or to even visit one another. (Vala Stefansdottir of Iceland already has plans to visit Matija Matijasko of Croatia.)
It was in this moment, amongst tears, hugs, and proclamations of friendship, that I finally understood what makes Barista & Farmer so special—the connections you make to the farms, to the farmers, and to your colleagues are unparalleled, and we can’t wait to see the baristas chosen for the next edition of this amazingly special competition.