The Cost of Being a Barista In Brazil

Most baristas in Brazil live on an average of US $350 per month. The realities of low wages and limited educational opportunities are just some of the challenges that Brazilian baristas face.


“As an employee, I’ve never made more than US $440 (or $1,500 real, the currency of Brazil) per month,  says Leonardo Moço, the two-time Brazilian National Barista Championship. This reality can eventually change and the salary range is higher in some coffee shops, however, most of professionals in Brazil face challenging problems on a daily basis. Despite salary obstacles, lots of baristas invest their personal savings to improve their knowledge, put extra money in training, and pay for trips to events and farms. In Belo Horizonte, for example, baristas and students come and shell out money they’ve saved over the year to pay for SCAA courses, which are offered once a year at  International Coffee Week, a yearly coffee event that takes place in Brazil.

Aside from those with money to spare, the majority of baristas study and look for information in books and on the internet. It’s important to mention that, œsome entrepreneurs invest in a basic training or prepare a ˜lead barista’ to guide the staff in order to guarantee good service in their coffee shops,  explains Lidiane Santos, owner of Espaço Sensorial do Café Training Center in Recife, in the Pernambuco state of Brazil.

Baristas in Brazil often have to fund their own continuing education, including barista competitions.

This is the case of Octavio Café, a coffee shop that owns a modern farm and controls all the processes in the production chain. œWe can offer deep training to our staff. In addition, we also promote an exchange program with baristas from around the world in order to promote knowledge between them,  says Jonas Pricirillo, general manager at Octávio Café. However, apart these examples, most baristas are on their own.

For some Brazilian baristas, the money they make is not enough. So they look for extra activities to raise their income. Coffee sales, serving coffee at events, giving classes at gastronomic universities and training staff in restaurants and bakeries are some of the alternatives they find. Their services are requested, though, when people recognize them as a good professional. For this reason, some are interested in competing at regional and national championships. œWith a title, even if it is local, the barista’s work is highlighted and people start paying attention to them. This can give him/her the opportunity to teach, give workshops and close training contracts in other establishments,  explains Cleia Junqueira, who was the coordinator at the Coffee Preparation Center (Centro de Preparação do Sindicato do Café), a coffee organization based out of Brazil. Nowadays, she is building a career in Dubai as a roasting master for  Coffee Planet.

Leonardo Moco and Estela Cotes, pictured above, used crowdfunding to help get them to the world barista stage. They are the national Barista and Brewers Cup champions.

The path to championships is also tricky. œMost of time, baristas will start training for their presentation one month before the official date. In my case, it was even harder to practice for the World Barista Championship because I didn’t have the official espresso machine here in Brazil,  remembers Leonardo. According to the rules, the local championship organization pays for airplane tickets and hotel fees for the champions, but financial support for training, presentation supplies, and trips to farms are not included.

In order to advance at WBC, Silvia Magalhães ”who has made it farther than any Brazilian barista has by placing 6th at the WBC in Japan in 2007 ”had to invest months of training and an average of US $15,000 out of her pocket. œAfter the national title with no financial help, the coffee shop Octavio Café where I worked helped me with some expenses to Japan,  states Magalhães.

A lonely journey from the coffee bar to the podium. A 6th place finish at the WBC in Japan in 2007 put Silvia Magalhes in the spotlight and now she has a ecommerce business with her own coffee brand.

With Leonardo Moço and Estela Cotes, the current Brazilian Barista and Brewers Cup Champion respectively, the story was different. œWe didn’t have money to buy material for our presentation and for our training. So we decided to ask help and do a crowdfunding project,  remembers Cotes. The initial goal was to get $11,000 ($38,000 real) with a national campaign  and, in the end, they raised $13,085 ($44,780 real). With challenges before and during the actual presentation, this odyssey finished as: Moço in the 47th place and Cotes in 27th position in their respective categories. And ultimately, that’s something to be proud of given everything they had gone through.

Even with a bumpy road, lots of people see great potential in the coffee profession. Some are pursuing a career abroad and others are working to open their own businesses or micro roasters. For this reason, new baristas are fighting to improve the working conditions of barista life.

Despite all the obstacles, Estela and Leonardo own Barista Coffee Bar in Curitiba, in the southern region of Brazil.

In the past, baristas have come together to organize and created the Barista and Coffee Brazilian Association (ACBB) in 2005. The main goal was to gather together professionals and give them support. Along with providing support, they also looked to promote specialty coffee in the local market, organize championships, organize national certifications and offer courses. “ACBB was the official institution that gathered all sort of information about baristas all over the country. It helped them get jobs in cities where entrepreneurs didn’t have references,  explains Cleia Junqueira who was ACBB’s director until 2014. In the past few years, unfortunately, several internal issues caused the association to end. In an official statement this year, the Brazilian Specialty Coffee Association (BSCA) informed that the institution will organize and promote national competitions, but there are still not enough safeguards and programs to help baristas grow with the amount of money that most of them get from their employers.

As the biggest coffee producer in the world and a pioneer in scientific research, Brazil can be a paradise for any coffee professional. œThe Brazilian barista can break some paradigms in the industry because he/she is close to the source. Thousands and thousands of coffee farms are in their backyard , says Moço. And yet, the reality still exists that most baristas are too busy to explore the wonders of their country, trying to survive with just $300 per month.

Kelly Stein
is a journalist who has  written about coffee in South America for six years in local newspapers, magazines and also for international publications such as STIR Tea & Coffee Magazine. Based in Brazil, she loves telling stories from the biggest coffee producer in the world. To follow her coffee/gastronomic adventures, follow her on Instagram: @kellinhas.

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