We talk to the organizers and first champion of the inaugural AeroPress championship in the Central American country.
BY YKER VALERIO
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE
Photos courtesy of Agua y Tiempo
Costa Rica is famous for its volcanoes, its seductive coastline and, of course, its top-quality coffee. The Costa Rican volcanic terroir, steep mountains, and generous weather have provided skilled coffee producers with excellent conditions to grow amazing coffee. Yet, like most producing countries, Costa Rica’s specialty-coffee consumption has been relatively low, with a recent surge in the past few years.
Likewise, a vibrant barista community in the country has been building close relationships with specialty-coffee producers, developing a unique coffee culture. This became evident through the first AeroPress Championship in Costa Rica, which took place in August 2023. To learn more about the event, we talked with Carlos Alvarado from Agua y Tiempo, one of the organizers of the event, and Kevin Porras, the first Costa Rica AeroPress Champion.
An Unexpected Sensation
The journey to the competition started in March 2023, when the Agua y Tiempo team decided to find out how to organize an AeroPress Championship in Costa Rica. Agua y Tiempo is an “enterprise that is looking to grow the specialty-coffee culture in Costa Rica, through events, education and any innovative effort, aiming to get people closer to a better cup of coffee,” explains Carlos.
The host of the world championship hadn’t been announced yet (it’s December 1-3 in Melbourne Australia), but the team decided to launch the competition as soon as possible. Carlos says, “It isn’t that common that baristas have visas, and some of them don’t have passports, so it was important to have enough time to deal with all that.” Still, the organizers took a risk, as they didn’t yet have a solid idea of the size of the event or how many competitors they could draw. “We leapt into the void because we didn’t know how the Costa Rica coffee community was going to react,” says Carlos.
Agua y Tiempo partnered with Academia Costarricense del Café (Costa Rican Coffee Academy), the local distributors of the AeroPress (and also providers of coffee brewing training), to raise the profile of the event. Says Carlos, “We thought it was key to work together with the academy—they were the ideal partners; besides they have close relationships with producers, so that would help to get coffee for the competition.”
Once Agua y Tiempo announced the event, they had no shortage of interested competitors. “The truth is I was surprised because we had 43 participants; it’s the coffee event with the highest participation in Costa Rican history,” says Carlos. Moreover, it’s an impressive number, considering that Costa Rica has a relatively small population of around 5 million people. For comparison, the first AeroPress Championship in Colombia—a coffee-producing powerhouse with over 47 million people in 2016 when the event took place—had 35 participants.
In addition to the impressive participant base, “One of the things that made us proud is we had baristas and many coffee enthusiasts,“ Carlos says. “At least 30% of competitors are people who brew a good cup of coffee at home, and they don’t work or have formal coffee training, which is the essence of this championship—to get everyone closer to a great cup of coffee, make the AeroPress better known, and get the community together.”
The Champion’s Standpoint
For the knockout stage, every participant had to find their coffee—including Kevin Porras, who would eventually win the event. “Around six months ago I tried a coffee I liked a lot, from Naranjo, Valle Occidental (Costa Rica),“ he says. “Since the beginning, it was the coffee I wanted to brew in the competition. So, I looked for AeroPress Champions recipes and, from there, I tried my favorite recipe in its original form, and then I adapted it to the coffee I was using. I loved the result. Since competitors had to find their coffees for the knockout stage, I used that coffee, a honey Typica Lima.”
About the coffee, Kevin explains further, “Toño Barrantes is the coffee producer … in fact, he started roasting coffee in his state about six months ago. I had the chance to meet the plant back then, the Typica Lima that he has. It’s a very aromatic coffee, with a high sweetness, I may say, with floral notes. The truth is, I have loved that coffee for a while now.”
Kevin says, “A month before the event I started to practice more seriously, brewing only my selected coffee every day, ensuring that I could reproduce the recipe, and of course, to test the water, because I was used to brewing with filtered water. So, I started training with commercially available water following the championship rules.”
The Road to Melbourne
By winning the event, Kevin earned an invitation to the World AeroPress Championship in Melbourne. Currently, organizers of the Costa Rica AeroPress Championship are supporting Kevin to obtain a visa to travel to Melbourne. They are also supplying him with coffees from different origins and post-harvest processes, so that he can practice with a wide variety of coffee beans for the challenge of the global competition.
Local coffee shops have also been supporting Kevin, and have been organizing presentations to raise funds, selling merch, and offering coffee tastings served by Kevin, personally. “We are sure that Kevin is going to make us proud—not only the organization, but most of all, our country,“ says Carlos of Agua y Tiempo. “Our country is well-known for the quality of its coffee, and Kevin is going to represent us through his skills, dedication, and passion for coffee.”
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Yker Valerio (he/him) is a freelance content creator. After more than 10 years of working as a management consultant, he started his blog Bon Vivant Caffè to share his passion for specialty coffee.