Competing for the Golden Comandante in Athens

On a Thursday in June, the Greek Comandante Competition took over Cultivos Coffee. Here’s what happened during the event, organized in the name of fun and community.


Photos courtesy of Taf Coffee

I’ve been in love with Comandante grinders since the beginning of my specialty-coffee career. I had always wanted to participate in a Comandante coffee-brewing competition, which the company hosts in its Comandante Championship World Series. But, due to lack of time or the abundance of miles between me and all the previous editions of the competition, I never had the chance to do so.

Still, it was one of my goals: I just wanted to be there, whether as a competitor, volunteer, or audience member.

On the Way to Athens

My opportunity finally came on June the 21, on the eve of the most recent edition of World of Coffee. Our trip to Athens was already scheduled and we would land just after noon that day!

It was worth taking a competitor’s ticket, even though I was pretty sure I had no chance of winning the competition. Competitors must spend time brewing the competition coffee to find the right recipe; however, I knew I wouldn’t have much time, as I would only land just in time to catch the subway to the coffee shop for the competition. It was such an exciting opportunity, though, that I didn’t want to miss it.

Some of the competitors, including the author, Tanya, third from left.

The Rules

On the day of the event, a scorching Thursday afternoon, all the competitors met at 4:30 p.m. at Cultivos Coffee in downtown Athens. There were 24 of us, most from Athens and the surrounding area.

Once we were all present, it was time to go over the rules, which, unlike in other, more serious competitions, were quite simple.

All equipment (V60 drippers, AeroPress, and Comandante grinders) were provided, but competitors also had the option of bringing their own Comandante, and setting it to zero before the competition (as all the grinders provided were all set).

The team that hosted and put the competition in Athens together.

The water provided was to be used without any alteration, and the coffee to be brewed for the competition was sourced by Taf Coffee and roasted on Nucleus Coffee Tools’ Link.

The first round would see competitors try to brew the best V60 possible. The second round, the semifinal, would test their brewing skills with the AeroPress. The final round would be decided (between the two previously used brewing methods) by a coin toss.

Finally, the last (and most important) rule of all: have fun and don’t be a jerk!

The judges (from left): Giannis Giannakopoulos, Jessika Heredia Sosa, and Sasa Sestic.

The Judges

At this point, it was time to meet the judges. Jana, who represented Comandante and hosted the event, introduced them to us.

The first judge certainly needed no introduction: Sasa Sestic, the Coffee Man himself, founder of Australia’s Ona Coffee, 2015 World Barista Champion, author, and more. Giannis Giannakopoulos (barista trainer and quality control expert at Taf Coffee) and Jessika Heredia Sosa (coffee professional and member of the Barista Guild Leadership Council) completed the team of judges.

And then, after a quick draw of names to decide the components of each heat, the competition finally began.

The Competition

A couple of hours of fun and excitement followed, with one fair competition after another, as we drank many coffees and even more beers, met old acquaintances, and created new friendships.

Comandante competitions are open to everyone. The Athens champion, Jesús Tomás Collado Zymnis, is a home barista who works in the tech industry.

In the end, the coveted final trophy (the Golden Comandante) was rightly awarded to Jesús Tomás Collado Zymnis. He’s a home barista born in Madrid, Spain, raised in Athens, and currently living in London. Regardless of his totally unrelated career in a British tech company, he brewed the most delicious coffee.

But even though Jesús was the champion, for me—and hopefully for the other contestants as well—there were no regrets or disappointments. At the end of the competition, I felt a sense of satisfaction. I did what I love most: spent the day brewing and tasting coffee, met new people, laughed, and enjoyed the ride.

There is not much more to ask for on a hot Thursday afternoon!


Tanya Nanetti (she/her) is a specialty-coffee barista, a traveler, and a dreamer. When she’s not behind the coffee machine (or visiting some hidden corner of the world), she’s busy writing for Coffee Insurrection, a website about specialty coffee that she’s creating along with her boyfriend.


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