The competition showed off the high quality at the core of the country’s coffee industry by uniting brands, producers, professionals, baristas, and enthusiasts.
BY YKER VALERIO
SPECIAL TO BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
The AeroPress introduced me to the specialty-coffee world years ago. In contrast, some friends learned about it through specialty coffee first. It doesn’t matter how, or in what order, one was exposed to the device, but it’s hard to find a coffee enthusiast or professional now who doesn’t know about the AeroPress.
And Venezuela isn’t the exception. The first international coffee competition in Venezuela ever was the AeroPress Championship in 2015. In just six years, the local coffee scene has evolved dramatically.
We have deep-rooted traditions that differ from specialty-coffee best practices, standards, and methods. Moreover, if you get to know a Venezuelan, it won’t take that person too long to talk about our coffee and our standing as one of the biggest producers in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
That apparent glorious past was left behind years ago, and despite the ongoing political crisis, a small and vibrant coffee community is moving forward in promoting excellent Venezuelan coffee. On September 19 at Pan de Tata Headquarters, the Venezuelan AeroPress Championship spoke loudly about it.
Young and Bold Community at the AeroPress Championship
Since the first Venezuelan Aeropress Championship in 2015, the local coffee community has grown and evolved.
Pietro Carbone, a pioneer of specialty coffee in Venezuela, organized the first two AeroPess competitions. Pietro told us that “it’s hard to believe that we started with so little, aiming to compete at an international level. I see a positive trend here because many young baristas want to grow in this world.”
Competitors at this year’s championship had many different backgrounds, ranging from baristas to coffee consultants, roasters, and coffee enthusiasts. The winner was María Valentina Zapata, an SCA-Certified barista who works as a trainer at Café Amanecer. The company is a major commercial brand, with a flagship coffee shop in Acarigua, the capital of the state.
Although the championship’s atmosphere was light-hearted and joyful, competitors took it very seriously. When asked, most said they had practiced for months.
Coffee Producers in the Spotlight
Event organizer Manuel Rodríguez-Arias Pinnola spelled out the importance of coffee producers for the event and the industry as a whole. “Without coffee producers, the championship wouldn’t be possible; none of this would be possible,” said Manuel.
And it was more than symbolic. In a table with four judges, Paramaconi Acosta was the only judge who wasn’t a coffee producer. The three other judges—Joel Pérez, Arnoldo Briceño, and Edwin Acosta—lead high-quality coffee-producing businesses in Trujillo and Mérida.
According to Trinidad Coffee Estate, providers of this year’s competition coffee, their variety Curiara was made with Yellow Catuai at 1800 meters above sea level at Finca La Trinidad in Mérida and harvested earlier this year. The honey process achieved a rich yet smooth cup. When I asked competitors about the coffee, all agreed on its quality and complexity. Fruity, zesty, and bright, some competitors said the Curiara was so good that it tasted great no matter the AeroPress recipe.
Edwin from Trinidad Coffee Estate told us that they “developed Curiara during the last four years and we brought it again for a special moment like this competition. ‘Curiara’ means canoe or raft, which are the boats that people use to get to the Angel Falls, the core of the competition’s visual concept.”
Venezuelan Coffee Community Is Growing
The future of the Venezuelan coffee scene is unfolding. The Venezuelan AeroPress Championship 2021 happened just a few weeks after the Barista Coffee Fest in Maracaibo, one of the largest coffee events outside Caracas in a while. Next up, the national Brewers Cup Championships will kick off the regional contests later this year in November.
Local and international brands are sponsoring these events, from Kruve and La Marzocco to Santa Teresa Rum and Café Amanecer. It seems that businesses are supporting the growth of high-quality coffee while the local community of coffee enthusiasts keeps expanding.
The way it looks, the Venezuelan coffee industry is slowly working toward international recognition. But until coffee enthusiasts meet again in 2022 for the next AeroPress Championship, we won’t stop.
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.