Amor Perfecto at the World Barista Championship
If there were an Olympics for coffee preparation, this would be it. Every year, representatives from over 40 countries – from Norway to Japan, and yes, to Colombia – compete for the title of World Barista Champion. This year, from April 9-12th, those in the know from the caffeinated world converge on Seattle for all the action.
The pressure and competition is tough, as baristas who have trained for countless hours are allotted a mere 15 minutes to impress a panel of four expert judges. During that time, the baristas must prepare an espresso, a cappuccino and, most excitingly, their own “signature” drink for each one. Obviously much has to do with taste, but that is just one component of the competition, as creativity, cleanliness, timing and friendly and professional presentation skills are all thrown into the mix before a champion is crowned. From the first round of competition, 12 semi-finalists are chosen who then compete for one of the prized six slots in the final round.
Up to the task at hand, we think, is our Colombia representative, Amor Perfecto’s very own Diego Campos, a 24 year old barista from the Tolima province.
If you had told Diego a few years ago that he would be in contention for baristas’ biggest prize, he would have laughed. Truth be told, back in his small town among the lush tropical setting in the heart of Colombia, they didn’t even drink much coffee when he was growing up.
But when, like so many young Colombians, Diego set off for the city (Bogota) to study and to find himself, he accidentally stumbled upon the world of coffee, right at the moment that coffee culture was taking hold. A relative told Diego about a job roasting coffee beans, and he decided to give it a go while he continued his education. As he learned about the work to which thousands of farmers and roasters across the rolling hills of Colombia dedicate their lives, Diego began to develop a curiosity for that final stage of the process, one that drives coffee culture everywhere: preparation.
Now Diego is on a mission of sorts. Having been converted to the pleasure that is an expertly prepared, fresh espresso, he wants for his fellow Colombians to better appreciate their national drink. And he wants coffee drinkers the world over to appreciate the smooth subtleties of Colombian coffee.
Back to the competition, Diego’s fellow competitors come from countries rich in café culture, making Diego an underdog. Colombia, one of the top producers of Arabica beans in the world, is ironically just now catching up in coffee awareness. But he has one advantage over the rest: Diego has walked the rows of coffee plants at the Finca in the southern province of Huila, he personally knows the coffee farmers and those who have roasted it. For Diego, this is a special point of pride, and he’ll take that with him to Seattle.