Learning from the Best: Starbucks Baristas in Peru Take a Master Class in Coffee

César Rivadeneyra’s first memory of coffee begins like many young people who are discovering the beverage for the first time – a quick cup to get going in the morning or while studying for finals with friends.

“I used to think it was too bitter,” he said, recalling his first taste of coffee. “It just wasn’t for me.”

That changed when Rivadeneyra joined Starbucks Peru eight years ago as a barista in his hometown of Lima. He spent days working on his barista skills such as perfecting the art of pulling that perfect shot of espresso. He was promoted to manager and now leads a Starbucks® store located near Lima’s Camara de Comercio, where he took an interest in coaching partners who were just starting as baristas.

“I became passionate about the story behind each cup,” Rivadeneyra said. “I wanted to keep learning and share what I learned with others because I’ve always believed that coffee and conversation is the perfect pair.”

Rivadeneyra recently joined 200 fellow partners at a master class in coffee in Lima, Peru, hosted by Starbucks global coffee educator Major Cohen. Partners spent the day learning about the company’s ethical sourcing practices, the art of roasting and blending coffee beans, brewing techniques, and tastings or “cuppings” that involve sniffing, slurping, savoring and identifying a range of coffees to help become familiar with describing both the aroma and taste of coffee.

“It’s not common to have this type of learning opportunity at the workplace,” said Rivadeneyra. “I felt very excited because I was not just there to learn from a global coffee educator, but to share my own experience as a Starbucks coffee master.” Coffee Masters complete a rigorous Starbucks course with hands-on activities to become coffee experts. Those who pass the program earn black aprons to wear, instead of the company’s iconic green aprons.

As Starbucks global coffee educator, Cohen has spent more than a decade hosting classes and seminars for partners around the world. His journey with Starbucks goes back even further, to 1995, when he first joined the company as a part-time barista. A life-long coffee fan, Cohen now shares his passion and knowledge by helping partners better understand the story of coffee, from bean to cup.

Whether hosting a master class for 200 partners in Lima, a “cupping” for 10 partners in Hong Kong, or a tasting with over 1,000 district managers at the company's leadership conference, Cohen and his team spend many hours customizing the curriculum, selecting the right coffees and developing a perfectly synchronized program.

“I wanted to make sure we showcased the Peru Chonti, a standout in our Starbucks Reserve® lineup, for the class in Lima,” said Cohen. “I also included a couple of classic coffees to cover the full spectrum, like the Kenya and Sumatra.”

As partners tasted the coffees and asked their questions, the room filled with familiar descriptions of the aroma and taste, from “a little spicy” and “roasty” to “a hint of citrus.”

“I’d never been to Peru before, but the smell of freshly brewed coffee, the sound of slurps at a tasting, and the passionate conversations with partners like César made me feel right at home,” said Cohen.

From visiting Costa Rica with Starbucks partners to meeting Cohen in Lima, Rivadeneyra knows his coffee journey isn’t complete just yet.

“I want to grow my career with this company and keep sharing good moments with my partners and customers," he said. "I’m excited to see where my next adventure with Starbucks will take me.”

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