When they arrived in Bogota, Colombia, a group of nearly two dozen Starbucks baristas were complete strangers. But when they left, they were connected by their love of coffee.
The second annual Latin America and Caribbean Starbucks Barista Championship Experience brought together 23 baristas representing 13 different countries. Each had earned the title of Starbucks Barista Champion after competing in their home country. The week-long event, which took place in September, celebrated the Barista Championship winners and provided an unforgettable experience.
“There’s power when you bring those guys together,” said Chad Moore, Starbucks Global Coffee and Tea education manager. Moore helped organize the event in partnership with Samady Medina, Starbucks continuous improvement advisor for Latin America and the Caribbean.
The week kicked off with a virtual tour of the original Starbucks® store in Seattle’s Pike Place Market, along with a coffee cupping led by agronomists from our Farmer Support Center in Colombia. Later baristas visited a C.A.F.E. Practices-verified coffee farm in Pacho, Colombia.
“My favorite moment of the experience in Colombia was visiting a coffee farm,” said Ana Belen Arnaudo, Barista Champion from Argentina. “It was really beautiful. For us [who] don’t have coffee farms in our countries, reading and hearing about it was always like a myth.”
The baristas also showed off their skills in a latte art throwdown. But Moore says there wasn’t a competitive environment. Baristas felt more like they were coming together to cheer each other on.
“The experience was full of passion, it was full of love and it was full of respect,” Medina said.
Sofia Moron, Barista Champion from Peru, almost didn’t compete in the throwdown because she thought she still needed to practice her latte art. But after encouragement from Medina, she decided to participate. Medina and Moore agree: her Flat White was absolutely perfect.
“I still can’t believe it and I feel honored,” Moron said after winning the throwdown.
On the last day of the experience, Joshua Rolle, Barista Champion from the Bahamas and the only English-speaking barista there, took everyone by surprise. With some translation help, he delivered a message to his fellow champions...in Spanish.
“It is an honor and a privilege for me to share this time and space with a group of bright, enthusiastic and willing young people who share my same passion. I was able to learn from all of you individually and collectively,” Rolle said in his speech. “You never made the language barrier a problem and never made me feel uncomfortable. Despite the fact that I cannot speak Spanish, you did your best to communicate [with] me...All of you have become my new friends."
The whole room was in tears and Rolle’s speech ended in a giant group hug.
“The beauty of Starbucks [is] that just because of coffee, we’re connecting basically the world. We’re a family,” Medina said. “Since day one, they were all like a family because of just one thing that we have in common, which is coffee.”
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