Thursday, June 2, 2011

Ready, set, make coffee!

Pretty Señorita Coffee
Call me naive, unsophisticated and unworldly. I've heard of guinea pig races, log rolling contests and even chess-boxing. But competitive coffee making? I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it for myself at the national coffee exposition now at Corferias in Bogotá.

The arena where the baristas battle.
The coffee products exhibition, which runs from June 2 to 5, includes exhibitions of many brands of coffee, coffee cultivation and preparation aids and even coffee clothes and coffee art. There's also the obligatory pretty Señorita Café in a colorful dress.

The event is sponsored by the National Federation of Coffee Growers. Admission is around 8,000 pesos, but we got in free as international representatives of Cafe de la Fonda.

But the highlight was the coffee preparation competition. This was a world championship, and really serious business. Baristas, or coffee machine pros, had come from all over the Americas, and perhaps from beyond, to prepare their best cappuccinos, espressos and creative coffee drinks. Making a cup of coffee might sound pretty easy. But try it with a timer ticking away the seconds, a dozen very intense judges looking over your shoulder and a hundred coffee fanatics watching from the stands.

And these guys really are athletes. He's on his mark, he's set, he's off! See him twist, see him turn, see him pour milk and squirt coffee! The crowd cheers.


***And the winner is: Alejandro Mendez, of El Salvador. Colombian representative Lina Zea made it into the semifinals.

A barista from Guatemala works while the judges take notes. 
Each competitor had 15 minutes to prepare five capuccinos, five espressos and five 'creative' coffees. Here's an article about a Colombian competitor - a woman, in what appears to be a male-dominated profession.

Coffee competition fans, from El Salvador and Guatemala, cheer on their champions. 
There's even an annual World Barista Championship.
Judges at work: Who ever imagined there was so much to write about a cup of coffee?

The moment of truth: the taste.
Elsewhere in the exhibition: Green coffee beans on display. 
Luza Quiceno Quiroga makes paintings with coffee
A coffee truck...made from coffee. 
Coffee clothing. 

Colombian coffee is getting record-high prices now - but that's in part because climate change is damaging the crop. Even as research has found new health benefits from coffee drinking, future prospects for the drink may not be so great. 


By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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