One of the anticipated events at this edition of Sigep was the reunion of the Barista & Farmer Project participants, and the unveiling of their coffee. The Barista & Farmer Project is the brainchild of multi-time Italian barista champion (and last year’s sixth-place finisher at the World Barista Championship) Francesco Sanopo who dreamed of taking baristas to origin to show them what it’s like to work on a coffee farm (and film them doing it.) The 15 lucky baristas who applied for the project and made the cut traveled from Italy to Puerto Rico in November (you can read my story about it in the December + January 2014 issue of Barista Magazine. You can see all of the blog posts about it here.)
They harvested coffee at Hacienda San Pedro with coffee farmer Roberto Atienza and his daughter Rebecca. Together they picked more than a ton of coffee. The Atienza’s processed it and Francesco roasted it. Now they’re serving it to the attendees of Sigep as espresso, and I have to say even without knowing the story behind it, the shot I had was quite tasty, knowing the story of the coffee though made that shot amazing. As the baristas here share their experience in Puerto Rico with the attendees, you can see their eyes light up. You don’t need to understand Italian to know they’re sharing something very special.
One of the things about Sigep that’s pretty interesting too is that the barista competitions are not the only ones here. In fact there are a couple of world championships happening in this giant hall. There’s the World Gelato Cup, where teams of five chefs from 10 countries are creating amazing frozen delicacies over the course of several days to a panel of judges in front of a stadium-seated audience.
There’s also an event that I was invited to judge a small portion of, the Pastry Queen. (How great of a name is that?) In the Pasty Queen competition, national teams must make a variety of desserts according to strict instructions and time limits. One of the events, coffee and tiramisu required the national teams to work with an Italian barista to select a coffee to pair, as espresso, with their tiramisu (and also use in the base of the dessert) that would highlight the flavors of the tiramisu the best. Two things really stood out to me about the competition. One, it’s so cool to see a team of chefs work with a barista in this setting. Two, it shows the impact of specialty coffee on the Italian market that the event’s coffee sponsor has six single origin coffees for them to choose from. Now, to be clear, the single origins are still commercial grade and roasted quite dark, much like the profile of most Italian espresso blends. But to me it shows significant progress that they’re investing in and promoting the idea of single origin coffees in such a high-profile setting.
Also eating 11 tiramisus is more difficult than it sounds, though it’s still pretty tasty.
Today the Italian barista championship continues (as do many of the other compeitions happening here) and once again thousands of people are flooding the halls happily trying as much gelato, pastries and coffee as they can. It’s la vida dolce to be sure.