Confession: Stefanos is a really good friend of mine, so this post is personal for me. But anyone who has ever known and rooted for a barista in competition knows that being their friend is much harder than if they were a stranger: you have extremely high expectations for them, and you want for them to do well. At the same time, if you’ve reached this point, you know enough about barista competitions that you can process the kind of competition they’re up against.
For the wonderful Stefanos, the stakes have never been higher. This is the 6th time Stefanos has represented Greece in the World Barista Championship, and he wants it more than anything. He’s taken time away from his family and friends, completely abandoned socializing, to focus entirely on the coffee, under the guidance of his coach, Tracy Allen, and his boss, the amazing Yiannis.
I love that Stafanos brought Greece and El Salvador—the country from which his coffee came—to Vienna in equal parts this week. He graciously thanked both Aida Batlle, whose project, Aida Batlle Selection, brought him in contact with Finca El Plan De La Batea, and producer Ricardo, with whom Stefanos visited last spring to work on experimental processing methods.
Stefanos wanted to play with experiments—seems lots of the best baristas have gotten into this lately. So the elements he was playing with on stage today at the WBC finals were coffees and cascaras that had been dried in two ways: on mechanical dryers, and on raised beds. He began the performance by brewing two cascaras in Clever drippers: one that had been dried on raised beds, and the other, mechanical dryers. He would later infuse his espresso with this “dry skin extract” which was made up of 100 ml of the ‘tea’ brewed from the raised bed cascara, and 100 ml dried mechanically.
Now here is how Greece came into it: Stefanos sourced some fantastic smelling (frommy vantage point as a photographer) herbs from the Greek island of Santorini. He brewed this into a tea, and then added orange zest. To the judges, he said the concoction would have distinct notes of citrus fruits and bakers chocolate.
As I couldn’t taste Stefanos’ drinks, I’m at least comforted by the fact that I felt his amazing energy. This is a guy who knows and loves coffee like few others. He has devoted the whole of his 20s to this career, and as a result, has grown from a boy in love with the idea of coffee, into a man who knows and breathes coffee.
I am honored to know Stefanos, and this industry is honored to have him be a part of it.