WBC Finalist #3: Francesco Sanapo of Italy

This man is a role model for the entire country of Italy, whose coffee history is long and storied, but whose recent history has not been positive, coffee wise.

Ohhhhh, Francesco. Francesco is one of the people who makes this industry great. He’s been at this for a long time—15 years!—and he’s been the Barista Champion of Italy three times. But not only is this the first time he’s made it to the finals, it’s the first time he’s made it to the semifinals! And if that weren’t crazy enough, it’s the first time Italy has made it past the preliminary round since 2002!

Francesco keeps breaking down in tears, he's so honored to be here.

Francesco keeps breaking down in tears, he’s so honored to be here.

At every WBC, there is a story—in 2011, it was that a barista from a producing country (Alejandro Mendez of El Sal) won the WBC for the first time. Last year, in Vienna, it was that the top 2 spots went to Central American baristas (Mexico’s Fabrizio in 2nd, and Raul of Guatemala in 1st). This year, the story is of Francesco, and of Italy. Italy: where our industry was born, but where we lament that it’s the hardest place to find a decent coffee. Italy, we shake our heads and say, is decades behind the best baristas.

Well with Francesco, no longer. This guy has dedicated his life to this, and his mission is to inspire the next generation of baristas from Italy to continue pursuing quality. He has told me more than once that baristas in Italy think they can never win, they think there is no use in trying. Changing that idea is Francesco’s primary goal here in Melbourne, and even before the ranking is announced this afternoon, he has already won. Francesco has changed the history of coffee for the better.

This man is a role model for the entire country of Italy, whose coffee history is long and storied, but whose recent history has not been positive, coffee wise.

This man is a role model for the entire country of Italy, whose coffee history is long and storied, but whose recent history has not been positive, coffee wise.

He was better yesterday,in the semis, than he was in the preliminary round. And I think today is his best performance yet. His goal here is to take the coffee apart from the point where a barista serves it to a customer, and through all the levels and complexities of his espresso. Francesco is using the astounding Nikisse coffee from Ethiopia.

Francesco's judges can't stop smiling, he is so enchanting.

Francesco’s judges can’t stop smiling, he is so enchanting.

He serves three shots with three different temperatures, to reflect the life of the espresso. The first glass is the warmest, and is to represent the fine acidity of red fruit. The second shot is a reduction of peach and cane sugar, and the third shot is a combination of bitterness and sweetness: chocolate, sweet plum. He has prepared these in a siphon that he pours into glasses that he has warmed to precise temperatures on a flat heater. And now, as he prepares the espresso to go into those glasses, he’s got the crowd clapping and cheering for him—he’s truly a crowd pleaser.

Wonderful job, Francesco! You’re amazing!

About the Author

Sarah

Sarah Allen is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.