I’m 26 years old, and I’m a professional Barista.
Around 3 years ago, I started working for the Specialty Coffee Association of Costa Rica, giving the Barista courses, something I love to do cause I’m helping to form future coffee professionals. This year I started at Ally Coffee, assisting the green buyer of Central America and doing all the quality control on the coffees we purchase here in Central America and Costa Rica.
Favorite part of my daily routine is to cup all the coffees that I can! My career in the hospitality industry started because my father used to have a bar. When I was about 14 years old, I remember watching all the bartenders working with my father. I fell in love with the world of mixology and hospitality. Later, around my 20’s I got into coffee.
I started to work with coffee when I was at a French bakery back in February 2013. I didn’t know anything about coffee, so I’ve done a Barista course. Then I started working in different coffee shops here in Costa Rica. In each one, I learned more about coffee and learned more about different origins and their different flavor profiles. Then I got to know different coffee farms, which came with a large selection of specialty coffees and different processing techniques.
I ended up in coffee because I think life gave me a second shot. When I started working in the French Bakery, it was because my family was struggling with a financial situation. My father had lost his 2 businesses, and I had to leave my studies, so I started working because I needed to help my mum at home.
My life before coffee was a little bit boring. I finished school almost 9 years ago, and after this, I studied Physical Therapy cause I loved sports. I was always participating in different events; marathons, soccer games, and I used to skateboard a lot. This was most of my childhood, but when I started studying at university, I tasted coffee for the first time.
When I was a child, I didn’t like coffee at ALL. I used to think coffee was a bitter and nasty drink before I tasted my first holy cup of specialty coffee I had my first cup of specialty coffee back in 2013 . I remember trying out some fantastic coffees, but there was one variety in particular that got me! It was an endemic variety from Costa Rica, its called “Villa Sarchi” and that was the moment I discovered the real flavors of coffee. I felt like a child again, like the first time you tasted a candy. And this was the moment I realized coffee is more than a simple drink, it’s DELICIOUS, and I can do a lot of fun stuff with coffee I was craving for MORE.
I started working and started earning money to supply my house and to help my family. The thing was that I was working only to pay stuff off. I didn’t have any money left for me to buy my own gear and to get what I wanted. So, when I decided to compete, I had to borrow everything and to my surprise I won a competition! The prize was $500. I remember telling myself that with that money, I was going to buy coffee equipment and that I was going to open a small place where I could sell excellent coffee. Of course, this amount of money wasn’t enough to rent a place. So, my mum sold her car and we opened a takeaway shop, where we sold coffee and fruit juices. This was back in 2015 and until last year this small business gave both me and my mum food in our bellies and helped us get through difficult times. Also, I can tell you that the first time I went to Coffee Masters in London 2017, I didn’t have any money saved. So, I started crowdfunding, and I did a lot of events where people helped me to earn some money for me to travel to Europe and to compete in a competition nobody knew in my country.
For me, winning Coffee Masters was a dream come true. Since I started competing in 2015, I remember telling myself that one day I was going to represent all of the people in the coffee chain of Costa Rica in a global tournament. It was a tough path because when I went to London Coffee Master’s 2017 for the first time, I didn’t know the level of the competition I was getting into. That year I placed almost last of all the competitors, but my dream was not over yet. I prepared myself for all of the disciplines, and in 2018, I fulfilled my dream. I always think that this is not only for me, but it was also for my whole country and for all of the people that helped me to accomplish the dream.
Particular coffee memories definitely stand out. Back in 2015, I competed for the first time in a coffee competition here in Costa Rica, and I remember watching my father in the crowd, cheering and yelling. I will never forget and will treasure it as one of my best memories. The other memory is that a week before Coffee Masters, I spoke with my father for the last time, and he told me, “Please bring that trophy to Costa Rica and demonstrate that we have one of the best coffees in the world. My father passed away 2 weeks after I won Coffee Masters, but I will always treasure this memory with him.
In the beginning, I didn’t believe that I could make a profession out of coffee because 7 years ago nobody knew what a Barista was, and most people used to drink lousy quality coffee. Nowadays, consumers value the work Baristas, and I see more coffee shops popping out. This means that the specialty scene has increased rapidly and that people like to frequent this kind of coffee shop.
My best strategy to win Coffee Masters was to work with a team of people that had the same passion for what they do. Firstly, I got my coffee: an anaerobic fermentation process of the first mill that started to ferment coffees here in Costa Rica. I always loved fermenting stuff, so when I found out about this guy fermenting coffee at a mill, I had to run to see what he was doing. After getting my coffee, I gave it to my roaster and told him what I wanted for the presentation. I got some ideas for my signature drink I wanted to present, but I went to a friend of mine who is a professional Bartender. Isaac and I sat down for a couple of weeks just to get the Signature Drink done. After getting everything for my application form, I started training every single day after work, with one of my best friends who always stood beside me when I was training. He also helped me with the cupping and origin disciplines. My friend Victor is the Roaster and Taster of the SCA here in Costa Rica, he always stayed with me after work, and we did different routines so that I could practice every single discipline I was going to be tested. And of course, I wouldn’t make it without the help of a friend called Wally, who lives in New York, and he hosted me there for almost 9 days, and during that time, he was my mentor. I will treasure all his advice for the rest of my life. Believe me, you will always need someone in backstage to pick you up on the floor when you think you can’t do it no more.
I believe that success is everywhere we go. It’s on us if we can follow the right path with the right choices. The secret behind success is doing what you love and let it take you to the next level.
You should always keep going, no matter what! Just believe in yourself and push yourself to the highest level. Sometimes life is going to hit you, you just need to know how to hit it back with the best version of you.
My life after Coffee Masters has been the same. I’m still learning a lot of things about coffee, and I’m still trying to do my best in all of the things that coffee has given me.
I am more of a family person, but I don’t like to be at home. So I always love to share time with my wife and the people we love. What we do most of the time is to get in the car and drive somewhere we haven’t been yet. If we’re staying home, we prefer to sit on the couch and watch some Netflix. I love to cook, and I like to make good drinks. Most of the time I’m reading or watching cooking stuff. My secret hobby is playing “Fingerboard,” it’s a small skateboard that you can play with your fingers and do a lot of tricks you can do in real life. My favorite type of music is reggae, and I love to hear music all day long.
I’m always open to meet new people, and it would be great to meet someone who would want to come visits us here in Costa Rica!
This story was edited by our content writer Maja Wisniewska