On September 15th, at Pazo de Lestrove historical hotel in Santiago de Compostela (Galicia, Spain), the second edition of the Galician Down Barista Championship was held, where 21 people with Down syndrome showed off their barista skills. It is the first barista “competition” of its kind in the world.
“A couple of years ago we started training people with Down syndrome as baristas, and the experience was amazing for everyone who was involved,” says Carolina Otero, championship organizer and marketing manager of Cafento, the largest Spanish coffee company. “Our baristas found a lot of satisfaction in working with Down Syndrome people, and realized that they really enjoyed preparing great coffee, they were fast learners, and with a few days of good training, they would be capable to perform like professionals. So we decided to take a step forward”,
“We organized the first championship in Valencia in 2011, in a quite informal manner. After that experience, the next year we started the Galician Down Syndrome Championship, which essentially meets the official barista championship requirements, with a few adaptations,” she added.
The championship starts a week before the competition day, with a five days training period. This year, four teams were instructed: Two from Down Compostela Foundation, in the Galician capital, Santiago de Compostela, where the famous Way of St. James ends; and two from the Association Down Vigo, a coastal city with the same name, Vigo, in the south of the Spanish autonomous region.
According to Diego López, Cafento barista who trained the Compostela teams, at first “They (the apprentices) all wanted to make cappuccinos because latte art was what they liked the most. But the classic latte art drawings were not enough for them! One of them drew a soccer field and even Neymar’s silhouette!” (Neymar is an acclaimed Brazilian soccer player who plays at F. C. Barcelona).
Víctor Couto, the other Cafento coach, working with Vigo teams, says that “Teaching people with Down Syndrome is easier than I thought. There are no big differences with any other kind of person. They come each day really eager to learn and practice.”
When asked about the actual skills these barista apprentices gain during the training lessons, Couto does not hesitate in stating that “Many experienced coffee shop owners and restaurant workers are not able to do some of the things they have learned during the training week. They are developing true barista skills.”
That is why Cafento and the other organizers (Down Compostela, Down Vigo, Pousadas de Compostela and the Businessmen Association of Hotel and Catering of Santiago de Compostela), chose to give the competition winners a job opportunity and a chance to continue improving their professional skills.
The prize for the two best teams consists of a period of real practice in some of the best hotels in Compostela and Vigo. This is the way many of the supporters (AC Palacio del Carmen, A Tafona do Peregrino, Hostal dos Reis Católicos, NH Obradoiro, Puerta del Camino, San Lorenzo and Tryp Santiago in Compostela, and Gran Hotel Nagari, Hesperia Vigo, NH Palacio de Vigo, Pazo los Escudos or Tryp Los Galeones, in Vigo), got involved and supported the second edition of this beautiful initiative.
On the competition day, September 15th, a crowded hall followed closely each team performance. The four groups decided previously the role each barista should play during the show: There were the espresso specialists, latte art experts or cocktail authorities! There was a speaker too, who was in charge of explaining every step given by his or her companions to the public.
Two espressos, two cappuccinos and two coffee cocktails were prepared by each team and tested by two official barista judges, who decided that Café Molido, one of the Vigo teams, was the best, followed by the Latte Art team, from Compostela. But the feeling among the public and organizers was that, in the end, all the twenty-one new baristas and the people surrounding the event were winners.
You can watch part of the competition, here.
What started as a small and family owned local coffee shop in the 30’s has developed into one of the major European companies in the coffee sector. Cafento is now a benchmark among professionals in the Horeca and Foodservice channels in Spain growing year after year during the past three family generations.
Cafento is the result of the merger of more than 20 different coffee brands that provided the experience and know-how to become a leader in the Spanish coffee market.