Fifty people with Down syndrome will be trained as coffee specialists during 2014 in order to take part in four Barista Championships in Spain. The first championship, I Down Barista Championship of Andalucía, took place March 21st, the World Down Syndrome Day. Asturias, Galicia and Valencia will follow.
Down Barista Championships are organized by Cafento, one of the largest Spanish coffee companies, in collaboration with several Down syndrome organizations which are part of the Down Syndrome Spanish Federation. They generally observe common barista contests rules, with a few adaptations among which one of the most important involves the contestants do not participate individually but divided in teams of four to six. “We think Down Barista Championships have two main beneficial effects”, says Tiago Lemos, Cafento Marketing Director, “they help to make Down syndrome people socially visible, showing them as guys perfectly able to make a good job. And we can train them as baristas, which is a promising profession in terms of job opportunities”.
To foster those job opportunities, Down Barista Championships’ winners are granted a period of real practice in some of the best Spanish hotels.
The first Down Barista Championship took place in Valencia in 2011, with an informal structure. Cafento decided to create it after a time training Down syndrome people as baristas in that Spanish region. That initial experience was regarded as utterly gratifying by all the people and institutions involved. So Cafento resolved to take a step forward and organized the I Galician Down Barista Championship (2012), meeting the usual barista contests standards. The first proper Down Barista Championship had been created.
Galicia hosted a second edition of the event in 2013. (You can read our coverage here) “They—the apprentices—all wanted to make cappuccinos because latte art was what they liked the most,” says Diego López, a Cafento barista who was one of the trainers. “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 at the II Galician Down Barista Championship, adds that, “Many experienced coffee shop owners and restaurant workers are not able to do some of the things these guys have learned to do during the training week. They are developing true barista skills.”
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.