Sprudge.com's First Tiger and co-founder Zachary Carlsen is in Belo Horizonte, Brazil for International Coffee Week. His presence there is made possible by direct support from SEBRAE and Cafemakers founder Andrew Hetzel, who is currently taking part of a marathon 76 lot round-table cupping with coffee growers from Brazil and coffee buyers from around the world. Meanwhile, Zachary had a chance to chat with Marco Suplicy, owner of Suplicy Cafes, who clued him into this true-life caps lock amazing story about one of his baristas.
Bruna Batista, of Suplicy Cafes in Sao Paolo, Brazil, is a seasoned competitor. In the seven years she's been a barista, she's competed on Brazil's national stage exactly stage seven times. This year was no exception; I personally watched Ms. Batista compete this week at the 2013 Brazil Barista Championship. This would seem unremarkable, de rigueur, to be expected, but the truth is far more remarkable, because just one year ago Bruna Batista was in a coma.
It was her day off on June 12, the Brazilian Valentine's Day, and she was bicycling down a steep hill in Sao Paolo when the accident happened. Ms. Batista was struck by a car going through an intersection, resulting in grievous head wounds, including a serious skull fracture. Her recovery was long and difficult – she's lucky to be alive – and when she woke from her coma three weeks later she'd lost mobility on her left side, and her memory.
Bruna Batista was bed ridden at home for three months. Thankfully, wonderfully, she was able to regain her mobility and strength, and got back behind the coffee bar last December. I asked if their was any sort of benefit for her hospital bills – explaining that in the United States, most baristas don't have insurance – but in Brazil public hospitals are free.
Suplicy Cafe is the home to a number of national champions. Owner Marco Suplicy, inspired by the competition culture at companies like Intelligentsia, encourages his employees to compete and take part in the Brazilian barista community. Suplicy barista competitors have been coached by barista champions like Dismas Smith (Caffe Ladro), Michael Phillips (Handsome Coffee Roasters), Alejandro Mendez (Viva Espresso), and Stephen Morrissey (Intelligentsia).
Suplicy has a number of cafes that put out thousands of shots of espresso a day. To Batista, Suplicy is a like a big family. When asked to describe Marco, she quipped, “He's like a crazy dad.”
For this year's competition, Bruna Batista used Fazenda Santa Alina, an award winning pulp-natural yellow bourbon (from Brazil, of course). Her signature drink was a take on the Peach Melba, including peach sorbet made live on stage, then layered with espresso and raspberry sauce. Sprudge readers unfortunately won't get a chance to see Bruna compete at the 2014 WBC in Italy, as her routine went just a breath past the 16 minute automatic disqualification time, but that's a small detail in a much larger story. The fact that Bruna competed at all this year is a victory few can imagine.
As for the future? Ms. Batista told us that Suplicy wants to one day open a barista school, and it's her hope she leads it. As for now, she's ready to compete again next year, and ready to be back on her bicycle.