Sprudge.com recently attended the Soyuz Coffee Roasting pop-up cafe in Red Square, staffed by 7 National Champion baristas from around the world. We’re profiling each of the champions, with just two more left to go. Today's champ is Javier Garcia, Barista Champion of Spain.
There are so many highlights from the week we spent in Moscow. Zooming around the Garden Ring's wide boulevards in Olga Melik-Karakozova's souped up Mini; Francesco Sanapo's epic reggae toasting performance on-stage at the VIP tent; pretty much anything Stefanos Domatiotis said or did. But a real personal highlight was the following conversation Sprudge.com had with Javier Garcia, Spanish barista champion and kind-hearted coffee paragon of Basque Country.
Basque Country is a region of northern Spain, stretching into parts of southern France across the Pyrenees mountains. One of the most linguistically and culturally unique places in the Europe, with a stunning food culture and impossibly charming local traditions, it is also home Javier Garcia. He lives in Irun, a small city on the Bay of Biscaye around 20 kilometers from San Sebastian.
Warm does not begin to describe Javier. Humble, even soulful, utterly devoted to his wife and always laughing or smiling, Javier was personally a joy to meet and hang out with for a week in Russia – he's shy about his English, but has no reason to be. Talking to Javier, it's striking how emblematic he is of the new breed of barista champions from across southern Europe. These champions – from countries where coffee is enormously popular but specialty coffee is still microscopic – want to grow this industry in their home countries first and foremost. Javier's plans for the future are a perfect example of this; in 2012 he will open his own flagship shop in his home city of Irun.
Javier spoke at length about the importance of building a team and projecting great coffee across Spain. For now his team is small – “the Spanish flag, when flown at WBC events, represents such a small group of people”, he told Sprudge – but competing at the highest level means a tremendous amount to Jaiver and his family, and for the growth of specialty coffee culture in his nation, a movement for which Javier is a distinguished leader.
“When I talk about coffee in Spain, people listen,” Javier said, in a top-floor cafe just a few blocks from Red Square. “I say for brewed coffee – most people in Spain think, ‘this is oily water', but then I say ‘Try. It's clean, you do not need sugar, you try it. We will have the information for the coffees on the farm to your cup. This is not a company – it is from a farm. I want you to trust me.”
Javier will be roasting himself at his new shop, a challenge that will hopefully help convey just how personal his drive is to educate and advocate for specialty coffee. Javier told us, with emminent humility, “I wish I had, how you say, a clone?” Basque Country – and Spain as a whole – should be so lucky.