The Bogotá coffee scene, over the past two years, has found a rhythm. Quality coffee shops in bloom boast all the natural ganas one might expect from an emerging people realizing its rich resources. On top of the brewing savvy and the normal shop swagger, specialty operations have not failed to take advantage of its proximity to world-class coffee. Shop walls, sporting chemical compound formulas and detailed roaster diagrams, catch the intrigue of local consumers eager to participate. International coffee visitors might be struck by the realness of Colombia discovering its quality potential, though the quickness with which it did so should not come as a surprise.
Colombia’s inaugural AeroPress Championship took place Saturday, May 14, at Amor Perfecto’s Union Libre Cafe in the fast-rising Usaquen district of Bogota. This gave plenty of time for baristas, both visiting and contending, to tinker with a three-group La Marzocco Strada MP which, Amor Perfecto Owner Luis Fernando Vélez notes, is not always accessible to the average Colombian barista. What the tropical nation’s quality scene might lack in gear, it makes up for in will power and origin savvy, not only promising a culture with comprehensive knowledge but a special solution to the very present problem of the aging coffee producer in Colombia.
“[Specialty coffee] offers employment for a lot of young people who find in coffee a passion, but don’t have the money for college,” Vélez says. “In coffee, they find a way of life that makes them happy, and for me, the most important thing in Colombia is that they maintain the connection to origin.”
After winning the gold, Sebastian Hernandez invited Sprudge readers to learn more about Colombia’s twenty-one coffee-producing states. He also cited the public pressure as the most difficult variable in competitive brewing, likely no understatement with nearly 75 people packed into the plant-dressed patio. Excitement palpable, candidates vied for the gold, silver, and bronze AeroPress, each ringed with an Aerobie. The 35 competitors raised the bar, as it were, with inventive recipes and an unquenchable thirst for clean, balanced, premium cups of brewed coffee.
That's a big deal in Colombia, according to Adriana Villanueva, co-owner of quality exporter InConexus and Cafe Cultor (home to the newly-crowned champ, Sebastian Hernandez). Villanueva tells me that while coffee has always been a cash crop to Colombians, quality coffee brewed and consumed within Colombia was not commonly given monetary value. “I remember a time not too long ago when at restaurants in Colombia they would just give you coffee for free. If they charged for it, people would be like, ‘Are you kidding me? You're going to charge me for a tinto?!' So we have come a long way in a short time.”
Gabriel Roa, with only three months in the coffee world, trained heavily under Sebastián Pamplona at the Mariano Moreno Culinary Institute in Bogotá to earn second place. Julian Contreras gained the bronze with his suave caramel-ly brew… all while his right hand was in a cast.
Read on for details of what filtered through the chambers of these, perhaps, unlikely winners representing a nation poised for cross-chain greatness.
1st Place: Sebastian Hernandez, Café Cultor, Bogotá
Coffee: 20 grams
Grind: Medium fine on a Ditting
Water: 230 milliliters / 194 degrees Fahrenheit
0:00-0:30 Add 30 milliliters chilled water at 40 degrees Fahrenheit.
0:30- Agitation. Add 200 milliliters of 194 degrees Fahrenheit water and close filter cap.
2:30-3:00 Flip, swirl, and slow press.
From Hernandez: “As always, you have to visualize it before, and you have to see it through until it goes the way you want. I wanted to win this, and so I did. When you want something, you can do it.”
2nd Place: Gabriel Roa, Independent / Mariano Moreno Culinary Institute, Bogotá
Grind: 5 grams of super fine (Ibrik grind); 19 grams of medium fine in a Breville grinder (two points finer than French press)
Water: 248 milliliters / 167 degrees Fahrenheit
Method: Standard, dubbed Union Perfecta by Roa for its incorporation of elements of Turkish coffee, French press, and AeroPress. First grind is sandwiched between two dry filters with buffer between grinds and filter edge.
0:00-0:20 Pre-infusion of 20 milliliters of super fine grind.
0:20 – 0:50 Add 228 milliliters of 167 degrees Fahrenheit water heated in an Aeroccino3 (Nespresso’s milk steamer) immediately followed by 19 grams of medium grind coffee.
0:50 – 1:20 Five agitation stirs during general infusion.
1:20-2:20 Slow press, place in cup pre-heated with water at rolling boil.
Roa: “Thanks to my teacher Sebastián [Pamplona]. In three months, he has managed to teach me a lot.”
3rd Place: Julian Contreras, Independent, Bogotá
Coffee: 19 grams
Grind: Medium coarse on the provided KitchenAid
Water: 220 milliliters / 160 degrees Fahrenheit
Method: Inverted, with a fractured hand
0:00-0:40 Add 60 milliliters water at 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
0:40 Strong agitation, stir and wait.
1:00 Pour 160 milliliters and stir.
2:25-3:00 Four agitation stirs, cap, flip, and quick press for 30 seconds with non-fractured hand.
Julian: “When they announced the competition, I had just fractured my hand. I asked them, ‘Can I compete?’ They said ‘At your own risk.’… ‘Alright, let’s go for it,’ I said.”
Jimmy Sherfey (@abejadecafe) is a freelance writer covering specialty coffee at origin. This is Jimmy Sherfey's first feature for Sprudge.
Photos by Manuel Torres.