Earlier this month, we celebrated the craft and artistry that goes into making our iconic espresso-based beverages in Latin America and the Caribbean at the Starbucks LAC Barista Championship in Hacienda Alsacia, Costa Rica.
This event was a unique opportunity for green apron partners (employees) across the region to showcase their knowledge and expertise, and to celebrate coffee passion with their fellow partners. The top National Barista Champions from unique LAC markets competed across three days for the overall title; Camila from Argentina was officially crowned LAC Barista Champion.
"I've always loved learning and with coffee you never stop finding out new things", Camila told us. "If you're anything like me, then my advice for you is to take part in a tasting if you ever get a chance. You'll learn so much and will love coffee even more!"
All throughout the competition the partners outdid themselves through awesome skill and artistry, as you can imagine, such an occasion was ripe with the best coffee wisdom. So we asked our Champions for their tips and tricks to brew the best cup of coffee.
1. Start with the basics
Mauricesa from the Cayman Islands reminded us of the importance of properly storing our beans. After all, maintaining the quality of our key ingredient is fundamental to preparing a good cup of coffee.
“At home, we must ensure that the beans are kept in an airtight container at the right temperature and stored somewhere they can’t get wet,” she said. “Coffee is what you make it: it is a blank canvas packed with flavor to which you can add your own twist. Whether by adding creamers, milks, something sweet, or even by adding some coffee to your favorite recipes or desserts, coffee is all about personalizing and loving your experience.”
2. French press secrets
Once we have the coffee, the next step is knowing which brewing method to use. Even though everyone had their preferred way of making coffee, most of our Champions mentioned the French press as their favorite at home.
“I think a French press is a must-have!” said Shanyhah, who was representing the Bahamas. “What I love about it is that I can prepare my hot coffee every morning and when I get home, I can make iced coffee with the rest of the batch. I highly recommend it.”
Juan Marco from Guatemala shared another great trick: he told us we can use the French press to froth warm milk for a homemade cappuccino. “You just put the milk in the carafe and press up and down a couple of times until you get the desired texture for your coffee.”
John from Peru gave us a tip we didn’t expect. “Make sure to preheat the carafe before making the coffee. You can dip it in some hot water beforehand, for example. And always make sure you use filtered water!”
3. For your inner connoisseur
As we spoke more with our Champions, their suggestions became more specific. Yatziri from Costa Rica suggested we research the place where our coffee is from to find out more about it; understanding the brewing instructions and coffee descriptions can help you know what foods to pair it with to make the most of the flavors.
Andrew, a partner representing Jamaica, advised us to “try different brewing methods of your favorite coffee so you can see which one you like best.” On a similar note, Jezabel from Uruguay recommended we get out of our comfort zone and try different coffees and add some variations, such as different milks, to taste new combinations.
4. Cold brew all the way
For more experienced at-home baristas, Miguel Ángel from Mexico had this to say: “You’ve got to try to make your own Cold Brew coffee! Beans from Kenya are great for this. You only need a big glass container, then grind your coffee as coarsely as possible and put 10 g to every 180 ml of room-temperature water. Put your coffee mixture in the fridge for 20 hours and voilà! As an extra tip, I really like to add a slice of orange or grapefruit to the infusion to give it a more citrusy touch.”
5. Keep it up!
All in all, the consensus for great coffee at home was to have fun and enjoy both the brewing and learning process behind a great cup.
“Always seek to improve your technique, whether by watching a video on YouTube or asking a partner at your local Starbucks store how to choose the perfect quality coffee for your taste,” recommended Vinicius, who’s representing Brazil for the fourth time.
Finally, a piece of advice from Moisés from Bolivia: “Enjoy every cup of coffee like it is your first one, so that every time you taste it, you can find new textures and flavors in it!”