Now it's been several years since I wrote my most "personal" story about a coffee country that "doesn't let go." That is, about Colombia.
This story is also interesting in that it is not finished, that is, much of what is described there - and still continues and develops, often in very unexpected ways. And following this - willy-nilly you are surprised and feel involved. That is, Colombia is not something that psychologically "does not let go." Everything is much more serious. In addition to "psychologically" - there is also "physically". And "physically" Zhenya Slyudikova, one of the heroines of that story - Colombia "did not let go" so much that she remained there forever. After our meeting in 2011, Zhenya returned to Colombia, then lived in Russia for several years, working in television. But when the propaganda psychosis began to grow and "overscale" in 2014 - she left there, and lived in Israel, then in Colombia, then accompanying tourists to various American countries. Restrictions during the covid epidemic found her in Israel. Apparently she was bored there. Or maybe, after everything she had experienced in the Amazonia, she sincerely believed in her lucky star. So in the fall of 2020, just a few weeks before the start of vaccination in Israel, Zhenya flew to Colombia, where she said Cartagena was to become her home. At the end of May 2021, in Cartagena she fell ill wth covid. And it was Cartagena, now forever, became her last home. So, then (2011) motto of Colombia: “Colombia. The only risk is wanting to stay ”- in 2021 it turned out to be somewhat prophetic, although at that time this risk was not yet known.
But do not lose optimism. Life goes on. And new characters have appeared in this story. Like this one. Carlos Escobar is the son of a bankrupt Colombian coffee farmer who went to work in Australia. There, Carlos became the champion of coffee brewing and this year at the World Brewers Championships in Milan he made it to the finals and took 4th place.
If you speak English - listen to his speech. It's just a masterpiece, in terms of the art of storytelling. I thought this art was already lost. Nowadays, people rarely tell stories, because no one listens to anyone - everyone stumbled upon smartphones and TVs. And this has been usual for a long time. Karen Blixen wrote in her novel "Out of Africa": “I thought I could be a prominent figure in the plague in Florence. But times have changed and the art of listening to stories is lost in Europe. But the locals in Africa, who can't read, haven't lost it yet; and only when you say to them the words: "Once upon a time there was a man, once he was walking on the plain and met another man," you will immediately attract attention, their imagination will run in the footsteps of that unknown man on the plain. But white people can't listen to someone's story unless they feel obligated to do so. As soon as they don't start spinning, they instantly remember that they didn't have time to do something urgent, or they just swear. The same people who have just asked you to read aloud can immediately sit down and read something else, or even the same thing you read to them. They are used to perceiving impressions with their eyes. "
Just imagine if this Carlos Escobar told the story about the life of Luis Veles (I wrote about him in the article I mentioned at the beginning). There I did not mentioned that Luis himself competed in barista championships. Back in 2001, he competed at the World Barista Championship. He did not become a champion then, but he had a dream - that someone from Colombia should become a world champion. I understand why Louis decided so. After all, anyone who has ever seen endless coffee plantations on the slopes of the Cordillera over the Magdalena Valley – can`t imagine that anyone other than Colombian could be the Coffee World Champion.
And Luis has been trying hard for 20 years to make this dream come true. I wrote there about how the barista from his cafe was preparing for the 2011 World Cup, even reaching the semifinals. I also wrote about how World Champion Tim Wendelboe flew to Colombia for the first time (the day I bought a book about Colombia) to look for speciality coffee there. This search had the consequences, that Tim found not only coffee there, but a few years later even bought a small coffee farm. Since then, he has flown to Colombia, to his coffee farm, a couple of times a year to farm, plant coffee, and process crops. At his first trip to the farm, Luis Veles sent with him an assistant, a young man, a barista of his coffee shop, who knew English and could be Tim's translator from Spanish, as well as an assistant in all the activities on the farm.
(Here's a podcast from Tim Wendelbo and his colleague Photios Daflas about capping the first coffee harvest from his Colombian farm, Finka El Suelo:
So, that guy's name is Diego Campos. Now, figuratively speaking - every dog (coffee dog) knows him. Because Diego Campos - became the World Barista Champion 2021.
But, on October 25, 2021, for example, I didn't even know him. And already on October 27 Tim Wendelboe wrote on the Internet:
A huge congratulations to my dear friend @diegocampos_27 for winning the 2021 World Barista Championship.
I first met Diego in 2013 when he came with me to visit Finca Tamana. His boss Luis Fernando Velez at @amorperfectocafe was kind enough to lend me Diego for a week in order to help me translate while visiting @eliasroaparra at Finca Tamana.
Since that first trip Diego would go with me almost every time I went to visit Finca Tamana. He has been a great friend and we have worked so hard together on my farm, Finca el Suelo, making tonnes of compost and working long days in the field together. Diego is not only a fantastic barista but he is also now a coffee farmer and I suspect he will be a very successful one too…
I have also been privileged to follow Diego’s competition career. He is one of the most hard working baristas I know. I remember him getting up early every morning from Monday through Saturday to take the bus to work. Then working all day in the coffee shop and finish his day with training for the competition. Spending 12+ hours a day working and training would be the standard for Diego.
I was also privileged to be his coach when he competed in Seoul in 2017, but unfortunately my skills as a coach was not enough to help him to the Semi-finals and Diego ended up far down on the rankings.
Diego was shattered and my advice to him was to move on and focus on other things in life. But Diego was not finished with the WBC. He did not want it to end like that. So he started training for a new competition, got a much better coach in @federicobp and I know he has worked his neck off to prove that he in fact belongs in the WBC hall of fame.
Today I am so happy he did not take my poor advice. I am so proud of his determination and achievements. Diego is a true gentleman and a fantastic ambassador for coffee. He is a humble person always hungry for more knowledge and is not afraid of sharing what he knows with others.
To my dear friend and world barista champion, from the bottom of my heart, a huge congratulations. And a huge congratulations from our whole team. It is so well deserved!
You are a true hero!
Here is Diego's presentation at the 2021 World Championship:
And from myself I would like to add that Diego Campos is really the Champion and he deserved it. But probably this would not have happened, if many years ago in the coffee championship did not compete, (though not so successfully) - Luis Veles. Who did not become a champion himself, but decided, that he had to fight on to win together. And all these years, just think - 20 !!!! years he went alone and led others to make his country a champion.
For all these 20 years, Luis has been looking for and tasting only the best Colombian coffee. You may not even ask - he will unequivocally confirm that life is too short to drink bad coffee.
So in honor of the victory of Colombia - we found a little very tasty Colombian coffee
to raise a cup of it with you and say: "Viva Colombia":