What is the Field Barista Project?

While chatting to our partner and friend, Juan Pablo Lasso Argote, we realised there are two demands that are never really matched. On the one hand, coffee farmers all over Colombia have to hire expensive extra hands during picking season - while here in the specialty coffee scene, baristas would kill to spend time on a coffee farm learning about the roots of their obsession by picking and processing coffee...

So we decided to post a call for baristas on facebook to go and help the Argote family with their harvest. Two months later, the Field Barista Project was born. Baristas from four countries went to Colombia in June 2016 - not just for a simple origin trip, but to get their hands dirty and help Juan Pablo Lasso Argote and Hernando "Meko" Gutierrez with their harvest for two weeks. Their tasks included picking, washing, sorting and grading. Lodging and food were provided by the Colombian hosts, and no fee was owed to This Side Up - a simple and equal exchange.

In the end, baristas are the daily link between all the hard work throughout the coffee value chain and the coffee drinker, so they have an extraordinary but underused potential to bring the coffee producing world to life for us all.

The 2016 field baristas fermenting coffee together with Juan Pablo.

The 2016 field baristas fermenting coffee together with Juan Pablo.

Results of the first edition:

It's safe to say that we underestimated the impact of this project. The baristas obviously have much more to give than just their picking and sorting hands. They taught the family and the pickers about cupping and identifying tastes, and helped execute experiments like honey and natural coffees, cascara coffee leaf and coffee flower tea.

Also, as a result of his talks with the baristas, Juan Pablo decided to spend part of our 2016 price premium to come to Holland. Here, he learned from our friends, roasters and baristas how his coffee is roasted, brewed and perceived by the final customer, and for the first time in his long career as a coffee farmer, was able to taste coffees from all around the world. His goal in the next years has now crystallised: to become a specialty coffee trainer and ambassador for the village's young folk, so as to make coffee exciting and profitable again- and so that they will stay and help their rural community thrive... 

 

Here are the 2016 Field Baristas. Click on their pictures to read their story and follow their adventures via the blog page.