Glossy clear glass forms, the slow and steady pour, and a rich full flavored coffee is guaranteed to please even the most exigente (or high standards) customer has arrived in Pereira. Some of the best coffee in the world is harvested each year in the coffee axis and shipped mostly to the United States.
Meanwhile, the locals often drink a surprisingly low quality type that is purchased cheaply and is in general very poor quality. They call it pasilla. Even most cafés’ in the region are surprisingly simple and unassuming with how they make and serve coffee. They often use cheaply made coffee. I recently encountered, by reputation, a coffee shop that has made it their mission to take the coffee drinking culture to the next level. They seek to give a more exigente, or high standard of service, and quality.
El Barista Cafe
My goal is to prepare coffee with knowledge and respect for the art and the producers. ~ Sebastian Mejia | General Manager
The following is an interview I conducted with Sebastian Mejia Gaviria, the owner and proprietor of El Barista:
The Open Minded Traveler: Sebastian, tell me about your project. Why coffee?
Sebastian: Coffee is one of the most important commodities in the world. Second only to oil in overall production, coffee is a staple that holds a top spot in the lives of millions of people. I wanted to deliver not just a high quality coffee to the people of Colombia but also chose to study and learn everything I could about how to grow, harvest, process and prepare the perfect cup.
The Open Minded Traveler: Your café is quite nice. What is your mission statement, or values, which you are trying to create with your café?
Sebastian: Three things: 1. I buy it at a fair price that doesn’t just benefit my business, but also the person who is putting in the hard work to grow and harvest a quality product. 2. It is “premium” quality with a score of greater than or equal to 80 points. The point system grades the coffee on fragrance, flavor, aftertaste, acidity, body, balance, sweetness, clean cup, uniformity, overall quality and defects. 3. I toast it properly to hit a special point of flavor and aroma. My goal is to prepare coffee with knowledge and respect for the art and the producers.
The Open Minded Traveler: You have a glass beaker with a funnel that sit’s on top of it and a filter. What is the purpose of this system?
Sebastian: This is what we call “V60 Method”, “Manual Method” or “Slow Coffee.” I am going to create “Pour-over” preparation. Basically I place the filter in the funnel and pour it in concentric circles in and out, steady and consistent. This preparation creates a special brew that results in a bloom of flavors that open up the properties of the coffee.
The Open Minded Traveler: What type of coffee do you use? What origin? Type?
Sebastian: This is the coffee of the week, it’s a Borbon variety. A very antique variety which has been around for a long time but not as common commercially. The plant species is Arabica. The coffee I present comes from a producer in Marsella, a coffee pueblo near to Pereira in the Andes Mountains.
The Open Minded Traveler: Wow, what an amazing flavor, sweet almost. No sugar needed. I definitely haven’t seen anyone else around here create coffee in this way. Do you have any competitors, or other businesses that offer this type of coffee, or preparation?
Sebastian: (Laughs) No, not that I know of. Most places might use a coffee that is good based on marketability or producer reputation but none are studying the preparation, toasting style or presentation in this way.
Editor Update: In April of 2017, this coffee shop was named “Best in the Coffee Axis” by La Barra. Congratulations!
Overall it was a very educational and enlightening experience. Even in the US I have never seen the preparation in this way, or more realistically was never enough of a coffee enthusiast to really know the difference. After spending time learning about Sebastian’s vision and hearing the passion in his voice, it really opened me up to new possibilities. If you have a chance to visit his shop ask for “preparacion pouredover” or pouredover preparation, to try a cup of heaven. There were also plenty of artisan goodies for the sweet tooth and sandwiches for the salty craving. I ordered the vanilla cake with brownie pieces inside and uchuva jelly glaze on the outside. My favorite coffee there is the mocacchino, it’s not too sweet and perfectly suited my tastes. However, if you are a true blue fan of good coffee definitely ask for the “pouredover” preparation.
El Barista is located on Carrera 15 #4-17 in Barrio Pinares of Pereira, Colombia A “must-do” experience for visiting coffee lovers! Landline#: (036) 341-331 https://www.facebook.com/elbaristacaf/