David Lee-Schneider of BaristaJam.com meets Raúl Rodas to ask him about his experience at the World Barista Championship 2012 in Vienna, Austria.
David: Raúl, first of all thank you so much for taking the time to meet me today. I’m honored to be doing this interview with you.
Q: For the people who don’t know you yet, could you give us a short introduction to who you are and what you do?
A: My Name is Raul, I am 26 years old and live in Guatemala city; I have been working in the coffee world for around 7 years. I have been a barista, consultant, roaster and coffee buyer as well as founder of Paradigma Coffee Roasters.
Q: How did you start your career as a professional barista, and why?
A: It is actually a pretty boring story: I started looking for a job that would pay the bills and also college. It wasn’t until one or two years later that I had decided to make a living from working in the coffee industry and as a Barista. One of the main reasons was to have the opportunity to change lives by delivering an experience trough a cup of coffee. I loved the ongoing training, working with farmers and just being able to share my experiences and knowledge with people from around the world – only coffee can give you that.
Q: What do you think a barista needs to be successful?
A: I think always knowing and realizing that you could be wrong and be making mistakes; thinking that way has helped me to be ensure I keep trying new ways to see what works and what doesn’t. I believe that a cup of coffee can ALWAYS be better than it already is.
Q: BaristaJam.com is all about latte art. What is your opinion? Do you believe latte art is an important factor in coffee making?
A: I am not a huge fan of latte art but I do appreciate the amazing work and creativity that baristas put into it. I believe latte art plays an important role for the presentation of coffee and to draw new customers. I always enjoy an amazing latte art visual, as long as the taste is good – taste for me is the most important factor.
Q: I truly admire you for being the World Barista Champion 2012. How has your life changed since you won the Barista Championship in Vienna, Austria?
A: Thanks a lot! I think that it will never stop changing from now on and it’s mostly going to be more work. But no matter where life takes you, you mustn’t forget who you are and that you always have to make time for the things you need. For sure, I see the coffee world so differently now and there is so much to be done and new projects that are waiting for me. Participating in the WBC made me want to work much more with producers and to be the link between importers and roasters. I want to help create new opportunities on all sides, benefiting producers, roasters and baristas.
Q: If you were to take part in the WBC again, what would you do differently?
A: I think I would just want to relive it the way it was. I would not change anything. Maybe I would bring more friends, but I really believe that all things happen for a reason, and if all my luggage wouldn’t have been stuck in customs, it might not have been as great as it has been! (laughter)
Q: For the baristas out there who are thinking of competing in a future WBC Event, do you have any advice you could give on what to do or what not to do?
A: I think sharing everything you know and keeping an open mind to learning new things are the key to success. Be aware that you could know things that no one else knows – and those are the things that you have to share. Competition is always about learning and teaching something new, about breaking paradigms. It has been an honour and great pleasure to be part of all this and I would love to be part of another competition in the future, to learn more and share more.
Thank you Raùl! I really appreciate you sharing your story with us. We all look forward to seeing what the future holds for you.