July 13, 2023

Brazil and Chile win the two biggest World Coffee Championships: What does it mean for Latin America?


From 21 to 24 June 2023, some of this year’s World Coffee Championships took place in Athens, Greece. These included the World Barista Championship and the World Brewers Cup – arguably the two most exciting and innovative competitions comprising the WCC.

For the first time ever, a Brazilian competitor won the World Barista Championship – a historic win for the world’s biggest coffee-producing country. Meanwhile, Chilean barista Carlos Medina became the first-ever Latin American competitor to win the World Brewers Cup.

The presence of more Latin American coffee professionals has been a long time coming at the World Coffee Championships. With the top six spots typically occupied by competitors from the Global North, this year’s competitions marked a huge milestone for representation and inclusivity in specialty coffee.

Read on to find out more about how Brazil’s and Chile’s wins could influence the wider industry.

You may also like our article on what happened at the 2023 World Barista Championship.

The 2023 World Brewers Cup winners hold up their trophies at World of Coffee Athens.

Latin America dominated the 2023 WBC and WBrC

Some 140 competitors took part in the 2023 World Coffee Championships, with most competing in the World Barista Championships and World Brewers Cup.

Representing Brazil, Boram Um is this year’s World Barista Champion. Although both his parents are South Korean, Boram was born and raised in Brazil – where he co-runs Fazenda Um and Um Coffee Co.

For his espresso course, Boram used an anaerobically fermented Gesha from Janson Family Estates in Panama. In his milk and signature beverage courses, Boram used a blend of Gesha and a natural Pink Bourbon from Fazenda Um.

The theme of Boram’s routine was how all supply chain actors have a role to play in elevating coffee quality – from producer to consumer.

Meanwhile, at the 2023 World Brewers Cup, Chilean barista Carlos Medina placed first. He used a natural processed Sidra from Café Granja la Esperanza in Colombia, brewed with the Origami at a 1:16 ratio.

In short, these two wins are momentous for Latin American coffee professionals. At these competitions, the semi-finalists and finalists typically hail from countries such as:

  • US
  • Norway
  • Australia
  • Denmark
  • UK
  • Taiwan
  • Switzerland
  • Greece
  • South Korea
  • Italy

Hard work, plenty of training, and dedication are integral to success at the World Barista Championship and World Brewers Cup. Any competitor from any country is certainly capable of this.

However, it’s also fair to point out that these listed countries are mostly high-income. Although WCC competitors from anywhere in the world can certainly face financial adversity, baristas from coffee-producing countries are more likely to need a greater level of financial support. For the World Coffee Championships in particular, this is especially important.

World Barista Champion Boram Um steams milk during his routine.

Impact on the wider industry

This isn’t the first time that Latin American competitors have won – and placed in the top six – at the World Coffee Championships. Other high-scoring Latino competitors include:

  • Diego Campos of Colombia who won the 2021 World Barista Championship
  • Alejandro Mendez of El Salvador who won the 2011 WBC
  • Guatemalan Raul Rodas who won the 2012 WBC, and also placed second at the 2010 WBC
    • Mexican barista Fabrizio Sención Ramírez was also the 2012 WBC runner up
  • Salvadoran competitor William Hernandez who came third at the 2013 WBC and sixth at the 2014 WBC

When it comes to the World Brewers Cup, meanwhile, even fewer Latin American coffee professionals have made it to the finals:

  • Brazilian competitor Carolina Franco de Souza who came fifth at the 2013 competition
  • Also representing Brazil, Garam Victor Um who placed third at the 2023 WBrC

Given this, the magnitude of Latin Americans winning both the 2023 WBC and WBrC is significant – and clearly shows the key role that coffee professionals from Latin America play in pushing specialty coffee forward.

But how could this affect the coffee industry overall?

One way could be bolstering domestic specialty coffee consumption in Latin America. Looking specifically at Brazil, it’s estimated around 98% of households drink coffee, but quality can vary somewhat.

To increase consumer awareness, the Coffee Quality Programme was launched in 2004 by the Brazilian Coffee Industry Association (ABIC). The overall aim of the initiative was to improve consumers’ access to coffee quality verification systems.

This helped to grow consumer interest in specialty coffee. The SCA reports that Brazil’s specialty coffee market share doubled between 2016 and 2018 from 6% to 12% – and is sure to have grown since.

Changing perceptions on coffee quality and the role of the barista

Ultimately, once the WBC and WBrC winners are announced, there is a spotlight on the winning competitors’ respective countries. 

Once more, when we look at competition-winning coffees, we don’t often think of Brazil – an origin which is more renowned for volume. However, as Boram Um used a Brazilian Pink Bourbon in his winning routine, we can conclude that interest in this variety is sure to increase in the coming months.

Moreover, compared to many countries in the Global North, the barista role is not often considered a long-term career path in Latin America. However, with more competitors from the region in the top six finalist line-up of such prestigious coffee competitions, we could see a shift in attitudes towards working in specialty coffee.

“Information is now more accessible to Latin American competitors,” Carlos Medina says. “We can now also travel more often and talk to more people online.

“This equips competitors from producing countries with more knowledge, and also helps them to understand more about the supply chain,” he adds.

Garam Victor Um brews coffee at the World Brewers Cup.

A Brazilian and a Chilean winning the 2023 WBC and WBrC is a landmark moment for coffee competitions. The global specialty coffee sector’s attention has now turned to Latin America – and rightly so. The region is home to some of the most skilled and knowledgeable industry professionals in the world who deserve recognition for their hard work.

Furthermore, better and more accurate representation of Latin Americans in specialty coffee only serves to support the sector even more – and thereby push for more innovation.

Enjoyed this? Then read our article on new rule changes at the 2023 World Barista Championship.

Photo credits: Specialty Coffee Association

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