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Coffee hits the reality television stream

From the November 2014 issue.

The second season of Barista & Farmer is set to be filmed in Honduras in February 2015.

Barista&Farmer Big Brother coffee FarmerIn 1991, a group of seven strangers met for the first time in a student house in Amsterdam. Surrounded by cameras, the students were set to change the nature of television narratives for years to come. 

The house, Number 28, was the original Big Brother, largely considered the world’s first modern reality television show. More than two decades later, reality television is a staple of network programming, and has spared few professions in the quest for ratings. From supermodels to celebrity chefs, ballroom dancing to high diving, it turns out pretty much any skill can be edited into prime time entertainment.

Coffee has now joined the list, with the second season of Barista & Farmer set to be filmed in Honduras in February 2015. In the series, a group of 10 baristas head to a coffee farm for a week of living like, and learning from, a coffee farmer. The baristas are tested daily on both coffee production and preparation skills, with one winner emerging as the ultimate champion.

Francesco Sanapo, three-time Italian barista champion and third place winner of the World Barista Championships, helped come up with the idea alongside Barista & Farmer President Rebecca Atienza.

Unlike many reality shows, the inspiration came from outside the conference rooms of network television, in the open air of a Puerto Rican coffee farm.

“In 2010, I visited my first coffee farm in Puerto Rico,” recounts Sanapo. “It was my first time on a farm. I thought I knew a lot about coffee, but then I got there and realised I didn’t really know anything… I never imagined how difficult it was to produce a cup of coffee.”

It was on this trip that Sanapo met Rebecca, and promised to return a year later with 10 baristas from Italy. At this point, the trip was just about sharing his experience with other baristas so that they could learn more about coffee. He also brought along some cameras so that they could record the experience.

Sanapo says his original goal of educating baristas on life on the farm has easily been achieved. Of the first group he brought to the farm, one barista went on to win the Italian Barista Championship, and another won the Italian Latte Art Championships and placed second in the world.

“Of the 10 baristas who came, four ended up as finalists in the Italian Coffee Championships,” he says. “I think that by going to Puerto Rico they started to understand the coffee better, and they learned to better spread their love and their passion to their customers.”

Sanapo says he’s impressed with the general public’s interest in the show. In this space, he says Barista & Farmer serves a great educational purpose in teaching coffee drinkers more about this precious product.

“There are people in Italy who don’t even know coffee is a fruit. I just never imagined that,” he says. “Not only are we giving more knowledge to the barista, we’re also helping normal people understand more about coffee."

Two years later, the show is starting to look more like a network reality television series. Ten baristas share a house, rising early to spend the morning doing manual labour on the farm. In the afternoon they attend agricultural classes, and finish off the day with two challenges.

Sanapo says there is one “serious” competition on tasks like pulping, cupping, and more. These are complemented by “funny”competitions including a coffee sack race, a football game of farmers versus baristas, and a cook-off of coffee-inspired Honduran dishes. There is even a daily weigh in, with the baristas having to present their bags of cherries to two judges. One checks the weight, while the other checks the ripeness of the cherries.

With this format, Sanapo and Atienza have attracted the attention of mainstream media channels, with talks that the show might find its way onto international television. Sanapo is a bit hesitant, as the format will have to be changed to cater for the network heads. Currently, the competitions are graded throughout the week, with the points tallied at the end for a final winner. In television format, Sanapo has been told the baristas will have to be eliminated daily to cater for more thrilling entertainment.

The content can currently be viewed via the web, meaning the pair can keep their friendlier format. The show is also going to be previewed at the upcoming Sigep show, taking place from 17 – 21 January 2015 in Rimini, Italy.

Now in its 36th edition, Sigep is a world-leading international exhibition for the artisan production of gelato, pastry, confectionery and bakery.

A feature of the show will be a central stage where they will announce the 10 competitors who will be taking part in the 2015 show. The stand will feature the beauty of Honduras, and will stream videos from the web site, including show clips, interviews, and other promotional videos about the Santa Isabel and Cooperative Les Capucas where the 2015 show will be filmed. GCR

For details visit www.baristafarmer.com

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