Baby baristas: Could kids hold the key to Colombia’s coffee future?

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By Andrew Wight

MARSELLA, Colombia — At a library in the heart of Colombia’s coffee country, Julián Murillo, 8, proudly narrates the process as he makes a meticulous Chemex-method brew. He places a filter-lined funnel atop a glass flask and carefully doles out the speciality coffee — produced and roasted locally — in the centre of the filter paper, before pouring the hot water over the top and watching the dark brown brew drip down.

For now, Julián is learning the skills just for fun, but there’s a larger goal in mind: Low coffee prices, climate change and a rapidly-aging coffee work force mean it’s more important than ever to get kids excited and invested in keeping the coffee industry here thriving.

If kids like Julián don’t stay on the land, Colombia’s smooth Arabica coffee, served by cafe chains around the globe, could disappear — but if programs like these succeed, the next generation could preserve Colombia’s centuries-old culture while providing better local jobs and better-tasting coffee for local consumers.

The library in this town about 130 miles south of Medellín is housed in the corner of a massive colonial building. One overcast October day, nearly a dozen kids between the ages of 6 and 12 filled the common area used by the Cafeteritos, which is Spanish for little coffee makers.

“I want to run my own coffee shop one day,” says Julián, as he makes the pour-over coffee. “And I want kids from all over the world to come and share this coffee with me.”

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