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Meet Mary Portillo-Two time Honduran Barista Champion

Morning Coffee @ Origin

Meet a very special Barista

The fact that I live in an origin country and work from here everyday for Mayorga gives our company a very unique and hands on perspective of what is going on in coffee producing countries, not only during the peak of harvest season but all year round.

I was invited to attend an event in Tegucigalpa where Capucas, our partner cooperative in Honduras would be promoting  to the local market their  roasted coffee and diversified products like honey and sun dried fruit. Also, Capucas Barista and two time National Barista Champion of Honduras, Mary Portillo would give a latte art presentation. It was the perfect chance to catch up and chat, while she prepared for me a delish latte with a tulip design.

I met Mary last year and I had the privilege of watching her live performance at the World Barista Championship last year in Dublin. Her energy and commitment to excellence can be summed up in one word- PASSION. She is passionate about what she does and she is proud to represent  her coop and her country.  Last year, thousands of Hondurans followed her performance at the World Championship through livestream and local TV stations. She had the power to insipire her fellow Hondurans watching and she made us all feel very proud. She became a symbol and an inspiration for many young people from rural areas, especially young women like her.

Here is a bit of our conversation last week:

Mary, can you tell us about yourself ,  is your family involved in coffee farming? How was it like to grow up in a coffee producing region?

- My father is a small coffee farmer and we grew up in the community of San Pedro , Copán where the Capucas Coop is located. We are a very united family. In rural communities access to education is not alway easy , especially for girls . After I finished elementary school , there was no high school in my community so in order to continue with my high school studies, I would have to move to another community and attend a boarding school. It was not easy to convince my father to allow me to go, as I was still young and in our culture it is not an easy decision to allow one of your daughters to move to another town to attend a boarding school , even if it was  for educational reasons . I was patient and waited for some years , but I was finally allowed to go and I knew I had a great responsibility , for if I did well in school and caused no troubles, my younger sisters would also be able to continue with their high school education when the time came . I was 16 when I started high school, but I was happy and grateful and I worked hard to do well in school.  I am grateful to God for the opportunities he has given me.

How did you become a part of the CAPUCAS Coop  and what does it mean to you to be part of  CAPUCAS? How did you come about becoming a barista ?

-When I finished high school, I knew that my family could not support me financially to continue on with my university studies, and I had the desire to continue learning. So I went to the Capucas Coop to look for a job. My parents as producers were part of the Coop but now I wanted to become an employee of the Coop. A job at the Coop would give me the means to continue with my goal of a higher education.  Omar, the General Manager,  encouraged me to try to become a barista and work at the Coop Café. My friend Lourdes Villeda was in charge of the Café and she would train me . Omar gave me a month to try , as he said this work had much to do with passion , even more than the skills themselves, I had to discover if I was passionate about it. Before a month had passed I told him I had found my place and this is what I wanted to do. Lourdes trained me and I was able to interact with the buyers that came to the Coop and stopped by the café.

Last year, as we were getting ready as a Coop to compete in the National Barista Championship , my colleague who was more experienced and had more training  was supposed to compete , but she had just had her twins and that was her priority. Omar then asked me if I wanted to compete. I was excited but nervous and I even asked if he was sure he wanted to give me the chance to represent Capucas, as I did not have so much experience. He said yes, and Lourdes  became my trainer, coach and mentor  for the National Championship. I was so happy and grateful to win  the National competition and from there we started our preparation for Dublin . We had little time but I received some training in El Salvador and every time we would have international visitors at the cafetería , I would share part of my presentation, ask for comments , tips, and so on. It was an honor to represent Honduras last year and now I have the privilege to represent my country again in the World Barista Championship 2017 that will take place in Seoul, Korea  on Nov. 9-12. My job at the coop has given me a chance to  grow, to have access to education and training and also to meet so many people from many parts of the world and within Honduras also.

Mary, what message would you like to share with our Mayorga customers ?

First of all I would say: THANK YOU! Thank you for your support! The producers of Capucas are mostly small coffee farmers; families that as a whole are making great efforts to continue growing and developing as families and individuals, to be able to support their own children so they can have access to higher education , and thus have access to financial resources to continue producing great quality coffee.

I hope you continue enjoying Capucas coffee through Mayorga! 

You are supporting the development of Honduran families, of the Capucas Coop and you are contributing to the development of Honduras as a country.  You are making it possible for the children of many coffee farmers to achieve their dreams of a higher education and of becoming better citizens.

I was left inspired by this amazing young woman!  We are honored to have Mary Portillo with us at the Mayorga roastery in Rockville, MD July 6-8!

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