Follow your dreams

But be careful what you wish for…

When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it. — Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist

In The Alchemist Santiago follows his dreams.

Federico Bolaños had a dream.

Federico Bolaños did not like coffee. Not that is until he had a coffee at a friend’s house. He could not believe how good it was. He decided to open a coffee shop serving quality coffee that tasted like his friend’s coffee.

Together with business partners Federico Bolaños opened three coffee shops, Viva Espresso, in El Salvador.

Alejandro Mendez did not like coffee. When he applied for a job at Viva Espresso he knew nothing about coffee, he did not even like coffee.

Federico Bolaños saw he had potential and offered him a job. Alejandro Mendez thought he would be waiting on tables, maybe grinding coffee beans, he learnt to be a barista, found he liked coffee.

Federico Bolaños had a dream. His dream was that El Salvador would win the World Coffee Championship. No producer country had ever won the coffee champions. Alejandro Mendez would win the world championship for El Salvador.

Alejandro Mendez entered and he won. He was World Champion barista in 2011.

Federico Bolaños did not stop there. He saw the hunger in the eyes of his young baristas. They begged him to let them enter. Once again, his barista won, this time coming third place.

But all this exacted a heavy toll on his business. Entering championships cost money. On their return they found the businesses was close to collapse, injection of new capital was needed. New investors were brought in and their first act was to oust Federico Bolaños.

But like Santiago in The Alchemist he did not accept defeat, he did not give up on his dreams, it was the start of a new adventure.

His help was ought by a South Korean coffee company. He won again, this time with a female barista, only the second female baristas in the history of the world championships. Federico Bolaños had trained three world champions.

Our modern day alchemists take coffee beans, use fire, and turn it into an elixir.

Many of the baristas of Viva Espresso, now ex-baristas, have moved on to open coffee shops with their colleagues.

Federico Bolaños has established Alquimia Coffee, Alejandro Mendez established 4 Monkeys Coffee Roasters.

The story of Federico Bolaños and Alejandro Mendez following their dreams is now a Duolingo podcast.

James Harper is host and producer of Filter Stories, a documentary-style podcast revealing the often dark reality but with glimmers of hope of the world of coffee. The untold stories hidden in your cup of coffee. He has also produced Adventures in Coffee, a Caffeine Magazine podcast (hosted by Jools Walker and Caffeine founder Scott Bailey).

A longer version of this post has been published by The Little Bicycle Coffee Shop on Medium.  [see Follow your dreams]

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