February is the month of coffee and love with Valentine’s Day and Specialty Coffee month sharing the stage. And that coffee love is blooming at Silicon valley’s Barefoot Coffee Roasters. Barefoot is hosting Guatemalan National Barista Champion Noe Castro for the month of February. Noe Castro was the Guatemala national Barista champion and went on the compete in the 2006 World Barista Championships in Tokyo nabbing 28th place. Noe recently took third place at the 2007 Guatemala Barista Championship and won the title of “Best Espresso” at the championships.

For the months of February and March Noe will be participating in a Barista Exchange at Barefoot Coffee Roasters. Noe will be exchanging information, techniques, coffee passion and stories with the Barefoot Coffee team. This is a unique arrangement that builds great rapport between all of the participants. The high end of the specialty coffee industry is a supportive community that thrives on open communication and co-opetition. Noe will be learning to roast coffee, cup and blend coffees from many different countries and learn new espresso extraction techniques. In exchange Noe will be helping to train Barefoot’s Barista competition team, Monica Hill and Marie Holston, as they prepare for the Western Regional Barista Competition March 29-31st 2008 in Berkeley, CA. Noe will also be working the espresso bar pulling espressos for customers throughout the month at Barefoot’s coffee bar.

“My passion is coffee,” said Noe Castro Cacao. “Working with Barefoot Coffee is a remarkable opportunity for me to advance my coffee knowledge, skill and passion. The level of coffee preparation knowledge in the United States will allow me to achieve my goal of representing Guatemala in the World Barista Championships in 2009.”

And to continue the spirit of the exchange he will also be spending a week or two at Ritual Roasters in San Francisco doing many of the same educational opportunities. This type of open community and exchange is a hallmark of the artisan coffee industry where relationships and results are more important than brand.

Artisan roasters take great pride in hand crafting coffees of the highest magnitude. The multi-layered flavor complexities exceed that of even the finest wines. And many of these roasters take the coffee so seriously that they develop direct relationships with coffee farmers in producing countries to ensure the highest quality and most unique flavors. These relationships also serve to pass more of the profits to the coffee farmers themselves through education and awareness.

“Noe is an amazing Barista and representative of Guatemala Coffee,” Mused Andy Newbom, Chief Espresso Officer of Barefoot Coffee Roasters, Inc. “We are honored to be able to host a true champion of great coffee. We met Noe Castro on a trip to visit farms in Guatemala in February 2007, while we were training a group of Guatemalan Baristas and we offered to help Noe refine his presentation for the World competition. His passion, dedication, charm and humility are backed up by his exemplary skill in making great coffee. Damn! This is gonna be a fun month!”

“In Guatemala most Baristas have little or no contact with coffee roasters,” explained Edwin Martinez, owner of Guatemalan coffee estate Finca Vista Hermosa in Huehuetenango. “For Noe to work directly with an artisan coffee roaster of the level of Barefoot Coffee and to learn roasting, blending and cupping is a huge opportunity for him.”

Barefoot Coffee Roasters, Inc. is a cafe and roastery in the heart of Silicon Valley operating in the old ways of hands-on craftsmanship. Hands and hearts beat computer chips any day. Striving for coffee perfection makes Barefoot take coffee pretty seriously and pour love into every bean. While still keeping it simple; taking great coffee, crafting it with pride and passion and treating the whole coffee experience as a culinary art while operating sustainably from top to bottom. The team has been ranked as one of the top four boutique roasters in the nation by Food and Wine Magazine and been voted Best Coffee in the Bay Area four years running by the Wave and Metro magazines and recently the Mercury News. Barefoot is an artisan roaster of sustainable coffees including Organic, Fair Trade, Shade Grown, co-op grown, single estates, auction winning lots and relationship coffees. These great coffees have amazingly complex flavors, nuances and layers which are truly wonderful on your tongue.