Meet Tonny Gitonga, the Kenya Barista Champion we’re working with for the World Barista Championship

Counter Culture Coffee is ready to be part of the winning team in this year’s World Barista Championship, but, this time, with a barista from outside the United States.

Since 2012, three United States Barista Champions have used Counter Culture Coffee in the World Barista Championships, including Counter Culture’s Katie Carguilo in 2012, as well as 2016 and 2017 champions, Lem Butler and Kyle Ramage. And this year, we’re sponsoring Kenya Barista Champion, Tonny Gitonga, as he prepares to compete at the World Barista Championship next month in Amsterdam.

“The reality is, out of the 18 World Barista Champions, all but two come from countries that are more on the consuming side of coffee than the producing side,” explained Tim Hill, Counter Culture’s head coffee buyer.

Hill lead the effort to connect the coffee company with Gitonga.

“There has never been a winner from the countries that produce the majority of the coffee consumed by specialty coffee drinkers,” Hill stated. “There has never been a winner from Africa.”

Brett Smith, founder and president of Counter Culture, explained that the company’s mission is to push potential in all aspects of its business and the industry.

“It is a simple idea: If baristas at origin are pushing the quality boundaries and pushing the potential of what they do, it is going to inspire the producers of the coffees and lead to higher-quality products,” Smith said.

For Gitonga, his quest to claim the World Barista title is personal.

“Competing is a way to inspire other people to join the coffee industry and the farms themselves, because we are running out of farms in Kenya,” Gitonga stated. “They are turning into housing developments or being sold to construction companies.”

“I see how Counter Culture has worked with producers in Kenya, and I like what it stands for as a company,” he explained. “We need Kenya’s coffee industry to be promoted, and Counter Culture is helping to do that.”

This collaboration is just the start for us. As a pioneer in coffee education, we plan to invest in more events and exchanges within the barista community both at home and around the world.

“It’s all in an effort to have strong connections to the coffee communities we buy from. This will lead to better coffee, better partnerships,” Hill explained. “And, of course, maybe we can play a small part in celebrating a World Barista Champion from a place that produces the beautiful coffees we love to drink.”

Gitonga will be training in Durham May 30–June 1 and will be competing in Amsterdam June 20–23.

Check out our Instagram Stories to follow along on Tonny’s journey and tune into the live stream on the World Barista Championships page to watch Tonny compete!