Sang Ho Park is an accomplished specialty coffee professional. The former Head of Roasting and Quality Control at Square Mile Coffee is the 2013 United Kingdom Brewers Cup Champion, going on to place fourth in the world at that year’s tournament. Sang Ho Park is also the 2015 UK Coffee in Good Spirits Champion, and he moved on to earn 6th place at the world tournament.
Sang Ho Park is now the founder and primary consultant at Spark Coffee Consulting, a new consultancy based in the United Kingdom but with a foot in markets across Asia. We spoke with Sang Ho Park about his new venture from his home base in London.
Hi Sang Ho Park. Thanks for taking the time to sit down with us. Tell us, what were you doing before winning awards and roasting for Square Mile?
Sang Ho Park: Before my coffee life, I moved to the UK in 1999 with my family, and I guess I was a typical Korean kid aspiring to be either a doctor, lawyer, or an engineer. Then just before University, a coffee job which was only meant to be to funding my love of traveling turned into a passion, so much so I gave up path into University and coffee became my full-time job since then. I started my specialty coffee career at The Espresso Room, then Taylor Street Baristas and TAP Coffee before making my move to Square Mile Coffee.
During your tenure at Square Mile, you stumbled upon coffee chaff tea and used it for your Coffee In Good Spirits presentation. How did that come about?
I thought of using chaff tea because I wanted to use the by-products and waste product of coffee for the drinks I was building for Coffee in Good Spirits. Then I realised I could use chaff while I was emptying the chaff collector of the roaster. Then it took me good week to figure out how to make a good chaff tea. I realised flavours of chaff tea was heavily dependent on the type of roast profile and the development level. Chaff tea seemed to be the best when the coffee was roasted lightly, little slowly.
What’s the future hold for Spark Coffee Consulting?
Over the past 2 years, I got the opportunity to travel around the world seeing and talking to many people. I looked back how much I enjoyed sharing knowledge and also in turn, learning new things myself and widen my perspective. So after many months of thinking, I decided it was time to pursue what I wanted to do next, and luckily, knowing there are people who value my knowledge and thoughts, I jumped into the consulting arena. Spark Consulting serves the purpose to share knowledge and consult with companies on green coffee management and analysis, roasting training, and quality control system implementation.
Where will you be based? Where will you work?
The company is registered in the UK, but the majority of my work will be based in Asia. My semi-permanant base will be in Seoul, probably from a corner in my favourite cafe in Asia, Fritz Coffee. Traveling from London to Asia will be little more time consuming and tiresome!
What are some of the things you’ve learned, overheard, picked up, or will always remember along your coffee career?
To be humble, open-minded, honest and not try answering all questions, but rather, to try and question all answers. The quote I go by every day is by Grace Murphy Hopper: “The most damaging phrase is it’s always been done that way.” So I try to question the things I believe I know, and see if there are better ways we can address the answer, and try to find a better way than what we have now.
Who needs the most consulting? Large brands? Mom-and-pop drive-thru stands? The next World Barista Champion?
I would like to work with companies who know what they need help on, or would like to know where they can improve their quality. My primary focus will be for coffee roasters or cafe roasters no matter the size, as long as they are quality focused company. But the number of companies I will work with will be very, very limited, as I would like to spend more time with fewer companies and form a strong bond.
What’s the most exciting coffee market right now?
My first trip as Spark Coffee was to Shanghai. It was my first visit to China and it was an amazing experience, seeing how quickly the industry has grown there in the past couple of years. Though they still have lots of room to improve, the passion and eagerness to learn more and experience more was inspirational. I really do think lots of exciting things will happen in China, and it will be a market to look out for.
Where is coffee going next?
The quality of specialty coffee being served has improved vastly over the last 5 years. We now know how special the flavours we get from coffees are. The problem we are facing is how we communicate this to the customers. Whilst we developed our own language within our bubble, we haven’t found the best way to link this to the consumers, and I believe this is something we need to focus more and more.
Thank you for taking the time, Sang Ho Park, and best of luck with Spark Coffee Consulting.
Zachary Carlsen is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge.com. Read more Zachary Carlsen on Sprudge.