Our best-in-the-business UKBC coverage continues with an interview with Sang Ho Park, your 2013 UK Brewers Cup champion! Photos and content courtesy of our London correspondent Elyse Bouvier.
At the end of April, Sang Ho Park competed among some of the best at the London Coffee Festival to become the 2013 UK Brewer’s Cup Champion. Mr. Park, originally from South Korea, has been living in London for several years and is well-regarded around this city's barista community for being an apt professional and stand-up guy. I pulled him aside at the UKBC, in-between feverish coaching sessions with John Gordon, to get the inside scoop about his Brewer’s Cup win.
So, Sang Ho, you’re this year’s UK Brewer’s Cup Champion! Congrats! How does it feel?
Yeah, still not used to that! It hasn’t really sunk in yet, like, I’m going to Melbourne! And now I’m being harassed, ‘You need to practice!’, so no break for me, yet.
Last year, you competed in the UKBC, and placed 7th. This year, you competed in both the UK Brewer’s Cup and the Latte Art Championship. How did you approach competition differently from last year to this year?
The biggest change that I’ve made this year is how hard I worked for the competition. Last year, I was really relaxed, because I had so much support around me. I think I thought that I didn’t have to work so hard and I relied too much on team support instead of on doing the hard work myself. But this year, prepping for Brewer’s Cup and the Latte Art competition, I’ve already worked harder than last year. I practiced 4 to 5 hours every day after work for 2 months, and the weird thing is, I had a completely different routine planned for Brewer’s Cup two weeks ago.
You mean, you completely changed your routine after months of practice? What’s different?
I think it’s a lot simpler, it’s more focused on the coffee. Before, it was just too much for the judges, too much information. Now, it’s more about just making nice coffee for the judges!
For those of us who weren’t there, can you take us through your routine?
The coffee I used was called Vunga, roasted by Square Mile. This coffee recently placed 13th in the Rwanda Cup of Excellence.
My whole routine started with handing the judges a screenshot of the most played songs in my iTunes. I told the judges that the songs I play a lot fulfill what I look for in a good song. For example, I like songs with a lot of swearing and heavy bass. Then I explained, you can find your favourite coffees in the same way, by the number of times they’ve been drunk. And in that list of top coffees, there will be a correlation behind why you like them. So, I told the judges, as we all have our personal taste, just like music, I wanted to try to brew something we could all enjoy.
Since I got to choose the coffee, their choices would determine how I would brew the coffee. One judge chose what kind of body they wanted: clean with crisp acidity or juicy with playful acidity which meant using either a cloth or paper filter. Another judge chose aftertaste: lingering, milk chocolate or clean and sweet, which determined which water I would use, 50ppm or 100ppm. The last judge got to choose the vessel, a diner mug or bone china, which had nothing to do with how I brewed the coffee, but was just a personal preference.
Well, I wish I could have been a judge! It’s like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” routine. Great concept! Last question: what would be your Sunday morning coffee and brewing method of choice?
I’m really lazy, so I like a French Press in the morning. And my favourite origin right now would be a nice Colombian coffee. And, I’m more of a bone china kind of person, but I guess that’s my feminine side showing!