It's barista competition season again, folks! There may have been only three short months since the 2014 World Barista Championships in Rimini, Italy, but national competitions are already revving up, ahead of the 2015 WBC happening in Seattle. One of the first national competitions of the year was the 2015 Hong Kong Coffee Championships, which occurred September 1–4 during the Restaurant & Bar Hong Kong exhibition. There were over 60 competitors, across three competitions: the World Coffee Events-sanctioned Hong Kong Barista and Cup Taster championships, and the Hong Kong Siphonist championship. We were on hand for the event at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre, a landmark venue right at the edge of the Victoria Harbour, to capture the excitement.
The 2015 Hong Kong Barista Championship was won by Kwun Ho Chan, from The Cupping Room. Kwun Ho started his coffee career four years ago, learning his trade at Barista Jam. Currently Chan is a barista at The Cupping Room, which is owned by 2014 Hong Kong barista champion Kapo Chiu, who took 2nd place at 2014 World Barista Championships. The 24 year old Chan is himself a veteran of Hong Kong barista championships, having competed in two previous events placing second and third.
Chan won this year's event with the Panama Altieri Reserva Geisha roasted by Sweet Bloom Coffee Roasters of Colorado. For his espresso, he went with a 20.8 gram dose, producing 45 grams of coffee. He used the same coffee and dose for his cappuccino, but went for a shorter 38 gram shot. Chan went for a cold signature drink, like many of the other Hong Kong competitors. His drink featured a reduction of lemon juice sweetened with brown sugar syrup, spiced by orange blossom, bergamot and mint. The drink was initially served hot for the first sip, and then the juice was introduced into the glass for the second sip. Chan mentioned multiple times the excellent support he had from the owner and pickers of the Altieri farm.
The Cup Tasters title went to Terry Tse, the 32 year-old head roaster and coffee trainer for Return Coffee Roastery, who came through both the semi-final and final rounds with a perfect 8 cups correctly identified. The final round was a dramatic one: Tse was the last of the four finalists to finish evaluating in this accuracy and time based competition, but he was the only finalist to correctly identify each cup, securing him the win. Terry came to the coffee industry over two years ago from a career of managing retail shops. Currently he is a partner in a coffee workshop and a coffee trainer for a number of vocational institutions. He also started roasting coffee about year and a half ago, and has been getting increasing notice after winning silver and bronze awards from Australian roasting competitions. Tse told me that being the head roaster for his Return, he cups multiple times a week and the practice may have helped giving him the winning edge. He will be competing for Hong Kong in June next year at the World Cup Tasters Championship in Gothenburg, Sweden.
The Siphonist Champion title was clinched by Jonathan Tak Chun Fan. Fan is 27 years old, and came to the coffee industry 4 years ago from the garment trade. He's been focusing on the siphon brew method for the last three years, and is currently taking a hiatus from active employment to work on yet-to-be announced projects. The coffee he used in the competition is from Finca Takesi in Bolivia, renowned for its high elevation. Fan used both a Geisha variety and a Typica variety from Takesi in his routine. Although the beans are commercially unavailable in Hong Kong, Fan says that he has visited Finca Takesi and worked with them for his routine. For that support, he told me he wanted to evangelize Bolivian coffee, and hopes to see it become more accepted in the specialty market. This was Fan's first time entering a coffee competition, and he will go on to represent Hong Kong at World Siphonist Championships September 24th in Japan.
One of the big stories of the 2014 coffee competition cycle was the dominance of Asian countries, including Hidenori Izaki of Japan's World Barista Championship win, Pang-Yu Liu of Taiwan's World Cup Taster's Championship win, and strong showings like Kapo Chiu of Hong Kong's 2nd place at the WBC. We can't wait to see if that sort of dominance will continue into the 2015 season.
Sun Tsui is a coffee enthusiast based in Toronto and Hong Kong. Read more Sun Tsui on Sprudge.