John Ryan Ting, of the soon-to-be-launched A.R.C. (Academy, Roastery, Café), has won the title of Singapore National Barista Champion for 2015. Mr. Ting was the last of the six finalists on stage at this year’s championship, organized by the Singapore Coffee Association and held over the 30th and 31st of January at the Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Center. Second and third place went to Zenn Soon and Regina Tay respectively, both of Strangers’ Reunion.
This isn’t the first time that Mr. Ting has taken the national title, with previous successes coming in 2008 and 2009. It is, however, his first competition appearance since 2010, and the intermediary years saw him on the other side of the table as a competition judge. He is currently both a certified WBC Sensory Judge (2013–2015), as well as an accredited WLAC Visual Judge (2013–2015). The added perspective gained from judging should serve him well, as he heads to Seattle, Washington, to represent Singapore at the World Barista Championships in April.
For his winning routine, Mr. Ting chose to focus on the theme of “comfort.” Chatting with a friend, he was reminded of what excited him when he first started out in the coffee industry. It was the “experiential element” of drinking good coffee, which infused the consumer with an enjoyable sense of warmth and ease. In the cup, Mr. Ting believed that “balance” was the key characteristic that invoked such sensations. This would be a prominent feature in all of his competition beverages.
Starting with his espresso course, Mr. Ting chose to serve a natural processed Geisha varietal from Finca Santa Teresa, Panama. The coffee was gently roasted to achieve a balance of sweetness and acidity, as well as a medium body (in what is usually a delicate-bodied coffee). For his espressos, Mr. Ting described an aroma of vanilla blossom, hints of dried apricot, orange peel acidity, and an earl grey tea-like finish.
Next up were the cappuccinos, where Mr. Ting utilized a washed SL28 and 34 varietal from the Thiriku Cooperative in the Nyeri region of Kenya as his espresso base. Chronicling the unique processing methods utilized in Kenya and details of his roasting, Mr. Ting proceeded to serve cups that had tastes reminiscent of “creamy blackcurrant pastries.”
For his signature beverage, Mr. Ting attempted to combine both coffees utilized in his routine into a single beverage that was tasted by judges in three stages. Glasses containing an Earl Grey ice ball (Earl Grey tea with a vanilla pod brewed, cooled, and frozen into spheres) were topped off with shots of the Panama Geisha espresso.
Judges swirled and tasted this first combination, evoking flavors of the espresso course, with the vanilla blossom aroma and earl grey tea finish accentuated. Mr Ting proceeded to add 20ml of a blueberry and blackberry reduction, as well as shots of his Kenyan coffee (prepared earlier and left to cool), to the beverage.
The second taste was redolent of the berries tasted in the cappuccino course. Finally, 10ml of fresh milk was added to each cup to bind all the flavors together and add a creamy texture to the last sip.
Reflecting on the months of preparation and conceptualisation for his routine, Mr. Ting expressed how “surreal” it was to be Singapore’s barista champion once again. He was also heartened by the growth of the local coffee scene and the number of new baristas taking the stage to showcase the “love of their craft.”
Mr. Ting goes forth to yet another World Barista Championship intent on improving on his past performances (32nd in 2008 and 20th in 2009), and to share the knowledge he has gained in the past few years. His routine will be one to watch in the early rounds at WBC 2015.
All photographs courtesy of Edwin Kho You Jie.