Brewing A Title: Taiwan Barista Crowned World Champion

Brewing A Title: Taiwan Barista Crowned World Champion
Photo Credit: World Coffee Events

What you need to know

What's the key to brewing a world-class cup of coffee? One Taiwanese holds it.

Coffee shops have been blooming in Taiwan over the past few years, turing the traditionally tea-drinking country into a regional mecca for the roasted bean. And now a Taiwanese has been named this year's champion at the World Barista Championship (WBC) in Ireland.

Berg Wu (吳則霖) has been competing in the WBC for three years, and this year he finally stood out among 61 competitors in the four-day competition in Dublin, winning the title of 2016 World Barista Champion on June 25.

Wu studied to be an engineer in college and graduate school, but always had a passion for brewing coffee. Due to unaffordable rent, he first started selling coffee on a tricycle around the Jingmei and Gongguan areas in Taipei in 2004. It wasn’t until 2011 that Wu was able to open his own coffee shop, Simple Kaffa.

Wu told The News Lens International that he became interested in competing at WBC ever since he first saw the competition in Denmark in 2008.

“I saw that each competitor was the champion of their own country, and everything, from the equipment to the participants, was at a completely different level,” Wu said.

The barista returned to Taiwan and started competing in local competitions, hoping to represent his country in WBC one day.

And he did. In 2014, Wu made his first appearance in the world competition.

“It was my first time on an international stage,” said Wu. “I didn’t know the challenges I would face.”

Wu said his first WBC was held in Italy, and he had trouble finding the milk he wanted to use. “We use the same brand of milk in our shop back in Taiwan, so we didn’t know how to react,” he said.

But the barista said he didn’t run into any problems this time around. Wu also said three years competing in the WBC taught him many lessons, the most important being that he needed to cultivate his sense of taste.

“Now I can more accurately taste the flavors in a sip of coffee and make changes accordingly when I’m brewing coffee,” said Wu.

Wu says that apart from coffee beans, the key to brewing a cup of award-winning coffee lies in the water, which makes up more than 98% of a cup of coffee. Wu also says he discusses coffee with his colleagues to improve his techniques. They will drink a cup of coffee together and talk about about the flavor and how it could be improved.

After being named this year's champion, the barista said he does not intend to compete again at the WBC, but will think about participating in other competitions held by World Coffee Events.

There are two rounds of judging at the WBC, and the second round features the top six competitors only. Participants prepare and serve 12 coffee beverages in 15 minutes for four judges, including four espressos, four cappuccinos, and four signature drinks (no alcohol is allowed).

With the growing coffee trend in Asia, the WBC first held its annual competition outside of the U.S. and Europe in Tokyo in 2007. The 2017 WBC is scheduled to be held in Seoul, South Korea.

According to statistics from the 2015 HOFEX, coffee consumption in Taiwan has jumped 400% in just four years, reaching an annual average of 100 cups per person. Due to the increasing demand, the coffee import market is expected to grow 15% over next five years.

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole