“And the Vietnam Barista Championship 2019 goes to Nguyen Hoang Minh Luan !”
If you find this name familiar, you’re right. Luan Nguyen – aka Bill – was Top 4 VNBC last year (click here to read more) with lots of potential but not much preparation. This year, he came back with more confidence and control on stage thanks to a well-thought-out preparation, showing not only his technical advancement, better station management skills but also a beautiful message throughout his performance: Make coffee, not war. By saying “preparation”, I mean everything beyond cups and saucers: spirit, concept, content, music and profound understanding of his coffee.
Bill believes that, competing with his favorite coffee is better than an expensive one because he can confidently deliver his knowledge and emotional connection with it. That’s why, after testing different kinds of beans, even the famous Geisha Village of Ethiopia, he chose Wush Wush from Colombia. Wush Wush is actually a town in Ethiopia and well-known for its rare excellent coffee. Some people came to this region, brought some varieties here back to Tolima, Colombia for growing and named it Wush Wush. With consistently dominant flavors of strawberry and chocolate, floral aroma such as rose or peony, Wush Wush helped Bill win a victory.
But good coffee is not enough. During our interview, Bill repeated the importance of teamwork and expressed his gratitude to his team including roaster and founder of Brave Bean – Pham Thanh Nhan, his girlfriend – Kim and other members. Bill emphasized that, the main reason why he decided to compete at VNBC is teamwork spirit – which plays an important role in his victory.
There is much more interesting sharing from Bill about what mistake he made on stage, what he learnt from the competition and what he plans for his upcoming journey. Below is excerpt from our interview with Bill with some highlights in how he prepared for the championship and his upcoming plans. Click here for a full interview video 🙂
NestinCity: Was there any difficult or challenge that you had to overcome during the preparation and competition?
Beside testing coffee, one more challenge for me is time. My daily schedule is quite tight, including working here, practicing for VNBC and also going to gym. I was very fat before the competition so I forced myself to lose 10kg in weight and I did it. I thought that, one day when I become a champion, there will be a lot of photographers taking pictures of me and I cannot be the fatty holding the cup. Or even I’m not a champion, I must be looking good on stage, at least.
So my daily routine starts at 6AM, either go to work, practice for VNBC or go to gym and finishes at 10PM. I always try to maintain it every day without any pause. I didn’t want to disappoint my supporters, my coach, my girlfriend as they tried so hard for me. That’s one of my biggest challenge. Another difficulty is my English. I can speak it but it’s not my mother tongue language. I have to read and learn by heart. I can understand what I’m reading but I cannot speak it proficiently like professional translator or interpreter so I still need to learn by heart not only new words, but also speaking and making coffee at the same time. It’s kinda tough for me because my movement and my script didn’t go together as smoothly as I expected. But I had to overcome it. In the final round, I made a mistake. I was not aware of what I was saying. There are 2 parts of my presentation: A and B. While doing part A, I spoke from the script for part B but I didn’t notice. Then when I moved on to part B, I repeated the same script. When I recognized it, it was too late, I exceeded time limits by 12 seconds. I cried a lot thinking that I would never take that 12 points back.
NestinCity: What are you proud of the most in your presentation?
I’m proud of my conclusion the most – which is also the reason why I exceeded time limits. The message in my conclusion is what our team believes in, I want to deliver it completely no matter if I win or not: make coffee, not war.
NestinCity: Last question, as a Champion, do you have any advice for our barista fellows if they want to compete at VNBC next year?
I always encourage baristas to take part in these kinds of competition because you will learn a lot from them. Firstly, your technical skills and working routine will be much enhanced and completed. For example, you usually delay cleaning up your working station but when you compete, you have to do it right away. Your self-disciplinary to keeping things tidy will be much improved and become a habit. You’ll be better in every way. You’ll learn how to be a team-player, what do you need in a team, how to harmonize differences in a team and respect each other, that’s what usually happens in a team. You’ll realize how much you need the support people of different aspects. You’ll have a chance to practice presenting in English. You’ll have time to learn more about a particular kind of coffee, not only the coffee itself but also culture, politics, climate, anything surrounding them. You fully experience and understand the coffee and its origin. And you can tackle the fear of speaking in front of the crowd, presenting your favorite kind of coffee and bring it closer to everyone. That’s what you will get from this competition. So, don’t be afraid that you’re not rich enough, not good enough, look at me. I had to borrow money and other accessories for the competition. I had exactly 2.5 year of working experience this May and this is the second time I compete. It’s all about your effort, practice, passion and teamwork. You can do it as long as you want.