VNBC 2019: Bubble Tea Boy

Seeing Thinh again in Vietnam National Barista Championship (VNBC) 2019 gave me so much joy and expectation. Firstly, we are much of homies so there is always a bunch of jokes and sarcasm when we see each other again. Secondly, I have watched him competing at VNBC every year for the past 3 years and believe he’s the most experienced competitor to look up to. And finally, I wanted to see how my bubble-tea-boy did on a professional coffee stage.

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Thinh is now working for R&D Department of a global tea brand called Ten Ren. Despite restless business trips and heavy workload, he’s still committed to coffee industry by joining field trips to coffee farms, studying about coffee processing and enriching himself with coffee tasting experience. His unbeatable passion towards coffee is the greatest motivation for him to take part in VNBC annually. I’m more than happy to see how he becomes more careful, confident and thoughtful on stage.

At the end, Thinh believes that the reward of Top 4 VNBC is not for him. It’s for farmers, coffee producers and roasters, who put the extreme hard work in each coffee bean. “I just speak for them” – he says.

To watch a full video of our interview, please click here and don’t forget to turn CC on for English subtitles 😉 If you prefer reading, please find the excerpt of our Q&A below. Let’s see which kind of coffee that Thinh and Bi (his roaster aka coach aka main supporter) chose to compete with, and what advise he gives to VNBC competitors next year.

Can you tell me more about the coffee that you presented?

My coffee for VNBC 2019 is from a region in Ethiopia named Guji. This region is located at 1,950 meters above sea level where climate and soil condition are very suitable for growing coffee. The coffee I presented this year, after being roaster, had these following taste notes: blackberry, orange, plum and long sweet aftertaste with pomelo-like acidity. There is a special thing about this coffee, which I used as the main topic for my presentation. That is its processing method: natural process. Farmers in Guji are really good at processing coffee naturally. Oh I forgot to tell you, this coffee is called “Purple Peaberry” with signature “purple” flavors. “Purple” flavors are flavors that remind you of the purple color, such as lavender, blackberry, plum.

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So, what are you proud of the most in your presentation?

What I’m proud of the most in my performance this year is my coffee. I understand it, understand how good it is, understand how great job the farmers did with the harvest and processing and was confident of what this coffee brought to drinkers.

My presentation is about natural process. I wanted to send a message about natural process to all coffee producers in Vietnam. The way how we do natural process is considered as low standard as we’re not doing it properly. That’s why the naturally processed coffee in Vietnam usually has taints such as being over-ferment condition, defective or damaged by insects. My coffee is from Ethiopia, where people are so good at controlling natural process. We must be aware that, doing something properly will create higher value for it. That’s my message. And I want everybody to understand that each coffee has a specific value and we the barista must do our best to show it.

Do you have any advice for our barista fellows if they want to compete at VNBC next year?

My first tip is that, if you’re competing for the first time ever and you don’t get a good result, don’t let it dampen you. Just think that it’s an experience, a lesson for next year. For those who already competed like me, please systemize your mistakes for better preparation. And you should choose a kind of coffee that best fits you, the one that you really understand. Although I have competed 3 years previously, this year was the first time I truly understand my coffee. Once I could feel it, I was more confident with my performance.

What a great tip! Thank you for the interview.

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