We talk to Daniel Horbat of Ireland about his experience in Cup Tasters competitions and his path to victory in Berlin.
BY KATRINA YENTCH
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Cover photo by Kristaps Selga for World Coffee Events
This year’s World Coffee Championships in Berlin crowned four new champions, and we had the honor of speaking with them for Barista Magazine Online. Our first installment of this four-part series is an interview with Daniel Horbat of Ireland, the 2019 World Cup Tasters champion.
What started out as a job in college became a life-long passion for Coffee Laboratory’s Daniel Horbat. The Dublin-based coffee professional has made quite the impression on the Irish coffee scene throughout his 14 years in the industry, and now on the world. In his time competing, Daniel has stolen first place for nearly three years straight at Irish Cup Tasters Championships (2016, 2018, 2019), taken third place at London Coffee Masters, and been in the finals twice for Ireland’s Latte Art Championships.
Coffee plays a strong role in Daniel’s life, but outside of competing and training for Coffee Laboratory, he enjoys a life filled with sports, travel, tattoos, and video games. We talked with the 2019 World Cup Tasters champ about why he loves this competition in particular, and the people in this industry who fuel him the most.
Katrina Yentch: You’ve won the Irish Cup Tasters three times and now you’re a World Cup Tasters champion! How does it feel to have made that progression for the first time?
Daniel Horbat: I am still on a cloud of happiness and I still can’t believe what just happened! It’s been a long journey, lots of sacrifices, lots of hard work and dedication. After each World Cup (Tasters) Championship I went home, reset, started all over again, all with a purpose in my head—putting my hands on that shiny trophy. Now that it happened, I am very happy and grateful, relieved and very impatient for the next challenge. Also I can finally enjoy spicy, salty food, accompanied by cold beers!
While you’ve competed in a variety of barista competitions over the years, a majority of them have been Cup Tasters Championships. What has drawn you to Cup Tasters the most?
What drew me the most to the Cup Tasters is the fact that it is such a fun and challenging competition. I was always fascinated by the sensory part of coffee. You have to be able to taste the best or the worst in coffee in order to deliver the best cup. It’s all about yourself and your taste buds. You either have enough of them or you don’t; you’re either in touch with them and you get it or you don’t. I was also attracted by the fact that there’s no other factors to influence the outcome of the results. It’s all about yourself.
How do you train and improve after every competition?
After my first world championship in Shanghai, I realized I have lots of gaps that I needed to fill in. Twenty-second place left a bitter taste in my mouth. I took a year off researching, learning, and teaching myself as much as I could about sensory and cupping and how diet affects the tasting buds.
I came back stronger and more confident for the Brazil championship and managed to get into the quarterfinals, but I realized another mistake I was making: Changing my mind on the cups, not going with the first impression, overthinking the cups.
Again I went back home feeling disappointed and decided to work on all (these) flaws. I took my winter holidays and then got back at it, stronger and more motivated than ever. I started a very strict diet and trained with the hardest coffees I could get my hands on, focusing on acidity, sweetness, body, and aftertaste. The speed came as a result of how confident I was feeling on my choices. No more changing my mind on the cups anymore. These were the longest six months of my life. But hard work and discipline always pay off and bring success.
What kinds of things are you doing in coffee right now outside of competition?
I am a trainer and a coffee consultant for Coffee Laboratory Ireland, which is the first and only premier campus in Ireland and the only training institution that organizes courses in all the modules of the internationally recognized SCA Coffee Skills Program.
What’s one of the most interesting experiences you’ve had during your time in coffee so far?
Nothing beats being able to be, for so many times, on the same stage with all these amazing coffee professionals, building up new friendships and sharing among us all types of tricks and coffee secrets.
But the best moment ever has to be when I was handed the trophy that I always dreamt to hold.