Editor’s note: As we approach the beginning of the 2014 World Barista Championship, which takes place in Rimini, Italy, June 9 “12, at the SCAE’s World of Coffee event, we would like to introduce you to the National Barista Champions who all worked incredibly hard to earn a position in this preeminent coffee contest. Profiles of all 54 competitors will appear on Barista Magazine’s blog between Monday, June 2, and Monday, June 9, and can all be accessed under the category header “WBC 2014 Rimini.”
BARISTA CHAMPION OF SINGAPORE
Xin Yi Loke
Common Man Coffee Roasters
Coach: Andrew Kent
About me: I am tremendously passionate about coffee and love to learn every little detail I can about this wonderful plant. Being a senior barista and trainee roaster at Common Man Coffee Roaster gives me so many opportunities to further my path in the world of specialty coffee. Although I have only been full time for a year, I never once look back and thoroughly enjoy every single moment being in this industry. Be it being behind the bar on a crazy weekend or packing hundred bags of coffee on a weekday, I love the intimate relationship with not just the beans but also the people in this industry that make it awesome. On my leisure time, I enjoy photo shooting and cafe hunting. Traveling around the globe are times i let myself loose and relax totally.
How many years have you worked with coffee or in the coffee industry?
Before coffee, did you work in a different job or industry, or what did you study in school?
I was a nurse for 5 years in Singapore General Hospital spending 2.5 years in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. Work was very tough as we lacked sleep, had to slough through night shifts, and face unappreciative patients and family members. I was getting mentally and physical exhausted by the end of 5 years.
How did you get started in coffee?
After 2.5 years in Nursing, I was granted a scholarship in Bachelor of Nursing to Australia. In 2010, I spent 9 wonderful months in the city of Sydney and that’s the time my eyes were opened to the world of specialty coffee. By a stroke of luck, my campus was near the original first outlet of Campos and I could smell coffee even before reaching the store. I was intrigued by the endless long [line] everyday at Campos and one day went in and ordered a cup of Mocha.
What was your first amazing experience with coffee?
The cup of mocha with perfectly textured milk and temperature, and was so creamy, comforting, sweet, and slightly nutty all at once, filling my mouth. I was forever hooked into the world of specialty coffee ever since. Each and every day I crave for a good cup of coffee in the chilly weather and it sorta felt like everything is gonna be alright for that 5 minutes when you hold a perfect cup of coffee in your hands. The way it warms you up inside comforts your soul.
Who has been your greatest influence in coffee? Why?
Andrew Kent. He is the general manager of Common Man Coffee Roaster, my coach, and roaster. I always enjoy speaking to him because I’m constantly learning from him. He is like an encylopedia of coffee and has so much experience to share. It is also his belief in me that brought me to where I am today.
What would you like to see change about the coffee industry/community?
I would love to see more transparency in the industry as a whole where everybody would share knowledge and there are no small hidden pockets around so that specialty coffee would be able to constantly progress as one.
Name a coffee luminary (famous person) you would like to meet, and why:
Aida Batlle, She is so smart and knowledgable, her dedication and marketing skills are astounding and there has not been a time when I drank a batch of coffee by Aida Battle that did not win my heart.
Name a barista you admire, and why:
I admire a barista in Campos, city campus, though I do not know his name. I remember his consistency every time I buy a cup. Although he was attacked by a shark and his face was severely injured, he continued serving his customers after discharge.
Do you have a favorite customer? If so, tell us about him or her.
I have a customer who is always growing with me. I could tell as the days went past, her palate was getting more discerning to the point when one day she rejected my coffee and asked, ‘How old is this coffee?’ To which I could only sheepishly admit it was only 5 days old.
Besides your own cafe, what cafe do you think everyone should visit?
I can’t think of one, seems like there are so many brilliant cafes all over the world and I simply have yet to visit them all.
Which coffee producing country you would like to visit, and why?
Given a chance, I would love to visit Ethiopia as this is where most of the heirloom varietals are found. Personally loving the Ethiopian coffees, I’m very curious as to how they are grown and processed.
What are your interests outside of coffee?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
I‘d love to be roasting in a different plant out of Singapore, hopefully either in Australia, America, or New Zealand. Would also love to visit a farm and get my Q grader pass.
Is there anyone you would like to thank or who helped you prepare for the WBC?
Most importantly, I need to thank to 2 great people who traveled half the world to lend me their support. One is my coach/roaster Mr. Andy, and the other is my girlfriend, Wei Yan. To Common Man Coffee Roaster and my boss Mr Harry Grover who has so graciously given me this opportunity. To my friends and family at home, I know they are just as excited as I am being in this competition.