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 THAILAND
Coach: Korn Sanguenkeaw
About you: My name is Varatt, but all my friends call me Tae. I am a barista/roaster/owner of a boutique roastery called Roots Coffee Roaster and a few other cafes (such as Roast Coffee & Eatery) in Bangkok, Thailand. I started my own cafe about 7 years ago, wanting to serve specialty coffee to a market that was not very educated yet. Now, it’s good to see people care a lot more about their coffee and that our industry is growing. My dream is to see Thai coffee being recognized as the region’s specialty coffee producing country, that we can cater to the world’s specialty coffee market as well.
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 working in the marketing communications industry, but then decided to open my own 12 seater cafe back in 2007. Never looked back since.
How did you get started in coffee?
I was sitting in Starbucks for meetings a lot and felt that although it is a lovely place, I just wished they served coffee quality that matched the value that they are charging. From then on, I started learning how to make coffee and fell in love with it, especially after I knew the most important ingredient in good coffee is understanding.
What was your first amazing experience with coffee?
Ethiopia Sidamo Guji from Monmouth coffee roaster in England: blueberry, brown sugar sweetness ”eye opening experience for an inexperienced coffee drinker many years back.
Who has been your greatest influence in coffee? Why?
Everyone!!! From the farmers we worked with, the processor, our roaster, to the customers who drink our coffee, I’m blessed to be in such a unique position to really see what coffee means to so many individuals, from how it tastes to how it actually effects one’s family’s livelihood. In a way, I feel very responsible to find the way to best represent Thai coffee industry in a way that will best improve the lives of every one who’s connected in the chain.
What would you like to see change about the coffee industry/community?
In Thailand: I would like to see the coffee community coming together more to share knowledge, teach, set a common goal together, and walk towards it as an industry. I really feel Thailand has all the ingredients to produce specialty grade coffee but everyone needs to work together, from the farmers to the consumers.
Internationally: Focus less on trying to grow rare exotic varietals that only grow in remote areas/elevations and produce coffee so expensive that most of us cannot afford, and focus more on how to get less inferior varietals that are diseases resistant to taste better, and therefore, make specialty grade coffee more accessible to more people in the world.
Name a coffee luminary (famous person) you would like to meet, and why:
I don’t really have anyone in mind, but would be great to meet an agronomist/coffee scientist (who knows about coffee genetics and how to breed varietals), would love to share with him/her the situation of coffee in Thailand.
Do you have a favorite customer? If so, tell us about him or her.
Ha ha ha… no, don’t have a favorite customer, but loads who have first started off customers and have now became good friends. This is an amazing job.
Besides your own cafe, what cafe do you think everyone should visit?
In Thailand, Ceresia Coffee Roaster is really good, where I have my coffee if not at our own places. Elsewhere, I really like the coffee scene in Melbourne ”loads of good cafes there.
Which coffee producing country you would like to visit, and why?
Costa Rica & Honduras. Costa Rica because they have a genetic greenhouse (CATIES). Would love to see their farms, walk and talk with coffee scientists and farmers. I think there are still loads and loads more to learn about coffee varietals and we are just looking at such a small percentage of it.
What are your interests outside of coffee?
My family, food, urban development, football, growing my own veggies.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In Bangkok and the north of Thailand, between my company and the coffee farms, still doing what I love to do (outside of coffee), whatever that may be at the time!
Is there anyone you would like to thank or who helped you prepare for the WBC?
Korn, my coach, roaster, and friend. Awesome guy! Ray Buerger, our coffee farmer and processors. And everyone who has inspired me to know that the importance and value of coffee goes far beyond the taste descriptors and the numbers on the score sheets.