Du Jianing, winner of the 2019 World Brewers Cup Championship, describes emerging victorious at the competition to become China’s first World Coffee Championships winner.
BY CHRIS RYAN
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Photos by Shaunté Glover for World Coffee Events
The 2018 coffee competition season ended in a disappointing manner for Du Jianing, the Brewers Cup champion of China. After overcoming visa issues to travel to Brazil to compete in the World Brewers Cup Championship, and performing a routine she had spent countless hours honing, Du finished in eighth place, short of the finals.
Although she was dissatisfied with the 2018 outcome, she was determined to return to the world stage and do better. After winning her national competition again, Du competed at the 2019 World Brewers Cup Championship in Boston in April, performing a refined version of her 2018 routine, which included unique touches such as grinding her coffee twice and making an extra cup of coffee she could enjoy with the judges. This time, she was delighted with the result, winning the competition in Boston to become the reigning World Brewers Cup champion. By accomplishing this feat, Du became the first competitor from China to win a World Coffee Championships event!
Du, whose friends call her by the nickname Douzi, or “Little Bean,” has inspired many with her perseverance. Holly Bastin, Du’s friend and coach for the 2018 routine, says she is a truly impressive competitor whose focus has allowed her to overcome adversity. “While she has a very big squishy heart, Douzi is truly unbreakable,” Holly says. “During the 2018 season a whole lot of things didn’t go as planned, most of which were completely out of her control … but she discovered her own power to stand up and keep moving. She may be ‘Little Bean,’ but on the inside she is without limitation.”
We talked to Du Jianing about how she put together her winning Brewers Cup routine, what it felt like to win, and much more. (Editor’s note: Thank you to Jeremy Zhang for assisting with translation for this interview, which has been edited for clarity and brevity.)
Chris Ryan: How long have you worked in the coffee industry, and at your current job at UNiUNi Roasters and Bakery?
Du Jianing: I started my career in the coffee industry in 2010; it was my first job after graduation. I started competing in 2014—that was in the Barista Championship rather than Brewers Cup.
I have worked at UNiUNi since 2014; at that time we opened our first shop, and I was a full-time barista. Now I am a head trainer focusing on hiring and training baristas.
Your Brewers Cup routine seemed very well-practiced and well-rehearsed. How did you prepare for the competition?
My presentation was initially designed at the beginning of 2018, just after I won the National Brewers Cup Championship of China. It was initially designed for Brewers Cup in 2018. We tried to change the structure of the presentation—rather than talking about coffee information at the beginning, I wanted the judges to taste the coffee first, then give them information related to certain flavors in the coffee. I felt like that’s a more realistic coffee shop experience to provide on the stage.
However, I soon realized that was not easy because first I needed to brew four cups (one cup for myself) of coffee in no more than six minutes without rushing, then provide enough time for the judges to digest the information, taste, and score. This year, based on what I had done in Brazil, I tried to simplify and streamline the presentation, which allowed me to pay more attention to the coffee itself, as well as the judges.
How many times did you practice your routine? And did all that practice help keep you from getting nervous onstage?
I lost count how many times I practiced my routines, but it was probably more than 200 times for open service, and about 300 for compulsory service.
It’s very normal to get nervous, especially for me! Before competition, I always give myself a moment for meditation. I ask myself if I have become a better brewer … if I have learned from the mistakes I’ve made in the past … or, quite simply, if I became a better person after all this. If I ticked all the boxes, I felt relieved and was able to have more focus on the stage.
Why did you choose the Origami Dripper?
While I was preparing for the national competition last year, I purchased all types of drippers online. I was looking for a dripper cup that could accommodate a flat filter paper with a larger hole at the bottom for water to go through very quickly, which would allow me to brew light-roasted coffee more efficiently and evenly. I found the Origami to be the ideal solution.
Can you describe why you chose to grind your coffee twice for your routine?
First, I literally “crushed” coffee very coarse. Because of the size of the particles, it allowed me to get rid of silver skin easily, as it contributes some negative taste in the cup. Secondly, I ground my coffee relatively fine to give more contact surface area for the brew. Since it was a highly efficient extraction, my roaster could roast coffee very light to adapt to my brewing style.
How did you choose the coffee from Ninety Plus Coffee you used in your routine?
This coffee (Founder’s Selection) is just so unique. When I tasted it for the first time at the farm, I knew it was a Gesha, but it was even more than that. I found so many interesting flavors like soft yogurt, strawberry, and peach—those flavors are not typical from a Gesha. I knew it would be my “partner” for competition.
Why did you decide to make an extra cup of coffee to enjoy with the judges during your routine?
On the stage, we all know it’s about sharing the experience with the judges and the audience. However, in the real world, when we share the experience of coffee we love, we always drink the coffee together, exchange some ideas about the flavors, the tactile experience, and how the coffee was brewed. I really wanted to replicate this real-life experience on the stage.
How did it feel to win the World Brewers Cup?
I worked really hard for the competition, but not because I was fully confident I would win. On the contrary, I always felt there were so many areas for improvement. I knew that I would be really happy if I performed better on stage than I did at last year’s world competition. Once I heard the announcement, I was totally overwhelmed and grateful at the same time. My team members, friends, and family supported me so much for so long. I soon realized it meant so much to them because it was the first championship trophy for my country. I have more responsibility to take care of our community.
Is there anything else you want our readers to know?
Even though I am doing more business travels since I won, I still love to brew coffee at the shop. Visit our shop, and visit me! Let’s share the coffee together, just like the way I did on the stage!