Reliving the 2015 WBC Finals: Hong Kong’s Chan Kwun Ho

Barista Magazine’s editor Sarah Allen and publisher Kenneth R. Olson have been personally reporting on and photographing the World Barista Championship final round since 2005, when Barista Magazine launched. Sarah sits at the side of the stage, madly typing as she records the performance of each finalist, while Ken traverses the stage with his camera, stopping back by the side of the stage periodically so Sarah can download his photos.

The result is live reporting on each finalist, with photos up to the minute from the stage. But since the WBC finals day is a pretty busy one in the world of coffee, sometimes these posts that showcase the amazing talents of the 6 WBC finalists get lost in the shuffle.

We decided to repost them individually this week to give each finalist the attention they so richly deserve.

BY SARAH ALLEN
PHOTOS BY KENNETH R. OLSON

If Chan’s performance seems a little familiar, you’re not alone: he works for Kapo, the owner of the  Cupping Room  in Hong Kong. Kapo was the second-place finisher at the WBC in 2014. He’s using Cerro Azul Geisha, which Kapo used last year, which was roasted by Andy Sprenger of  Sweet Bloom  (who happens to be the cover feature of the  February + March 2015 issue of Barista Magazine!)  which Andy used to win the U.S. Brewers Cup. Twice. Whew.

2015 WBC Finals: Hong Kong's Chan Kwun Ho
Chan had a command of the stage that was equally intense and enjoyable.

But Chan is a total innovator, to be sure. OK, so he already had his hands on an amazing coffee, from an amazing roaster. Cool ”done. Chan then had plenty of time to create this beautiful spectacle of a performance. In fact, he had a lot of time: Hong Kong’s national championship took place in August of 2014. Talk to a barista competitor about whether it’s a good thing, and you’ll get lots of opinions: it’s too much time, some say. You over practice, or you think you have more time than you really do so you actually run out of time. I haven’t asked Chan what his opinion is on the matter, but it’s obviously worked out pretty darn well for him.

2015 WBC Finals: Hong Kong's Chan Kwun Ho
He used dry ice to expand on the dramatic aromatics of the Cerro Azul from Colombia.

Temperature variation is the name of today’s game for many of the competitors: Chan interprets in the most unusual way though ”he sous vides his coffee. That’s right, that Swedish cooking method where you put the food ”or in this case, coffee ”in a vacuum packed plastic bag, and then you cook it in a hot water bath. Chan wanted to eliminate any possibility that the grinder would overheat his coffee. Fascinating.

He asked a super interesting question: why do some coffees taste amazing on the cupping table, or as filter coffee, and then they’re not great as espresso? This proved to be the thesis of his performance. Working closely with both Kapo and Andy, Chan found the way, using temperature, to solve that problem.

2015 WBC Finals: Hong Kong's Chan Kwun Ho
Aren’t you just dying to visit the Cupping Room in Hong Kong, to see this guy in his element? I am.

He is very young but has this incredible wisdom about him ”I thoroughly enjoyed this. Chan’s performance was the first day that made me think immediately, wait ”I need to watch that again right now. There was so much packed into it. So many compelling questions and ideas. This guy’s going places ”fast.

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