Australian Cup Tasters Champion Franki Shi reveals his WCTC gameplan

Australian Cup Tasters Champion

Frankie Shi of Infinity Coffee Roasters will represent Australia at the World Cup Tasters Championship (WCTC) at the Specialty Coffee Expo in Chicago, United States, from 12 to 14 April.

“I’ve been training at my roastery four to five days a week, plus one day on the weekend. Every practice session, I do four to five cup tasting rounds to replicate the WCTC scenario,” says Frankie, Founder of Infinity Coffee Roasters.

“My biggest advantage going into the WCTC this year is the time I spent helping Young [Baek, of Breville Australia and 2023 WCTC winner] last year and being involved in his competition campaign. Having that experience was a big help. I’ve also competed for the past 11 years, so I’m sure the experience has contributed to where I am now.”

In a role reversal, this year Young will be the one on the sidelines cheering Frankie on stage, alongside Frankie’s wife and children, who have been pivotal in his preparation.

“Young is a good friend and has been helping me train one day a week. I’ve learned so much from him about his experience and how I can perfect my strategy. It’s nice to have him return the favour,” says Frankie.

Speed and accuracy are key to advancing through each round of the WCTC. Competitors face eight sets of three triangulations of coffee. The goal in this event is to identify the outlier from each set. The finalists are ranked by the correct number of outliers, with the finishing time serving as the tiebreaker.

Frankie is focused on the accuracy aspect of the competition, rather than speed.

“I’m really honing my tastebuds to ensure I get eight out of eight triangulations correct, rather than focusing on time,” he says. “I want to thank HA Bennett, Glee Coffee Roasters, Campos Coffee, and Condesa Co.Lab for supporting me with different coffee samples to practice with.”

Less than two weeks out from competing on the world stage, Frankie says he is feeling mentally prepared.

“The first week after nationals, I had no feelings at all. I was so tired after all the training. Now, I only feel excited and so proud to represent Australia. It is an honour I take very seriously,” he says. “But I’m going in with the mentality that if I win, I win. This has made me much less anxious, and I feel like I have a good grip on my emotions.”

Frankie will fly into Chicago two days before the competition and has already lined up several places where he can practice.

“My plan is to try and be as ready as I can the hour before I go on stage. I’ll do a bit of meditation and just relax. The important thing is not to worry about the past or future, but to stay in the present,” he says.

“I’m pretty confident I’ll make it through to the finals. Winning the competition would be a massive bonus and reward, but I’m just grateful for the experience.”

After the worlds, Frankie is heading to Shanghai, China for another coffee event.

“We pre-booked the event right after the worlds so I wouldn’t have too much time to analyse the results,” he says.

“Once I return, I definitely want to continue competing in the future, regardless of the outcome, and help train others to succeed. I love competing and can’t wait to see what the future holds for me.”

Frankie will compete in round one in Chicago on 12 April at 3.05pm, the equivalent of 13 April at 6.05am. To watch Frankie compete, use the World Coffee Championship livestream.

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