Berg Wu of Taiwan wins 2016 World Barista Championship

Berg Wu of Simple Kaffa in Taiwan is the 2016 World Barista Champion.

Berg won the coveted title on 25 June in Dublin, Ireland at the World of Coffee Show. After four days of intense competition from 61 national barista champions, Berg became the 17th coffee professional to win the prestigious coffee event, handing Taiwan its first World Barista Championship (WBC) win.

Yoshikazu Iwase of Rec Collective in Japan placed runner up, Ben Put of Canada of Monogram Coffee placed third, Lem Butler of Counter Culture Coffee in the United States placed fourth, Charlotte Malaval of Ditta Artigianale of France placed fifth, and Lex Wenneker of Espresso Service West in The Netherlands placed sixth.

Berg barely had any words to describe the momentous occasion, just a gigantic smile that said it all as he lifted the Irish green trophy high above his head.

It was third time lucky for Berg, who had competed in the 2014 WBC in Rimini, and 2015 WBC in Seattle.

Berg leaves Dublin with a Nuova Simonelli Musica espresso machine, his choice of Mahlkönig EK43 or K30 Vario AIR grinder, a nine-day origin trip to Brazil with Ally Coffee, a trip to Swiss Water’s decaffeination plant in Vancouver, BC, and $500 gift voucher from Espresso Supply.

Berg was the last competitor to present in the finals round. Australia’s Ross Quail of Sensory Lab joined Berg on stage as Head Judge, while Brydon Price of Five Senses Coffee was Shadow Judge.

In his presentation, Berg described his pursuit for “high complexity coffee”, which took him to Finca Debora, in the Volcan region of Panama. It was here that Berg found a washed Geisha grown at 1950 metres above sea level, one of the highest-elevated farms in Panama.

“Because the coffee grows slowly in this elevation, it becomes unique in its intensity and complexity, shown in its floral aromas,” Berg told the judges.

To kick-off his espresso round, Berg cooled his portafilters in iced water. While the commentators described this as a “risky move”, it must have paid off for Berg, who said this technique helped create “explosive flavours” in the cup.

He used 19 grams of this lightly-roasted coffee, extracted 43 grams out, and told judges to expect floral flavours like jasmine in the beginning, followed by high-strength acidity and citrus tones like orange and mandarin, and honey notes to finish.

For his milk-based beverage, Berg was very specific in telling the judges to expect 0.3 centimetres of silky and transparent foam on their drinks. “Too much foam will spoil the taste of my coffee,” he said.

He used 150-millimetres of organic milk and told the judges his drink would embody mandarine flavours in beginning, sweetness, like toffee, and an earl grey taste at the end.

Berg’s Geisha coffee was slowly dried for 16 days in a green house. He said this process added sweetness and body to the cup. To complement this sweetness from the drying process, Berg slow-roasted the coffee with a rate of rise from 150°C to 160°C.

For his signature beverage, Berg took to the specially-designed turquoise VA388 Black Eagle, and used 19 grams of Geisha coffee and extracted 51 grams. It was a longer extraction than his espresso course, but Berg said it was necessary to achieve a longer, lingering finish.

“As a barista we’re always looking at the best point of balance or to be honest, we’re just trying to sacrifice less, but today I want to create an amazing signature drink. To me, this means explosive aroma, round fullness and long and linguering finish in the end,” he told the judges.

To his drink he added 15 grams of orange juice and a honey reduction to emphasise the Geisha’s juicy, citric acidity, but without caramelisation. He added 15 grams of earl grey tea and 100 grams of soft water. For heightened aroma he added one drop of jasmine and mandarin essential oil through an aromatiser, which was infused into the drink.

At 14.40 minutes Berg called “time”, and ended his finals performance with the results in the hands of the judges.

Following his performance, the commentators questioned Berg on his fluent english presentation, which Berg described as “really challenging”. Through translation, he said in preparation for his routine he had memorised his script, and was forced to learn different flavour descriptors so he could adapt them to his routine.

Berg will now hold the WBC title for a full year and five months with the 2017 WBC not taking place until November next year in Seoul, South Korea.

Australia’s Hugh Kelly of Ona Coffee made the top 12 Semi Finalists of the WBC, but didn’t make it through to the final six. We congratulate Hugh on representing Australia so proudly on the world stage.

This year marked the introduction of a number of changes to the WBC competition, including livescoring, loosened Milk Beverage guidelines, and the WBC Team competition.

The new team initiative made its debut this year’s WBC, with World Coffee Events saying it was time to add another level to to the competition because of the industry’s constant pursuit for innovation in specialty coffee.

Each of the 61 WBC competitors were placed in one of 10 teams, balanced based on their countries’ historical performance ranking. The individual rankings of each competitor were combined and averaged to arrive at a team score.

The inaugural winner was Team Tamper. This group comprised of Charlotte Malaval of France, Lyndon Recera of United Arab Emirates, Yoshua Tanu of Indonesia, Steve Moloney of Sweden, Dan Fellows of The United Kingdom, and David Coelho of Portugal.

These Champions have won a trip to Seoul, South Korea to participate in the WBC All-Stars at Café Show in Novemeber 2016. Café Show will also play host to the World Barista Championships in 2017.

Image credit: World Coffee Events and Jake Olson.

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