Meet the 2018 World Cup Tasters Champion: Jinwoo Yama Kim

Yama Kim

Jinwoo “Yama” Kim is Australia’s first World Cup Tasters Champion. After achieving two national Cup Tasters titles back-to-back, Yama went into the World Cup Tasters Championship (WCTC) in Brazil in October with high expectations of himself. 

He had began intensive training just two weeks before the Worlds, which he admits was much less preparation time compared to his last attempt at the 2017 world title, in which he placed sixth.

Rather, Yama says having a good mindset leading into the competition was imperative. “Being calm and relaxed was key,” he says.

“Last year I focused a lot on my competitors, trying to judge who I might be up against in the finals, predicting what time I should be posting, and how many cups I should be picking correctly. However, this year, I focused on myself. I didn’t stress about other competitors or my time. I just tried to do the best I could without thinking about the other competitors.”

Because the cups were very hard to differentiate when hot, Yama’s strategy was to wait until the five- to six-minute mark to start cupping. He says this is when the coffee cools down, and acidity and body are easier to discern.

His strategy worked. In his first round, Yama scored eight out of eight in six minutes and six sections. He maintained the top ranking in the semi finals, scoring seven out of eight cups correctly in five minutes and 15 seconds.

“I was very surprised when I won the second and third rounds of the competition,” Yama says. 

Yama is currently the Head Roaster and Green Bean Buyer at Kingswood Coffee in Sydney. He says the most interesting part of this role is tasting the nuances in coffee, and cupping a wide range of coffees daily, in various brew methods, to develop his palate further. Yama says this daily practice was invaluable for his competition preparation, but he still found the WCTC coffees challenging to identify. 

“Most of the cups where from similar countries and origins, mainly Central and South Americans. This meant that flavours and aromas were very similar,” he says. 

In the final round, Yama used the same approach of waiting for the coffees to cool before correctly identifying seven out of eight coffees in four minutes and 38 seconds.

“Even though many people where saying that they were expecting me to win the world title, I was very shocked and surprised when the last cup was announced,” Yama says.

“I’m very proud to be the first Australian World Champion. I feel that the specialty industry in Australia is one of the best in the world. It’s great to represent Australia on an international level and bring this title back home.”

Yama says he was proud to call his parents and family back home and share the news of his world title win. 

Yama first became interested in Cup Tasting because he wanted to challenge himself to become a better taster. Now he can consider himself “the best” taster in the world. 

Learn more about the other 2018 Coffee Champions:

Like many world champions before him, Yama could maximise his new title and travel the world for guest appearances, but he is more content in helping the company that’s helped him along the way to champion status. 

“I wish to become a better roaster for Kingswood, to help serve, and roast more delicious coffee,” he says. 

Image credit: Jeff Hann

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