Sangchul Lee wins 2024 Australian Roasting Championship


Sangchul Lee from Ona Coffee has won the 2024 ASCA Australian Roasting Championship.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling,” he says. “I still don’t feel like I actually won it.”

Danny Cao from Toby’s Estate finished second, while Harry Lin took home third place.

Competitors were made to test their skills over several rounds of coffee grading, cup quality grading, and profile development.

Sangchul says his strategy was to make the coffee’s final taste the upmost priority.

“I spend more time sorting the beans and ensuring uniform bean size than on roasting,” he says. “This way, I feel like I’m able to produce the best tasting coffee.”

For his single origin roast entry, Sangchul used washed processed beans from Peru. For his blend, he used a mix of 65 per cent washed processed Honduran coffee, 25 per cent natural processed Kenyan coffee, and 10 per cent natural-processed beans from Mexico.

He says his primary aim was to produce a clear sample with distinct notes.

“I wanted to use more washed coffee and less natural [processed coffee],” he says. “For the Peru single origin, my goal was to get the right temperature throughout the roasting process, which I felt would bring out the best flavour.”

In the leadup to the competition, Sangchul’s roasting coach, Jack Mannicus, taught him an entirely new roasting system.

“He learned how to roast on a drum roaster only two weeks ago,” says Jack. “Before that, he had only used smaller sample roasters, but never anything gas based.”

Jack says Sangchul’s skills beyond the roasting process gave the team confidence that he could make a splash in the national competition.

“His taste ability and accuracy are second to none,” Jack says. “He’s the best I’ve ever seen.”

The winner’s announcement came as a surprise to Sangchul, who was noticeably absent from the stage when his name was declared the 2024 champion.

“I didn’t think they would actually be announcing anything [on the final day of competition],” Sangchul says. “I also didn’t think I was going to actually win, so it’s all been a big shock to me.”

Sangchul will now begin preparation for the 2024 World Roasting Championship, which will take place at World of Coffee Copenhagen, Denmark from 27 to 29 June.

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