Yama Jinwoo Kim of Kingswood Coffee in Sydney showed that accuracy and speed are key elements to winning the fast-pace competition, scoring 8/8 coffees correctly in a time of one minute and 41 seconds in the finals of the ASCA Cup Tasters Championship.
Runner up Tom Bomford of Square One Coffee Roasters scored 8/8 in one minute and 53 seconds, and two-time Cup Tasters National Champion Hyunsuk “Harry” Ko of Dukes Coffee Roasters placed third with a score of 7/8 and a time of one minute and 11 seconds.
Harry won the National Cup Tasters title in 2015 and 2016, and now hands the reins to Yama. “This was my first cup tasters event, so winning the nationals was a huge surprise,” says Yama, Kingswood Coffee Head Barista and trainer.
He won the Central Region Cup Tasters in 2016 before putting his palate through three months of intense training.
“My strategy was to focus on speed. The past two cup tasters finals have been completed within three minutes. I made sure my picks were finalised before moving on to the next set. There was little time to go back and re-taste cups,” Yama says. “My training leading up to the Nationals involved tasting 192 cups per day, in the hope of accelerating my tasting times.”
In the Cup Tasters competition, cuppers aim to discriminate between different coffees. Three cups are placed in a triangle, with two cups identical and one cup a different coffee. Using skills of smell, taste, and attention, plus experience, the cupper must identify the odd cup in the triangle as quickly as they can.
Yama will now represent Australia in the World Cup Tasters Championship (WCTC), taking place from 13 to 15 June 2017 in Budapest.
“My aim is to favour accuracy over speed. I am predicting that the differences in the sets will be very hard to pick. These differences may come down to minute variations in acidity and body, which are much more difficult to pick compared to changes in flavour and aroma,” Yama says.
“The past two WCTC winners have taken more than seven minutes to complete their sets, correctly tasting six to eight cups. It’s vastly different to the Australian nationals, which I completed in under two minutes. But my team at Kingswood have been very supportive. Anything could happen on the day.”