Malaysia Barista Championship 2013 – Coffee Appreciation Workshop

The Malaysia Barista Championship 2013 is scheduled to be held at the White Box Publika this coming 23-24th March 2013. As a prelude to this, members of the media were invited for a cosy and educational Coffee Appreciation session earlier last week.

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malaysia barista championship 2013 - coffee appreciation workshop

I have been writing about coffee (especially single origins) with the help of the true connoisseur Kevin for some time now. I have Micheal (of Artisan Roast) to thank for for the initiation to the “true” coffee culture with his passionate yet generous sharing nature.
I attended an Illy session at Phileo Damansara before as well, but didn’t find that very interesting. However, Top Brew’s JH Yee reminded me of Michael; humble, sincere and generous in sharing his know-how and love of coffee. You can read more on Top Brew and JH Yee HERE.

Today’s session was in the capable and knowledgeable hands of Daniel of Barista Guild Asia and Kelvin from Coffex Coffee. We were guided through 3 sessions consisting of 1. Roasting 2. Cupping and 3. Brewing methods. The workshop aims to engage us into the world of specialty coffees and also to promote coffee excellence.

Right after introductions, we started off with profiling of beans.

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Our lesson today would be based on 5 single origin beans from 3 regions. Daniel (below) ran us through briefly of the characteristics and profile of each of these beans.

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First up was a bean from Ethiopia, an area where coffee was said to be first discovered. The Ethiopia Gelena Abaya is naturally sun-dried, as water in this area are hard to come by. It is cultivated in the region of Kersa, Gelena Abaya at the altitude of 1800 meters above sea level. The tasting notes are berry, jammy, floral flavours with a hint of lemongrass.

Suitable brewing methods are by syphon, hand drip & french press.

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Kenya French Mission is also sun-dried and comes from a micro-lot (1 small farm) in the region of Thika, grown at the altitude of 1500-1600 above sea level. Typically of Kenya coffee, it has dominating wine-like fruity flavor, rich body and syrupy.

Suitable brewing methods are syphon, hand drip and french press.

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The Indonesian Mandheling Kuda Mas comes from Gegarang, a place in the mid Acheh region, at the altitude of 1300-1400 meters above sea level. It is wet-hulled (washed method but not fully washed). Most Indonesian coffees are dark roasted, which in the view of many connoisseurs spoils the delicate flavours of the beans. In fact, certain Indonesian coffee beans are actually quite good but one should procure it non-roasted. Most Indonesian farmers insist on roasting the beans before sale as the margin is higher. Thus a good Indonesian bean that makes the grade of specialty coffee aren’t many but the Kuda Mas is an exception. It is heavy bodied,  with tasting notes of liquorice root, herb-y with hints of cucumber and fresh soil.

Suitable brewing methods are the french press and through the espresso machine.

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Honduras, officially the Republic of Honduras, is a republic in Central America. This bean Honduras Wilmer Montolla Marcala comes from the region of Marcala at the altitude of 1690 meters. It is fully washed with tasting notes of dark cocoa, brown sugars and syrupy with a medium body. Recommended brewing methods are by hand drip, syphon and french press.

Malaysia Barista Championship 2013 - Coffee Appreciation Workshop

The last was a bean from Papua New Guinea. It is not usual for a commercial grade coffee to make the cut to specialty coffee though once in a while it does happen. Through the grading process each year, some commercial beans did make the grade and thus was elevated to the status of specialty coffee.

The processing condition in PNG is very bad so frankly good batches of SIGRI is hard to come by. SIGRI are grown in the Waghi Valley at 1600 above sea level and are washed processed. In a cup, it is sweet, reminiscent of fresh sugarcane, velvety, smooth with a caramel aftertaste.
Suitable brewing methods are the syphon, french press and hand drip.

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Absorbing as much as I could, I was thankful that I’m not entirely new to specialty coffee and thus wasn’t entirely lost! Anyhow, if all fails, there’s always coffee. 🙂

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Here’s Vernon’s Kuda Mas, as heavy-bodied as promised.

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Think I’ll make a good barista? 🙂

rebecca saw - Malaysia Barista Championship 2013

I find this flavor wheel particularly handy for coffee enthusiast don’t you?

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After the bean talk, Ms Yee Fai, a qualified Q grader under the Q Coffee System showed us how the sieving of green coffee beans are done. The reason for this? To ensure that the size of the coffee beans are consistent before they go into the roaster. Non consistent bean size affects the roasting as timing would be different for roasting beans of varying sizes. Another reason would be check on the order from the farm; if the coffee bean are of the grade as promised.

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After a few vigorous shakes, beans are of smaller size would pass through the top sieves to the one below. Once the each batch of beans are categorized to be of similar size, it is then ready for roasting.

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Plan B Roaster (at the BIG Supermarket in Publika – and not to be confused with Plan B cafe) uses a PROBAT roaster that costs about RM100,000. Good reliable roasters are just as important as the beans and the barista for the perfect cuppa.

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Coffee beans are usually roasted at the temperature of 190/205/210 celsius. Specialty coffee beans are ideally medium roasted versus dark or light roast. The worst are dark roast; of which experts finds to be unsuitable for specialty coffees as it removes a good portion of the delicate flavours from the bean; namely the floral, fruity notes besides affecting the body of the end cuppa.

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A watchful eye is kept on the green coffee beans as they are roasted and colour changes are observed. Roasting triggers chemical reactions in the beans which then establishes the development of flavor, aroma, body, crema, and other characteristics unique to the particular bean.

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Once roasted to optimal level, the beans are immediately weighted and packed in airtight, foiled and lightproof bags/pouches.

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Roasted coffee beans dioxides immediately after roasting and as with all chemical processes, chemical reactions give off byproducts which in the case of coffee, the byproduct is carbon dioxide or CO2. “Degassing” is a form of decomposing (one can say that it’s the same but just a kinder term used) and happens once the beans comes out of the roaster.

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And thus appropriate packaging material like the below is important. The one-way valve in the packaging below allows the beans to degas by allowing the CO2 to be released from the pack yet prevents any other form of air from the outer surroundings to breathe in. This halts the roasted beans from losing volatile aromatics that makes it goes stale.

Roasted beans are best for consumption 7-14 days after roasting. Freshly roasted batches must undergo a period of rest (maturation period, so to speak) prior to use. During this maturation period, the beans must settle in a protective environment as it eases into its true and best character; something akin to wines that are kept in dark cellars for a period of time in oak barrels.
The 1st 7 days allows the coffee to develop its flavours and following that, the beans are best for drinking (after grinding of course) from the period of 7-14th day; provided the beans were stored properly in protective environment as above-mentioned. If you plan to store your roasted beans for long periods, vacuum sealing and nitrogen flushing would be the way to go. It is not for eternity of course, but it does prolong its shelf life up to months.

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Done with the roasting, we moved on to cupping.

Kelvin from Coffex Coffee ran us through the 5 single origin coffee beans from 3 different regions. Each grinded beans were prepared in 5 different glass, and we were told to sniff each of the glass. From each, we observed the different aromas and though we knew the 5 glasses contains the same ground beans, I found that there were distinctive differences in smell for each.
We were given a cupping form to jolt down our thoughts during this process. Eg of such a form -> http://toomuchcoffee.com/downloads/cuppingform.scaa.gif

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The reason for the number of glass; not 1 or 2 but 5 was to help to determine the consistency of taste.

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After the aroma test, we were told to “cup” – grab a spoon and scoop some coffee from each cup and slurp the coffee strongly into our mouth. Yes, slurp with a loud sucking sound.

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This must be one of the very few occasions you can sip so loud and be admired for it. Yee Fai slurped away like a pro she is and I just stood there spellbound. After each sip, you can either swallow or spit it out. The same spoon would be used to taste the coffee from the other glasses but not to worry as there are glasses with hot water in the middle of the table for you to rinse your spoon; both for hygienic reasons as well as to ensure your spoon is not “contaminated’ by the coffee from a previous glass.
As you move along the row, jolt down the flavour, acidity. body, etc that crossed your mind for each glass. Trust me, it’s hard work. And as temperature drops, the taste of the coffee changes too, so it is often possible to detect new flavors. Therefore, it is important to cup a coffee when it is both warm and when it has cooled to just above room temperature.

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Once that’s done, Kelvin went through his final scores with us . He explained each part of the cupping form used and shared his thoughts. While he assured us that there were no exact right or wrong, there would be a general benchmark for each bean if the cupping are done by professionals. For example;  he gave Madheling Kuda Mas 7.25 for Aroma, 7.25 for Aftertaste (flavour), 7.75 for Body, 7.7 for acidity and 7.5 for Balance. And Yee Fai’s scores won’t be too deviated from his. The overall score for the Kuda Mas was 7.5/10, and it was the lowest specialty coffee grade among all that was featured that day. In comparison, the Ethiophia scored an overall of 8.25 that session.

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Done with the hard work, we were served some refreshments from Plan B and I took the opportunity for a coffee chat with Kelvin. He showed us some coffee sites for research and further reading and told us of certain certifications that an aspiring barista should achieve. He said there would be more such coffee appreciation sessions and maybe even brewing classes as more and more Malaysians are becoming aware and interested in the flavours, textures and brewing styles associated with coffee.
In the recent months, it seems that some cafes here has reached a level as good as some others overseas such as Melbourne, it not better when it comes to coffee quality. We often hear laments of how Malaysia coffee culture lacks the same substance in comparison to the coffee culture firmly entrenched into the cobbled streets of Melbourne but the great shift has since occurred. Now, there are many more Malaysians who are sophisticated coffee lovers who appreciates specialty coffees, bucking the trend set by the likes of Starbucks and taken coffee back to how it is traditionally served, and that is simply in ‘black’ or ‘white’ form.

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I owe much gratitude to Michael of Artisan Roast, JH Yee of Top Brew and Coffee Bar and now Daniel (Academic Director – Barista Guild Asia) and Kelvin (Coffex Coffee) for such enlightening coffee sessions. The world of specialty coffee and coffee excellence is certainly stimulating; not just the drink but the whole process from seed to bean to the brewing of the end cup. No longer is coffee simply a drink after a meal.

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Stay tuned as I’ll be covering the Malaysia Barista Championship 2013 later in March! Do expect updates on my blog and FB Page – http://www.facebook.com/RebeccaSawBlog.

Any comments or questions or suggestions of coffee places that I should check out next? 🙂

For more of my coffee stimulants, surf over to:

* Artisan Roast TTDI
* A RAW COFFEE session with Michael 
Coffea Coffee, Telawi Bangsar
The Brew Culture, Plaza Damas
* Top Brew Coffee Bar, Plaza Damas
Butter + Beans at Seventeen, Section 17 PJ
* Malaysia Barista Championship 2013 – Media coffee appreciation workshop
* Kaffa Espresso Bar, Damansara Uptown

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