Barista Magazine

DEC 2017-JAN 2018

Serving People Serving Coffee Since 2005

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69 www.baristamagazine.com SG: What about a Friday night or going out with friends? TH: Yeah… we still go to a coff ee shop! SG: How do baristas typically get their start in Vietnam? TH: I think 90 percent get into it through latte art. We start with the same love of latte art because it's the fi rst impression many of us have in specialty coff ee. It's creative. I think baristas have changed a lot because a couple of years ago, we only cared about the appear- ance of latte art, but now the community has improved a lot as we talk about quality, science, and what we can do to make the only cof- fee we have taste better. And the best thing we've done is talk to our customers and think about connecting our customers to us, baristas, and also to the roasters and the farmers. It's a bigger project about promoting Vietnamese coff ee. I have a friend who used to be a roaster but now he's a blogger who writes about coff ee in Vietnamese, in a scientifi c way so people can access this knowledge without searching for an English-language website that would be hard to understand. [The blog], Barista Weapon, is very famous now among local Vietnamese baristas. SG: I also have to ask, because I think you have changed the Vietnamese barista scene simply by being an international representative of Vietnam: Do you feel like you're the ambassador for Vietnamese coff ee? How do you feel about your success? TH: In Vietnam, I'm just a normal barista, but when I go abroad I have a feeling that I'm a representative for Vietnam. My fi rst time leaving Southeast Asia was traveling to Dublin [for the 2016 World Barista Championship]. It was a whole new world in front of me. Everything was diff erent. But… it was really interesting. It was totally awesome because I got to learn about diff erent cultures and diff erent people and step out of my own comfort zone, and most of all learn about my coff ee level compared to other international competitors. SG: Did seeing such a big coff ee event and ways of brewing change the way you thought about coff ee at all? TH: Yeah, it changed a lot. I used to just care about latte art and then I cared about quality and brewing. But I realized in Dublin that actually, after meeting so many amazing people, it's not about coff ee for me, it's about the customer interaction day after day. I feel like if we have good-quality coff ee as a barista, that's good, but actually, it's just a tool for us to get to know the customer. SG: I know you've had a lot of international travel opportunities lately, but let's talk about Vietnam. What was the Vietnam National Barista Championship like for you? How many people competed? Did it get easier the second time around? TH: Last year it was 54 people and this year it was around 50. This year was so diffi cult. I prepared three months before the competition but the coff ee quality had changed, so I had to switch my coff ee only one week before the competition. And then when I went to the semi- fi nals, I had an accident. I lost my front teeth. SG: Wait—what? TH: Yeah. I lost my front teeth. Just before the performance, I lost my front teeth down a sink, into the sewer. My parents were with me and they found a large stone and smashed the wall to try and fi nd my teeth in the sewer but they never turned up. I cried a lot, had no confi dence, and wanted to quit, but two colleagues who were with me told me, "No! You have to compete!" So I competed and I almost cried every time I had to open my mouth. There's a photo on the Vietnamese Café Show Facebook page… you can see me with no teeth. When the judges addressed me I just wanted to ask, "Am I looking good or what?" But I just closed my mouth and barely made it into the fi nals that day. That was this year. Something happened last year, too. I was lovesick and had a huge disagreement with my CRYSTALLIZED KENYA TEREMUKA—JUST ADD WATER OR MILK (ACTUAL SIZE) equatorcoffees.com INSTANT EQUATOR GRATIFICATION

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