10 questions with Ken Shi about competing in the World Cup Tasters Championship

Ken Shi won the title of New Zealand Cup Tasters Champion when he got 8/8 cups right at the competition earlier this year. This secured him a place on the World stage at the World Cup Tasters Championship held in Budapest, Hungary. We asked him some questions about competing and advice he would offer to next year’s Champion.
1. What is your most memorable coffee experience?
When I was 5 my Grandpa bought me filter coffee from Brazil – that was my first coffee experience.
2. Had you ever participated in any coffee competitions before? Which competitions were they?
I have participated a few times in the Barista and Latte Art Competitions. I have also helped Roma Coffee Roaster’s owner and master roaster Aaron Wyatt with the New Zealand and International Coffee Awards. This was my first time in the Cup Tasters competition.
3. Tell us your results if you want to.
In the 2017 National competition I got 8/8 cups right in both rounds and won the 2017 Cup Tasters Championship. In Budapest at the World Cup Tasters Championship, I got 6/8 cups right and ranked 26 out of 42 countries.
4. What did you learn from the competition process?
All competitors are highly skilled at World Championship level. I learnt from my own experience that the Cup Tasters competitors are slightly different from other coffee competitors. You need to have a healthy physical body and a clear mind to compete. I suffered from tooth pain two weeks before the competition and the medication from the dentist really affected my performance. I should have just taken the painkillers rather than treating the tooth before the competition.
5. How did you find your Championship city?
It is an old city with lots of young people. It is a nice place to visit and the food is good.
6. What was the best coffee you had in that city?
I didn’t have a chance to visit many coffee shops in Budapest. I think New Zealand coffee is better. Nara let us try her coffee the day before she competed. Her partner Han roasted the coffee and they brought New Zealand water to Budapest!
7. Is there anything you would change about the Championship? What feedback would you give to the international organisers?
The consistency in the delivery of the coffee to the competitors was not very good. Also, the first 4 rounds did not have time countdowns for the competitors while the other 6 rounds did.
8. What would you like to be doing in five years? Still in coffee?I still see myself in the coffee industry. Why not, I’ve already spent 11 years doing coffee!
9. Is there anyone in coffee who particularly inspires you? Why?
Aaron Wyatt, master roaster. He is just like my big brother. He taught me a lot about roasting and life experiences. Emma Markland Webster – she is the true master who is always successful in leading the New Zealand Specialty Coffee Association.
10. What advice would you give next year’s National Champion?
Every competition round is different, just like every cup of coffee. Try as many different coffees as you can, try light, medium, dark roasts to challenge yourself. Keep your mind clear and focused. See you all next year!
Photo credit: Nick Kean