Paprik Liu, a Barista at Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters, recently qualified to go to Nationals for the Canadian National Barista Competition. We caught up with Liu to hear about his experience at Regionals and his signature drink.

- How did you first get into specialty coffee and competing?

When I was in university, I had a part-time job in a coffee shop, and then when I graduated, I decided I wanted to get a full-time job in specialty coffee. I really struggled to find a job, I applied to almost every specialty coffee shop in Calgary. I waited three months, and finally, Phil & Sebastian offered me a job in one of their cafes. After that, I moved into the roastery and started doing competitions. This year was my first year competing in the Barista Competition, and last year was my first year doing the Brewers Cup and Cup Tasters.

- What were regionals like, and what did the competition entail?

The competition consists of three rounds. The first round is just espresso. You pull an espresso shot, and four sensory judges evaluate it. The second round is espresso and milk. They just updated it, and competitors can now use any milk alternative they like. My coach Karine Ng, a three-time National Barista Competition finalist, and I negotiated to use half coconut and half cow milk. The cow milk has more protein, so I can still do latte art, but the coconut milk adds a little sweetness that helps balance the acidity in the espresso. The third round is a signature drink. For mine, I added tartaric acid and malic acid to the espresso for acidity; for body, I added xanthan gum, and for sweetness, I added panela sugar. It ended up with a really interesting flavour profile. The tartaric acid paired really well with the acidity from the espresso, and this very special concord grape note came out. Then the malic acid paired with the citric acid in the espresso and created a red plum flavour. In the competition, I used two coffees from Colombia from the farm La Negrita, one was a Geisha Peaberry, and the other was a Mundo Novo.

- How do you feel about nationals coming up?

There are eight baristas moving to the nationals from the western regionals, and four are coming from the eastern regionals. I am just going to try my best. I don’t think I am the strongest competitor; I think the gap between me and the strongest competitor is pretty big. But I will try my best.

May 29, 2023 — Zara Snitman

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