Finalist #4: REPUBLIC OF KOREA

World Barista Championship FINALIST #4

LEE JONG HOON OF THE REPUBLIC OF KOREA

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Lee Jong Hoon says his least favorite part about being a barista is washing dishes. But it takes him a while to think of even that, so much does he love the barista craft. Lee Jong has been a barista for seven years, and has actually represented Korea at the World Barista Championship once before: in 2004 in Trieste, Italy. But he didn’t make the finals that year, nor has a barista champion of Korea ever made the finals. So the 2009 WBC goes down in history for that reason alone.

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Lee Jong today is using a washed and sundried bourbon from the El Salvador Cup of Excellence competition for his espresso. And for his cappuccinos and signature drinks, he will use a Costa Rican coffee which was a finalist at the Cup of Excellence which will bring a caramely note as well as citrus spice to the cup. He is endlessly charming, bowing before the judges and treating them respectfully and endearingly.

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This is the guy who has the really cool trick of holding two portafilters in one hand to dose and level, tamp, and then he switches to insert. It’s way cool to watch. Obviously he is a practices professional. He tells the judges he is using an organic while milk. “I think the right choice of milk has to be in harmony with the espresso,” he says. “There are two distinct things about my cappuccinos. They are sweet and creamy and they are the perfect temperature.”

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He moves into his signature drink portion, and tells the judges he will be making for them a drink he calls Repiblic of Coffee Jong (his cafe is named Republic of Coffee, and Jong is his last name). He first pours some cream into a saucepan and adds some cacao from Venezuela, sme Colombian cane sugar, ans some whole Ethiopian coffee beans. He lets this simmer, then offers it out to the judges to have a whiff. He then strains the mixture off into some cold cream waiting in a big metal bowl. He stirs it and announces to the judges that this is his “special cream.”

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He pours this cream into a pitcher and passes it around the judges so they can smell it. He then makes his espressos and adds Colombian organic cane sugar to the espresso, and pours the espresso into cups. He then adds the cream on top of the drinks.

Lee Jong tells the judges that his drink is special, the cream is special, the espresso is special, and he, the barista, is special. I couldn’t agree more. Thank you for a tremendous perfrmance, Lee Jong!

About the Author

Sarah

Sarah Allen is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.