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HomeCoffee2024 US Brewers Cup Champion Weihong Zhang: The Sprudge Interview

2024 US Brewers Cup Champion Weihong Zhang: The Sprudge Interview

Weihong Zhang of BlendIn Espresso Membership in Houston, Texas is the 2024 United States Brewers Cup champion. This truth alone will not be a very stunning one. BlendIn, a restaurant and roaster that Zhang owns and based, is likely one of the extra progressive outlets in Texas, if not the complete United States, by way of the espresso they supply. They deal with the uncommon and distinctive, the small heaps and distinctive varieties. Their menu reads like a listing of competitors coffees and on any given go to, their pour-over (and espresso) choices might embody plenty of Geshas and rarer varieties like Sidra in addition to much less continuously seen origins like China.

Neither is it solely stunning that Zhang himself prevailed. He has competed within the Brewers Cup 3 times, making all of it the best way to the Finals at every; he positioned third in 2020, second in 2023, and at last in 2024, he received all of it.

What makes Zhang’s win so utterly mind-blowing is that he did it with a decaf. And this wasn’t the decaffeinated model of a double-anaerobic thermal-shock pure Gesha or another such mixture of competitors buzzwords. He did it with a decaf Typica selection from Colombia, with a espresso he serves on bar on daily basis; it’s BlendIn’s home decaf. You could possibly (till not too long ago, for apparent causes) decide up a bag of it on-line or of their cafe year-round.

Let that simmer in your mind for a second.

That’s to not say that the espresso isn’t distinctive. They underwent a novel decaffeination course of developed by Oscar Hernandez of Finca Los Nogales in Huila, the place the espresso was produced. After depulping, the inexperienced espresso is then decaffeinated utilizing, partially, its personal mucilage, which helps “[avoid] off flavors and [enhance] complexity with floral and fruity notes,” Zhang tells Sprudge.

Zhang’s Brewers Cup win is, with out query, probably the most monumental achievements in US Espresso Championships historical past. It’s Babinski successful the 2015 US Barista Championship with two manufacturing coffees. However these coffees are additionally decaf. It’s successful the Latte Artwork Championship by pouring probably the most good coronary heart. It’s a feat so utterly historic and unprecedented that these are the one two occasions that may approximate it. And solely one in every of them truly occurred.

We spoke with Weihong Zhang to study extra about his espresso, his routine, and what, if any, modifications he plans to make to it within the lead-up to the World Brewers Cup subsequent month in Chicago as a part of the SCA Expo.

This interview has been calmly edited and condensed for readability.

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Hey Weihong, congratulations in your huge win! How does it really feel now that you just’ve had a bit time to course of it?

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It feels surreal to be the champion. With the World Competitors in Chicago so shut, I’m each excited and careworn about my first world competitors. I really feel extremely fortunate and grateful to convey dwelling the champion title.

A decaf! Are you able to inform us a bit bit extra about your espresso and the brewer you used?

The espresso I used is a decaf Typica from Finca Los Nogales in Huila, Colombia. The producer Oscar Hernandez developed a decaffeination methodology known as Mucilage EA Decaf. After harvesting, the espresso cherries are depulped, separating the beans and mucilage. The beans are then washed and soaked in their very own fermented mucilage with Ethyl Acetate for 48 hours for decaffeination. This methodology makes use of the espresso’s pulp and mucilage as an alternative of sugar cane, avoiding off flavors and enhancing complexity with fruity and floral notes.

I used the Hario Change with a V60 Mugen dripper.  The espresso has a low density and quick water stream, so I switched to the immersion methodology to extend the water contact time and extract extra sweetness, which helped me rating excessive on the brand new Brewers Cup scoresheet.

Successful with a decaf is historic. Did you construct the routine round your espresso or do you know you needed to deal with decaf and located the espresso to suit the theme?

I found this espresso final September throughout a sourcing journey in Colombia. I met Francesco Sanapo, a multiple-time Italian barista champion, and we brewed a mysterious pattern. I initially thought it was a Gesha or Sidra, however it turned out to be a decaf Typica. I selected this espresso for the competitors as a result of it’s an incredible espresso that opened my eyes to the world of decaf. I needed to share this expertise on the competitors stage. The decaf idea resonated with lots of my espresso pals and prospects, and I spotted there’s a major group of people that can’t eat caffeine however nonetheless need to get pleasure from advanced flavors from specialty espresso.

And this espresso is a year-round providing at your cafe, proper?

Sure, that is the espresso we use for decaf drinks at BlendIn. We used to supply retail luggage, however after the nationwide competitors, demand soared. A distinct lot of Los Nogales Decaf is on the best way to Houston, however I’ve briefly eliminated it from our on-line retailer to avoid wasting espresso for the World Competitors and for store drinks till the brand new lot arrives.

With the World Brewers Cup lower than a month away, are you planning on doing the identical routine or are you going to start out from scratch with a brand new one?

I’ll use the identical espresso on the World Competitors. Whereas rivals have offered low-caffeine varietals like Laurina, I consider I’ll be the primary to convey a decaf espresso to the World stage. I hope this conjures up producers to create wonderful decaf coffees and develop modern decaffeination processes to fill a market hole.

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Now that you just’ve received, are you retiring from competitors or can we anticipate to see Weihong Zhang again on the Brewers Cup stage?

I really feel that I all the time study a lot from competitors. It’s what I like about it; yearly, reflecting on my competitors journey brings inspiration and new concepts. I’m greater than more likely to proceed competing.

Lastly, is there anybody you’d prefer to thank?

I wish to first thank the producer, Oscar Hernandez of Finca Los Nogales, for being a pioneer in espresso processing. As a brewer, I’m lucky to current his work to the judges. I additionally wish to thank all of the BlendIn workforce members for his or her help and, extra importantly, their love for espresso.

Thanks, Weihong!

Zac Cadwalader is the managing editor at Sprudge Media Community and a workers author based mostly in Dallas. Learn extra Zac Cadwalader on Sprudge.

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