2023 World Barista Champion Boram Um and the Dream Team are spreading the gospel of good coffee brewed well, one cup at a time.
2023 World Barista Champion (WBC) Boram Um recently completed the Philippine leg of his four-month world tour with the “Dream Team”: WBC coach David Crosby and Canadian barista champion and WBC finalist Cole Torode.
Prior to brewing the Philippines, Boram’s crew had been to nine other countries, partnering with local roasters and taking over cafés to introduce competition-level coffee, craft artisanal brews, and share best practices within the coffee industry. Cebu-based The Good Cup Coffee Company hosted the Dream Team in their four-day stay; they also temporarily took over the counters of Makati’s Spotted Pig and Deuces Coffee.
On their third day in Manila, the Dream Team held an omakase tasting session at Deuces HQ, gathering coffee industry professionals, home brewers, the media, and caffeine-dependent busybodies. (I qualified for the latter two categories.) They set up the place like a kitchen studio for TV and a laboratory classroom in one: the Dream Team had all their equipment and coffee beans set up on several counters, while we settled down on high chairs behind rows of long tables facing them.
The afternoon proceeded with five drinks:
First, a Panama Geisha espresso, one of Boram’s winning creations. Grown in the Panamanian highlands, the varietal has been featured in many winning brews for coffee competitions and tasting awards. Cole described its taste as floral and citrusy, with hints of jasmine and stone fruits. In making it, Boram suspended a frozen ball in the mouth of the shot glass; theoretically, Cole explained that as the coffee passes through the ball, the frigid temperature will capture the aromatic compounds, making the shot more flavorful.
Next, we had the Pink Bourbon served two ways: as is and with milk. Cole primed us to expect nougat, honey, and floral flavors from the varietal, which is grown in Boram’s family farm, Fazenda Um. The particular beans they used were roasted by the brothers’ coffee company, Canada-based Rosso Coffee Roasters. With the milk-infused batch, Boram steamed the milk at a lower temperature to complement the sweetness of the coffee.
Cole took charge of the fourth drink, which was a filter coffee using a blend of three different varietals. But instead of combining the beans and coming out with a mixed grind, Cole layered the grounds in three specific ways inside the filter: a fine ground spread up the walls of the filter, which has a berry profile; a coarse grind with an orange blossom taste, comprising most of the mix; and a top layer, a medium grind that adds a mixed berry flavor. The Dream Team noted that they’ve tried using the same proportions, but constructed differently inside the filter; the resulting brew had a markedly different taste than Cole’s configuration.
We finished the caffeine-fueled afternoon with a bright espresso martini, made with coffee, gin, and simple syrup. This was the only drink that wasn’t served in competition, because they’re not allowed to use alcohol.
Now, I’m a simple guy when it comes to coffee. I like it black, and I prefer a dark roast with a tinge of bitterness, a deep caramel flavor, and a kick that will jolt me awake. This isn’t to say that I dislike lighter and milder brews—I think they’re fit for leisurely conversations with a friend—but my palate and the demands of my professional and personal life require stronger cups of coffee. This is to say that the Dream Team introduced several flavors and textures that I would have never experienced if nobody took me out of my black coffee habit (again, just a preference, not a purist move).
The Panama Geisha espresso stood out in particular for its creamy mouthfeel and subdued taste—something that I don’t expect from my shots, but a refreshing experience nonetheless. It’s less of an upper in the morning than a gentler jolt of energy in the afternoon when you still want a strong coffee taste, but you have to take things easier since you’ve already downed at least two cups before lunchtime.
The Pink Bourbon with milk was also a surprise, what with its dessert-like flavor achieved with no sweeteners or artificial additives. Cole described its taste as akin to a New York cheesecake; in my case, I couldn’t taste any hint of bitterness, that “coffee flavor” as we know it.
But what stood out to me the most wasn’t even any of the drinks that the Dream Team served; instead, I marveled at the relative ease that Boram, David, and Cole exhibited as they brewed our drinks, described the beans, explained their processes, and bantered like talk show hosts.
Suffice to say, after touring nine countries and competing at the biggest global stages for coffee brewing, the Dream Team’s dynamics are as seamless as a smooth espresso shot can get. Seeing it in action, however—Cole and David leading the discussions while Boram prepares the drinks (and occasionally chimes in)—is an experience as worthwhile as enjoying their special brews.
But there’s more to the “Dream Team” than their fluid dynamics. There’s Boram’s dream to champion Brazilian coffee, which he believes can compete with the world’s best—beans from Panama and Ethiopia, for instance. It’s the goal that drives the research and development that Boram’s family farm in Brazil invests on, from the genetic level to post-harvest practices.
Then, there’s the brothers’ drive to elevate the coffee industry and emphasize that you can have fun with coffee—that is, trying out new brews, experimenting with different ingredients, and the like—while also building a career in coffee, whether you’re a barista, farmer, or café owner.
With Boram’s recent win at WBC 2023, the Dream Team is maximizing a platform that they’re using to get closer to their dreams, one cup of coffee at a time.