Freda Yuan won the 2017 UK Cup Tasters Championship and went on to represent the UK in Budapest at the Specialty Coffee Association's event, World of Coffee. Freda did the UK proud when she placed 3rd place in the World Cup Tasters Championship!
In this interview Freda reveals all on how she prepares for the competition and shares her advice to competitors competing at CUPS this November.
Head of Coffee, Origin Coffee
Cornwall & London, UK
Freda Yuan’s incredible talent and accolades are evident in her winning the SCA UK Cup Tasters in 2017 & 2018, as well as gaining 3rd place in the World Cup Tasters 2017. Alongside this, she is a licensed Q-grader, authorised SCA trainer and a SCA UK Sensory Judge.
Throughout Freda’s six-year coffee career she’s worked on both sides of the supply chain, from barista through to green coffee buyer, with other roles including roasting and QC’ing. Her role as Origin’s Head of Coffee involves developing their direct trade coffee program and travelling the world in pursuit of exceptional crops.
Can you describe your preparation routine for the CTC?
I cup a lot of coffees when purchasing green coffee, which is always a great way to train. I also practice normal competition routine to get familiar with the tension.
How does the National competition differ from performing on a World stage?
The sets are definitely harder once passing the first round. It is also more intense because only 16 out of approx. 60 competitors will pass through to the next round. Even though the pressure is much higher on the world stage, I do enjoy it; there are more emotions and intensities!
You made it to the CTC Finals in Budapest 2017 – is it noticabley harder to identify the odd coffee in each triangulation in a world final?
To be honest, every round is very hard so I cannot really recall what had happened up there. For me it was like I gave it all of my attention whist I was on stage, but then I just forgot everything when I finished.
The CTC always draws a big and engaged crowd at Manchester Coffee Festival – why do you think people enjoy spectating this competition so much?
This is a really fun and casual competition. There are no judges and you won’t know who is the winner until very last reveal. Anything can change till the last cup.
Cup North is also a very chilled event, so they accompaniment each other well.
What do you think is most important – speed or take your time to get it right?
Both are equally important. Finding the right balance is key.
Do you have a mentor/coach who supports you in preparation for CTC? If so, how do they help you?
I started off training on my own in my first year. In my second year I had a lot of support from friends and a coach who helped me with the right mindset and training.
Cup tasting can be a very lonely game and it is very useful to have people around to help me.
How does taking part in CTC support your professional life?
Cupping is already my day to day life. To an extent, I trusted my judgement more when buying coffee.
Through competing in CTC for the past few years, I developed a skill to listen to my gut more, which I am applying that not just in my professional but my personal life as well.
Will you be competing in CTC again?
I really love this competition, regardless of the pressure. I am competing again this year just to see how far I can go.
You’ve been at Manchester Coffee Festival for the past couple of years. What’s your perception of the specialty coffee scene in the city? Any favourite coffee spots?
I have not properly explored Manchester yet because I mostly hang around at the festival. From my memories, the specialty coffee scene is really friendly and down to earth.
I remembered I visited Takk on Oxford Road, and it was lovely there. They were using Clifton from Bristol and the Barn from Berlin.
I would also recommend Foundation café. It has a good vibe and I also sourced the coffee for them.
Finally, what’s your one piece of advice for anyone competing in the UK CTC 2020?
Enjoy the process and have fun!