coffee drinks

Experiencing my 1st ‘coffee omakase’ by World Barista Champion Boram Um 

Luna Coscolluela

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Experiencing my 1st ‘coffee omakase’ by World Barista Champion Boram Um 
The reigning champion from Brazil serves five of his winning coffee drinks during the Philippine stop of his world tour!

MANILA, Philippines – For a lot of us, coffee is a staple of our everyday lives. Whether we use it as fuel to get through our day or enjoy it as a treat to cheer ourselves up, there’s nothing that a good cup of coffee can’t fix. For World Barista Champion Boram Um, however, coffee is a little more than just that: it’s the key to making dreams come true.

Um has been working in the specialty coffee industry since 2015 when he first joined his father, Stefano Um’s, coffee production business. With the family originally hailing from South Korea, they have since made Brazil their home and Boram Um has made it his goal to champion Brazilian coffee around the world. He won the national barista championship in 2020 and 2022, becoming the representative for the country at the world championships.

WORLD CHAMPION. Barista champion Boram Um makes Philippine stop to showcase his creations. Luna Coscolluela/Rappler

He is currently on a world tour following his big win at the 2023 World Barista Championship held in June. He made a four-day stop in the Philippines from November 29 to December 2 to talk about his experiences and share his winning drinks at a series of different events including talks and bar takeovers.

A whole new world of specialty coffee

On December 1, Filipino establishments Deuces Coffee and The Good Cup Coffee Co. joined forces to host a coffee omakase session with Um at Deuces HQ in Makati. 

“Omakase” is a Japanese term that translates to “I’ll leave it up to you.” It entails a chef — or, in this case, barista — selecting all the items served to a customer. While sushi omakases are the most common kind, they exist in all sectors of the food and beverage industry.

For his omakase event, Um selected five drinks to showcase his skill and give customers a curated and intentional coffee experience.

Incorporating his theme “teamwork makes the dream work” in his world tour, Um was accompanied by his dream team, brothers David Crosby and Cole Torode. Crosby worked as Um’s coach during the championship and Torode is the current Canadian Brewer’s Cup Champion. 

Um wanted to emphasize the need for the coffee industry to band together to create a more enriching and conscientious experience for everyone in the world of coffee. His work with Crosby and Torode is meant to showcase one way that professionals in the industry can collaborate to come up with new and exciting experiences.

THE DREAM TEAM. Boram Um, David Crosby, and Cole Torode with The Good Cup Coffee Co. founder Gio Visitacion. Luna Coscolluela/Rappler

The three of them put together a series of five exciting drinks showcasing innovative flavors and techniques in the specialty coffee industry.

RAPID CHILLING. Um uses a chilling technique in his winning Panama Geisha. Luna Coscolluela/Rappler

The first drink was a Panama Geisha espresso. Its flavor was a nice balance of fruity and floral notes with a rich and creamy texture. In making the drink, Um used a rapid chilling method, which involves pouring the drink over a frozen object to bring out specific flavors in the coffee after extraction.

The espresso was one of Um’s winning drinks at the world championship and it was definitely a great opener to the rest of the session.

ELEVATING BRAZILIAN COFFEE. Um brings his mission to life in Pink Bourbon drink. Luna Coscolluela/Rappler

The second coffee was a Pink Bourbon. It had a nice citrus flavor to it and a deep honey-like sweetness. The coffee used for the espresso came from Um’s family farm, Fazenda Um, and was roasted and distributed by Rosso Coffee Roasters run by Crosby and Torode. The drink was a clear symbol of the deep partnership among the three.

Having worked for his family farm even before winning the championship, Um shared his dream of showcasing Brazilian coffee on the world stage.

“The dream is to elevate the Brazilian coffee experience, to bring out new flavors, and change the conception that people have of Brazilian coffees being cheap…and really giving it a chance [to compete] with some of the best coffees in the world,” Um said.

SWEET. Um’s milk drink is a coffee anyone can enjoy. Luna Coscolluella/Rappler

The third coffee was a milk drink made with the same Pink Bourbon as the second one. Um explained that he steamed the milk at a lower temperature than we usually see in coffee shops to “maintain high quality sweetness and texture.” 

The drink turned out smooth and creamy with a caramel flavor to it. Um shared that he had made the drink as something that even casual coffee-drinkers would enjoy.

Torode explained the relationship between the world of specialty coffee and the rest of the coffee industry. 

“Although sometimes we’re trapped in this niche of specialty coffee, the general industry…[is] always looking towards our segment for innovation for the general market,” he said.

A UNIQUE BLEND. Torode uses three different kinds of coffee for his drink. Luna Coscolluela/Rappler

The fourth drink was filter coffee made by Torode. He talked about how his method involves mixing three different kinds of coffee in a filter to develop a unique blend. He said that this method draws inspiration from the production of certain wines and whiskeys, such as champagne that entails the use of three different kinds of grapes to create it.

GOODNESS IN A CUP. Coffee inspired by the world of wine and whiskey. Luna Coscolluela/Rappler

The combination of coffee grinds that Torode used for the omakase session ended up creating a sweet and floral drink that brought out the different elements of the coffee.

BUZZED. Um’s espresso martini is light and refreshing. Luna Coscolluela/Rappler

The final coffee was an espresso martini that Um deemed his signature drink for the world championship — except he couldn’t actually serve it with alcohol during the competition. 

The drink was only composed of three ingredients: espresso, gin, and simple syrup. The mixture of the three ingredients resulted in a refreshing lemon taste with a nice edge offered by the espresso.

“The idea is to transform and create balance with the coffee flavors and the ingredients to bring you a new experience,” Um said about the last drink.

As someone who has barely dipped her toes into the world of specialty coffee, attending Um’s omakase was definitely a daunting experience. However, Um and his team’s approach to their art encouraged an environment of curiosity and understanding that left me wanting to learn more.

Of the five drinks, I liked the Panama Geisha espresso the most. Its complex flavor and texture prepared me to fully appreciate the rest of the session. I also enjoyed the milk drink since it’s the kind of coffee I’m most familiar with and would reach for on a daily basis. 

The experience has definitely made me realize just how much thought and effort goes into the coffee industry, and I don’t think I’ll ever look at a cup of coffee the same way again.

TEAMWORK MAKES THE DREAM WORK. Um continues his world tour with Crosby and Torode. Luna Coscolluela/Rappler

The work of Um and his team offers an interesting look into the world of specialty coffee today. Um has made it his goal to highlight every step that goes into making a good cup of coffee, from its farming to its distribution; and together with Crosby and Torode, he plans on using his platform to continue shaping the industry in the direction of sustainability and growth.

Aligned with Um’s personal dream to elevate Brazilian coffee, his team also emphasized the importance of looking locally and starting dialogues with coffee communities around you.

“We think people should champion their local community, support your local roasters, support your local cafés,” said Crosby. “Ask them questions. If people are willing to share, that’s an authentic business that you should support.”

Um and his team will continue their coffee tour in China and Thailand for the rest of December.

If you’re looking to have your very own coffee experience, local establishments like The Good Cup Coffee and Deuces Coffee regularly host caffeine-fueled events that are sure to fill every coffee-lover’s heart. –

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