A national coffee-roasting competition was held in September at Guoshing Township, Nantou County. The contest was held in three stages — trial roast, competition roast, and cupping (taste test) — before the champion was decided. Mo Zhi-qing (莫芷晴), a graduate student at National Chi Nan University, was declared winner of the 2019 Coffee Roasting Championship in Taiwan.
Graduate student Mo, who is only 23 years old, is from Hong Kong. She is currently enrolled in her first year at NCNU’s Department of Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management. She first became acquainted with the coffee-roasting business when she was a college sophomore and took up a part-time job at a B&B café. Three years ago, she became the protégé of the café owner, Shen Young-wei (沈詠為), who became her mentor on her path towards becoming a professional coffee roaster.
The duo decided that they would take part in this year’s contest together, and it exceeded everyone’s expectations that her extraordinary performance in the contest ultimately outperformed her mentor.
Mo expressed her gratitude to Shen for his unreserved mentorship from practicing daily to rehearsing for the contest. During preparations, the two studied the characteristics of unroasted coffee beans while fine-tuning the roast profile of each blend. She was able to present a special flavor of coffee with a tea-like aroma and sweet aftertaste, which won her the championship title.
This is the third year of Taiwan’s Coffee Roasting Championship, which is the title event of the 2019 Nantou Guoshing Coffee Festival. The contest gathered local coffee planters as well as nation-wide experts to join the competition.
This year’s competition judges were also equipped with solid credentials, including Taiwan’s Lai Yu-chuan (賴昱權), who was the champion of the 2014 World Coffee Roasting Championship, 2018 world champion Vladimir Nenashev of Russia, and Yoshiyuki Nakamura from Japan, who ranked second after Nenashev last year, among many other highly qualified guest judges, which made the event even more attractive to festival-goers and contestants alike.
To support the development of Nantou's coffee industry through talent cultivation, NCNU now offers a non-credit course titled “Coffee Roasting Class – Level 1” for the training of coffee professionals, which includes the introduction of coffee varieties, coffee planting, coffee tree cultivation management, coffee post-processing, coffee roasting, and world-class coffee estates. Through classroom lectures and hands-on practice, the class aims to enhance students' coffee-roasting skills and knowledge on related operations.
In addition, the NCNU Department of Tourism, Leisure, and Hospitality Management collaborates closely with industry professionals to devise several coffee-roasting courses, including boutique barista training and coffee-roasting forums, where industry experts are invited to share their personal experience in the coffee business.
As the proverbial "black gold" of Guoshing Township, coffee has become an important source of economic livelihood, as the region ranks the highest in both coffee-planting area and output in Taiwan. It is also the first coffee production site in Taiwan to be awarded the certification mark of origin. There are three production and sales groups under the Farmer’s Association of Guoshing Township and about 100 private coffee planters.
“Coffee Arabica” is the main cultivar of coffee grown in Guoshing, where the total plantation area averages about 200 hectares per year, accounting for one-sixth of Taiwan’s coffee-production capacity. Annually, Guoshing produces about NT$100 million worth of unroasted coffee beans. Together with derivative products, the revenue created by the township’s coffee industry topples NT$200 million.