The art of coffee

PUBLISHED : Friday, 20 May, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 20 May, 2005, 12:00am

Name: Barry Yuen Sam-yeung Age: 43 Occupation: Barista trainer

Young Post: How did you become interested in coffee?

Yuen: I studied dancing before and I travelled around the world giving performances.

One time I visited some coffee farms in Southeast Asia and I wanted to learn more about them.

I went to Myanmar, the Philippines and Thailand to meet coffee farmers.

Then I studied at several academies in Europe, where I learned everything about coffee and coffee culture.

Now I have two coffee farms in Myanmar and Laos. I have a wholesale export business.

There is a misconception that good coffee beans only come from Latin America. But actually there are many good coffee farms in Southeast Asia, including China. Europe is too cold to plant coffee beans.

YP: What do you teach your students?

Y: I start with the basics - teaching them about the different types of coffee beans and how to roast


I also show them how to make a good cup of coffee and how to use the machines.

If they want to open a cafe, I give them advice on things like where to rent and how to run it.

YP: Is it hard to learn about coffee beans?

Y: Yes, it takes a lot of experience and knowledge.

There are two types of coffee beans: Arabica and Robusta. Arabica grows on the highlands and mountains. It tastes much better and is more expensive.

It contains only a small amount of caffeine which makes it healthier than Robusta.

It's not easy to differentiate the two. Even cafe owners can have problems.

YP: What do you need to make a good cup of coffee?

Y: Good coffee beans, a good machine and good brewing skills are the keys.

Many cafes in Hong Kong use automatic machines. You can't make good coffee with these machines.

They do not work well under certain conditions and with certain coffee beans.

A good barista should know how to change the pressure when grinding different types of beans and should vary the brewing time according to the humidity and temperature.

YP: What do you think about the coffee culture in Hong Kong?

Y: Although more people are drinking coffee these days, I see it as a trend rather than a culture. Most coffee drinkers do not really know much about coffee. They can't tell a good cup of coffee from a bad one.

YP: What are the prospects for baristas in Hong Kong?

Y: They have a bright future. Some big cafes hired a lot of people recently.

I think it's a good career for young people.

Also, it's not hard to open a cafe in Hong Kong. You don't need much money.