Like many baristas, Kwong Wai-ho never even liked coffee - until he began to work with it. He was understandably in a state of shock when he took the title at the Hong Kong Cup Tasters Championship on Tuesday, a competition where baristas have to demonstrate speed, skill, and accuracy in distinguishing the taste differences in specialty coffees. "Two years ago, I didn't even drink coffee and I knew nothing about it," the new champ said. "This is all quite surreal." Watch: Hong Kong Cup Taster Championship Final (2014) Slurping, sipping and spitting, Kwong nabbed a close win over finalists Jacob Tang Yik-hang and Chan Tin-lok at the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai, earning HK$5,000 and a shot at the world championships in Shanghai next month. Kwong, 24, left school after Form Five, taking up random jobs in catering and at a moving company. His foray into the coffee business came by accident about two years ago when he suffered a collapsed lung. The serious medical condition put a stop to his physically demanding jobs. Eventually Kwong settled into his barista post at Craft Coffee Roaster in Tai Kok Tsui. It was there that he honed his coffee making and tasting skills. Read more: Cold-brewed coffee is hot in Hong Kong (but don't add milk or sugar) Another barista competing in the world championships next month is Elaine Wong Yu-ning, an assistant captain at the Tai Kok Tsui branch of UCC Coffee Shop. "I started out as a waitress then started making regular espressos before getting to where I am now," said Wong, who won this year's Siphonist Championship and was a runner up in the same category last year. Her secret to making a good brew: "My finished product must satisfy my own standards before I serve it to customers." Read more: The cost of coffee in Hong Kong Billy Lee Kwai, president of the Hong Kong Professional Coffee Association, one of the event's organisers, said the city's coffee culture has blossomed in recent years. The rising number of local high-end cafés and roasters has deepened appreciation of good coffee, he added. The competition continues on Wednesday with the semi-finals of the Hong Kong Barista Championship, while that final and the Latte Art Championship take place on Thursday.