In the world of specialty coffee, there are no guarantees when it comes to the flavours of a certain coffee because there are so many variables in the bean-to-cup process that can impact its taste (for instance, the different cultivars, processings, roast profiles and the brew). As coffee professionals, we understand that it is not easy to truly enjoy your coffee without having the necessary information and knowledge, which is why we spoke to a few of our team members and asked them to share the books that have helped them learn and appreciate the (almost endless) list of influencing factors that make specialty coffees a delight for the palate:
The Book of Roast: By Roast Magazine – recommended by Sam, our Head of Coffee
The Book of Roast is a compilation of articles on coffee roasting that were previously published in Roast Magazine, a bi-monthly magazine from Oregon, USA. It covers a variety of topics, including the history of coffee roasting, coffee production, roasting techniques, and even the basics of running a roasting business. I was particularly inspired by the article on roasting science: understanding how the chemical changes in organic acids during roasting and how different temperatures in the beans affect the final outcome have really helped me achieve roast profiles that our customers will hopefully appreciate. Whether you are an amateur who is interested in home roasting or a professional roaster, this book is for you.
The Professional Barista’s Handbook: An Expert Guide to Preparing Espresso, Coffee, and Tea – recommended by Seth, our Senior Roaster
Written by American coffee expert Scott Rao, the Handbook is a both a step-by-step guide to being a barista, as well as a summary of everything that he has learned in the 14 years he spent in the industry. You will be surprised to read that the Handbook includes articles on espresso extraction and other fundamental coffee knowledge and skills, alongside useful little tips such as recommended practices behind the till at the coffee bar. As a young roaster/barista, I found this book to be very practical and insightful, and I love that this book has helped me to understand that roasting and brewing are both art and science, and that it is important for us coffee professionals to stay hungry, stay foolish and never stop learning.
‘尋豆師：國際評審的中南美洲精品咖啡莊園報告書’ – recommended by Jacob, our Senior Supervisor at NOC Whampoa
This book is essentially an encyclopedia of coffee origins and processings. Coffee connoisseur Baolin Hsu visited over 1,000 coffee farms in Central and South America to interview coffee farmers and producers, and to document coffee cultivation, processing and more with written descriptions and photographs, and I love that it includes a Spanish-chinese glossary of coffee terms. The book helped me understand coffee cultivation and production in more depth, and inspired me to give more thought to how I brew each and every cup of coffee so that I can highlight the distinct flavours from each and every farm around the world. I recommend this to all coffee lovers and baristas – I promise this book will be an interesting read.
Water For Coffee: Science Story Manual – recommended by Bertha, our Senior Coffee Trainer
Water is a vital ingredient in coffee: it makes up 90% by volume of an espresso, and 98.5% by volume of a pourover coffee. Co-written by a barista champion and a Chemistry professor, Water for Coffee explores how water can transform the characters of a coffee. What intrigues me the most is how controlling the amount of calcium, sodium, magnesium and other minerals in water allows us to achieve certain levels of body, sweetness, aroma and flavour in a coffee.
To me, brewing coffee is lots of fun because it’s like conducting a scientific experiment: even a small change in one of the variables can completely alter the final outcome. The book uses a lot of Chemistry jargons – which were hard for me to read and understand at first, but the information from this book has helped me understand more basic theories about water and given me even more variables to play around with, and for this reason it has been my current favourite read.
‘咖啡吧台師的新形象’ – recommended by Zelda, our Coffee Trainer
Gifted by my senior barista, this was the first coffee book I have ever read. Written by Japanese barista champion Yoshiharu Sakamoto, it covers everything a barista needs to know: coffee plantation and processing, roasting profiles, cupping, espresso extraction and so on. It even explains in detail the World Barista Championship and barista training procedures. I would definitely recommend the book to all aspiring baristas who are just starting their careers.
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