Release Date: Feb 3, 2017

David Kim, Head Barista at the famous Auction Rooms in Melbourne and 3rd in Australian Brewers Cup Championship, visited Japan and was guest barista for a day at About Life Coffee Brewers in Shibuya. After his trip, I spoke with David to find out about the experience itself, and some of the other things he got up to on his trip to Japan and Korea.


Vaughan: David, you’ve just finished being “guest barista” at About Life Coffee Brewers in Tokyo. It was a great opportunity for us to get a taste of Melbourne. I really loved the vibe. How was the experience for you?

David: Thank you. Yes indeed, the trip was also a great opportunity for me to share Small Batch Coffee with Japanese people and also to discover really how much Japanese people love coffee. It was so much fun with the ALCB team and Onibus. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who supported me in coming over. A special shout out to Mr.Wataru Kambe.

david at about life-1

Vaughan: Yeah, the ALCB crew are all really something special. They’re not the only ones to hold “guest barista” events but they certainly do it very well. Come to think of it, does “guest barista” happen down under and in Korea, or is it just a Japanese thing?

David: There are definitely movements to host some interesting events in Korea. As the Specialty Coffee industry in Korea is growing at a rapid pace, there is a need for some exchange with other cultures. Yes, I have had many opportunities to showcase, not only representing Small Batch Roasting Co. and Auction Rooms, but also personal experiences to bring Melbourne coffee culture to several cities in Korea. I am trying to host these types of events annually. I really enjoy letting more and more coffee people know there are various coffee cultures that exist in our world. And at the same time, I hope more people enjoy their work in Coffee!

david at about life-2

Vaughan: As the barista, how easy is it to just start making coffee at another cafe for one day?

David: For me, it was easy. However, it is hard to say exactly how easy it will be all the time, because a lot of it depends on how much everyone knows about their coffee, indeed how good they are at controlling all the variables. Knowledge. I always liken coffee to Function f(x). The more you know and control the variables, the better you can adapt to any conditions.

david at about life-3

Vaughan: Interesting. Yes, I imagine you have to be on the same page for that real coffee collaborating chemistry to take place. Did you learn anything in the process this time?

David: Out of the coffee, I learned how specialty coffee is seen in Tokyo, Japan. Like Korea, there are only a few big companies importing green coffee, so micro or nano roasters, which don’t have the resources to source green material for themselves don’t have many options to choose from. Ridiculously, I have had a Kenya coffee from the same washing station from many roasters across Tokyo as well as even in Korea. On the one hand, it’s good to be able to compare each roaster, but at the same time it can get quite boring.

david at about life-4

Vaughan: I can imagine. Were there any noticeable differences pulling the shots in Japan versus pulling shots in Australia.

David: Firstly, regarding Volume. Consumption of coffee in Melbourne continues to be the top of the world, which basically means people drink a lot more coffee than other people in other cities. In Melbourne, we are concentrating on fast service and consistently maintaining the quality of shots. However, in Japan, some venues continue to keep doing their old style package (the whole process from dosing, distribution and tamping). Others would like to experiment with different equipment.
Also worth mentioning is the Brewing Ratio. Especially in specialty coffee, Optimum Balance is important. To figure out this range, the Brew Ratio (coffee : water) must be known. With the espresso, we are concerned with the yield of shot (i.e., amount of extraction). However, it is not true that volume and weight are the same in coffee. As the brew ratio is calculated with mass, we need to measure the mass of shot for consistency of coffee extraction. We do not rely on the volumetric. We try to weigh out the mass of espresso as much as we can for the consistency of service.

david at about life-5

Vaughan: I’m sure the baristas in Japan would love you to hold some workshops on this when you’re in Japan next! Tell us more about what you did in Tokyo other than be a guest barista at ALCB?

David: It was an amazing experience to visit all the famous coffee shops in and around Tokyo. It was so nice to have chats with the people who lead the market, it’s always great to make good relationships. After the guest barista event at ALCB, I visited Korea to host some events over the new year, then I came back to Tokyo with my family for a short holiday. We visited Hakone onsen, saw the beautiful scenery that Mt Fuji has to offer, which has all in turn made me really want to visit again… soon!

david at about life-6

Vaughan: That’s great. Yes, I heard you held some events in Korea after that. What type of events were they?

David: A range. I held several events about Small Batch Roasting Co. and Shared Source which is our new green coffee project. I hosted Small Batch pop up cafes showcasing our coffee and style of customer service. I tried to show them a much different work-flow and culture, which I believe allowed baristas and roasters to have an interesting experience. I also hosted seminars about QC (Quality Control) how SBRC (Small Batch Roasting Co.), AR (Auction Rooms) and Shared Source manage its own QC. I launched the showcase of Barista Hustle Korea and Shared Source. And in between all of that, I did some market analysis demand of our green coffee.

david at about life-7

Vaughan: Sounds busy! Will you come back to Japan? And if people would like to visit you, please tell us where people can find you in Melbourne.

David: Currently, I am Head barista of Auction Rooms and part of the team at Small Batch Roasting Co. You can easily find me at Auction Rooms in North Melbourne! There might be a chance to see me at MICE (Melbourne International Coffee Exhibition) at the end of March competing in the Australian Brewers cup Championship again. And of course I hope to be invited back to Japan again, perhaps for Tokyo Coffee Festival or SCAJ. It would be a great pleasure to visit with my team next time too.


You can follow David Kim on instagram @david_barista

Interview by Vaughan (@vja)

Photography by Nik van der Giesen (@nvdg81)

Photos taken at About Life Coffee Brewers

Back to top