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Edmonton man heading to Australia to compete in coffee championship

Edmonton barista uses science skills to compete in international coffee brewing
WATCH: An Edmonton man's passion for coffee has turned into a chance for him to compete on the world stage. Morgan Black explains what makes this coffee connoisseur unique.

An Edmonton man’s passion for coffee has turned into a chance to compete on the international stage.

Phuwadet “Ply” Pasarj started off as a customer at Rogue Wave Coffee but his talent for brewing was quickly recognized by store owners.

“I was just really into coffee, looking at different brewing methods. I was invited to join the company as a co-owner,” Pasarj explained.

After three months behind the bar at the north Edmonton coffee shop, he competed in a brewing competition held in the city and finished sixth.

“I tried really hard to improve myself and competed again at the national 2020 competition in October in Montreal and I got first place,” Pasarj said.

“I’m mostly self-taught for manual brews. I was a barista before at a small cafe for a year. Back then, I wasn’t even into coffee. It was just a job.”

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Ply will head to Australia in May to compete in the World Brewers Cup. He will be representing Canada as he competes against the best in the business from around the world.

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“You start with good water, good coffee, good temperature and perfect extractions,” explained Pasarj. “Everyone there is going to be a national winner. Everyone knows how to make good coffee.”

But those closest to Pasarj say he makes more than just “good coffee.”

“He’s got a gift but he’s a humble guy,” co-owner David Laville said. “He was one of our favourite customers.

“We increasingly came to respect his approach to coffee, particularly his scientific method, brewing the best cup possible.”

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Pasarj is also a PhD candidate at the University of Alberta’s department of biochemistry. He’s currently working on his thesis, focusing on the development of immunosuppressant drugs for patients undergoing organ transplants.

He said the world of coffee beans and biochemistry have a fair deal in common.

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“In my research I’m looking at different types of extracting molecules. When you add water to different sizes of ground coffee, I can control extractions of flavours in coffee,” Pasarj said.

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But it’s not all about the science when it comes to brewing the perfect cup.

“I practise my presentation a lot. It’s not just your best coffee. You’re serving to the judge and you have to show your professionalism. You have to show that you can brew multiple coffees for multiple people all at the same time,” Ply said.

The self-trained brewer said one of his favourite aspects of the work is coming up with new recipes and flavours.

“[When I won first place] the taste came out just the way that I enjoy.

“It had the scent of orange blossom, the acidity and sweetness of peach and ripe mango, the sweetness of caramel and a long green tea finish.”

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Competition-grade coffee can be very expensive, costing between $12 to $20 a cup, but you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy a warm drink.

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“I always tell people that the best coffee is the one that you like,” Pasarj said.

If he wins, he will become the first Canadian to win the Brewers Cup competition.

Pasarj said “there’s a chance” he could win, but his business partner thinks his odds of winning is higher than that.

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“I definitely would not want to compete against Ply,” said Laville with a laugh.