JOURNAL: Taking a Coffee Class in Taiwan – Week 1: What I Like About the Class

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general information about the class

title:

Coffee Expert Class (rough translation from original Chinese title: 咖啡達人班)

summary:

To understand the process of coffee roasting, to experience selecting quality beans and the small-batch, home roasting process. To understand coffee brewing methods (syphon, moka pot …), single-origin coffee (Mandheling, Columbia …), coffee blends, latte art (cappuccino, caramel macchiato …), etc. (rough translation from original Chinese summary) 

language:

mostly Mandarin with a little bit of Taiwanese every now and then

tuition:

2500 NT + 1600 NT materials fee

time:

8 weeks total, every Friday, 19:00 – 21:00

location:

China Youth Corps (救國團總團部)
Nanjing Office (南京教堂)
2-1F, No. 164, Section 4, Nanjing East Rd., Taipei, Taiwan (台北市南京東路4段164號2樓之1)

phone:

02.2570.8075

This is the first entry of a series called “Taking a Coffee Class in Taiwan”, where I’m going to share my experience and thoughts on taking my first coffee class in Taiwan. I found out about this coffee class through a Taiwanese classmate from my weekly Tai Chi class, and the very first class was held this past Friday, May 9th.

about China Youth Corps (救國團)

The class is held by the China Youth Corps (救國團), which was originally created by the Republic of China to provide basic military training for youth before officially conscripted into the Nationalist military. Originally, China Youth Corps was a very military and politically focused organization closely tied to the Kuomintang (KMT) government. Over time, China Youth Corps has officially become a non-government organization, therefore severing its ties with the KMT party and redirecting it’s focus towards providing community recreational activities and programs for Taiwanese and Overseas Taiwanese. The coffee class I’m taking is one of many community classes offered through China Youth Corps. Other class include music, art, dance, language, baking, and handcrafts. Many of the China Youth Corp classes care catered to people already working full-time jobs with vocational interests in other areas (such as selling handmade crafts or opening a coffee shop) or people just wanting to explore a new hobby (such as dance or music).

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why I decided to take this class

REASON #1: Refine my coffee brewing skills. 

Many people might say that you don’t need to take a class in order to learn more about coffee (or any other topic/skill). You can read books, watch Youtube videos, browse websites, work at a coffee shop, and make coffee yourself at home. After all, the best way to learn is to actually do it. And so far, that’s what I’ve done to learn everything I can about coffee. However, there comes a point when you don’t really know if what you’re doing is right and you need some professional guidance. At home, I alternate between a V-shaped cone, a Hario V60 cone, and a Hario syphon when brewing my coffee. I also grind my own coffee depending on what method of brewing I use. And it’s in the process of grinding and brewing that I have so many questions about whether what I’m doing is brewing the coffee in a way that it produces the best extraction possible. So I’m hoping that through this class, I can refine some of those skills.

REASON #2: Learn basics of roasting.

While I am able to experiment with grinding and brewing coffee at home by simply buying beans and equipment, I’ve never had a chance to try my hand at roasting. I’ve read about various roasting techniques but it’s hard to really understand it without having done it yourself. I neither have the money or space for roasting so I’m glad that this class covers some basic roasting and gives us a chance to get some hands-on experience with coffee roasting.

REASON #3: It’s Affordable

If you’ve ever looked up professional coffee/barista classes, you’ll find that many of them (especially the ones authorized by the Specialty Coffee Association of America) are quite expensive. I came across one offered in Taipei that cost 17,300 NT for ten weeks of instruction. While I can understand professionals in the coffee industry or coffee shop owners investing that kind of money for more official instruction, I’m just not at a place where spending that much money would be put to good use. So this class is a nice compromise of being able to take a class and learn more about coffee without emptying my wallet.

REASON #4: Practice my Chinese

I’m trying to continuously expose myself to authentic Chinese environments where I am actively participating and using Chinese in a meaningful, interesting way. While I love to take classes based on my personal interest (ex: coffee and Taichi), I absolutely hate taking Chinese classes. I’ve taken so many Chinese class in America throughout my childhood that it doesn’t really help me improve much. So I’ve decided to seek out ways I can continue practicing and improving my Chinese but through interesting and nontraditional learning environments. With this coffee class, what better way is there to learn a language than in a setting where I’m actively using it to learn something else I’m interested in.

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coffee class journal, week 1

I have to say, my first impression of the class wasn’t great. I walked into a small kitchen (the kind that a home economics or cooking class might have), eight people sitting around a metal table in the middle, and the teacher speaking at the front. The space seemed cramped, and it seemed like the type of class where the teacher does all the talking.

But that certainly changed by the end of class. I left feeling glad that I signed up for this class and excited about next week’s session. Some of the things I really like about this class so far:

1. A Hands-on Approach

Though the first hour of the first class was used to cover some logistics and basic trajectories of the class, the second hour was purely hands-on. We were put into groups of three and given the opportunity to use a small, hand-crank drum to roast our own 100g batch of green coffee. By the end of class, each student had a batch of self-roasted coffee beans ready to take home and brew in next week’s class (reminds me of elementary school when we got to bring home projects we did at school). All in all, I’m glad the instructor spent more time allowing us to experiment ourselves and going up to her to ask questions rather than lecturing or showing us a powerpoint presentation about coffee.

2. Small Class Setting

There are a total of 9 students in my class so it’s easy to approach the teacher and ask individual questions. The class is small enough so that no one seems intimidated or too shy to raise their hand and ask questions, especially since with a topic like coffee, it’s easy to feel like the question you want to ask might be a “dumb” question.

3. The Classmates

Since there wasn’t enough equipment for each person, we were separated into groups of three to do the roasting. I found that I actually preferred to work in groups because I had the chance to interact with the other students. Even though we were all of different ages and backgrounds, the other students seemed more than willing to lend a hand and help out, such as helping you record the time for your roast’s “first crack” or helping out with clean-up at the end of class.

One Response

  1. […] and brew two types of beans: the individual batch of arabica beans from Costa Rica that we roasted during Week 1 and a new batch of robusta beans from Java that the teacher has provided for us. The teacher […]

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