Freda Yuan: The Sprudge Twenty Interview

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Freda Yuan (Photo by Gary Handley)

Welcome to The Sprudge Twenty Interviews presented by Pacific Barista Series. Over the next few weeks, we’ll be featuring our 2019 featured class of Sprudge Twenty honorees, each one changing the coffee game worldwide. For a complete list of 2019 Sprudge Twenty honorees please visit sprudge.com/twenty.

Freda Yuan is an accomplished coffee professional based in London. She is the Head of Coffee at Origin Coffee Roasters; a two-time UK Cup Tasters Champion, placing 3rd in the world at the World Cup Tasters Championship in 2017; a licensed Q Grader and SCA educator in both English and Mandarin; and an MBA from Middlesex University. Yuan has worked many roles throughout her coffee career and has been a vocal champion for recovery and advocacy related to eating disorders.

Nominated by Cat O’Shea

What issue in coffee do you care about most?

Substantiality of the coffee business and coffee supply chain especially from farm and environmental perspectives.

What cause or element in coffee drives you?

Sensory and connection with people. I suffered from bulimia and depression before. Through tasting coffee, it increased my self-awareness in not just tasting but also other elements in life. It also helps me to recover from the conditions and now engage with more like-minded people.

What issue in coffee do you think is critically overlooked?

Sugar, milk, and decaf. I personally think people should enjoy whatever coffees they like. The specialty coffee industry is still too small. To be able to expand to broader audience, we should be more approachable to the general public.

What is the quality you like best about coffee?

Sweetness. I always look for sweet and balanced coffee when I source. It’s always been my thing.

Did you experience a “god shot” or life-changing moment of coffee revelation early in your career?

I dialed-in one decaf coffee in my early barista life. The espresso was really sweet and juicy. That is when I realized decaf coffee can be good, too.

What is your idea of coffee happiness?

It is when we are not distracted by phones or any other conversation with friends, but just stop for moment and truly focus on the cup of coffee in our hands. The story behind that moment can be one of hardship—hardship of producing, roasting, and brewing—but this is what helps make the coffee truly stand out.

If you could have any job in the coffee industry, what would it be and why?

I am the head of coffee of Origin Coffee Roasters in UK. I am very proud to say that it is my current dream job. Not only that I source quality coffees for Origin, I also set up many internal and external educational events to encourage everyone to pursue their passions.

Who are your coffee heroes?

Anette Moldvaer and Sara Morrocchi. They both are doing some incredible work at origin.

If you could drink coffee with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?

Eckhart Tolle. His books make me understand and appreciate life more.

If you didn’t get bit by the coffee bug, what do you think you’d be doing instead?

Maybe restaurant management or textile related work. These were my life before coffee.

Do you have any coffee mentors?

I am really lucky that I was supported by many great coffee people. Sam Langdon from Caravan Coffee Roasters was one of the guys who really saw my talent and took me under his wings.

What do you wish someone would’ve told you when you were first starting out in coffee?

Relax, it is just coffee. This universe is bigger than coffee.

Name three coffee apparatuses you’d take into space with you.

Comandante grinder, Kalita Wave 185 and filters, and Brewista Scale. These are my travel essentials.

Best song to brew coffee to?

Actually I’ve never thought about this! I don’t play music when I brew coffee.

Look into the crystal ball—where do you see yourself in 20 years?

My crystal ball is very murky still. I hope I can contribute more work at origin and do more promoting specialty coffee and mental illness awareness to general public.

What’d you eat for breakfast this morning?

Passionfruit flavored granola with banana and PG Tips tea with Oatly.

When did you last drink coffee?

This morning.

What was it?

Werka Wuri from Caravan.

Thank you. 

The Sprudge Twenty is presented by Pacific Barista Series. For a complete list of 2019 Sprudge Twenty honorees please visit sprudge.com/twenty

Zachary Carlsen is a co-founder and editor at Sprudge Media Network. Read more Zachary Carlsen on Sprudge. 

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