In the heart of vibrant Barcelona, where life is at a rapid pace and thousands of litres of coffee are consumed daily, Junzhi Liu stands as the maestro orchestrating beautiful coffee moments so his guests can slow down for a moment and just enjoy. At 28 years old, Liu, originally hailing from Qingtian, China, has carved his own path in the rich coffee culture of Barcelona.
Liu is the roaster, head barista and proud owner of Brew Coffee, two cosy havens for coffee enthusiasts seeking not just a coffee but a tasting experience. Liu’s journey in the coffee industry began in 2019, and over the past five years, Junzhi has meticulously sharpened his craft.
Liu after competing in various coffee challenges was awarded the Best Barista and the Second Best Roaster at the 2023 BCN Coffee Awards.
Liu, what is your first memory of coffee?
My first memory is that I was not too fond of it at all. It was bitter and not very enjoyable to drink.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the coffee industry, and how did you get started? What did you do before coffee?
After drinking a lot of specialty and getting in touch with the vibe of the community, the potential I saw in it inspired and motivated me to open my own café. Before specialty, I worked in regular cafeterias.
Tell us a bit about your cafés.
The name Brew Coffee reflects our commitment to perfecting recipes for the ideal filter coffee, shared with everyone. Our goal is to offer the finest methods and coffees worldwide, constantly collaborating with like-minded roasters to have their beans in our shop. We extend the same care and passion to our entire menu, being equally proud of our matcha, chai, and homemade cakes.
What kind of experience do you want your customers to have when they visit your place?
My primary objective is to create a space where people can genuinely enjoy coffee, not just drink it. Fueled by our passion for filter coffee, we want to share this love with a diverse audience, from newcomers to enthusiasts alike. I focus on finding the perfect flavour profile for each customer, challenging common notions about coffee bitterness daily. Recognizing the subjective nature of coffee preferences, we provide personalized service to understand and cater to individual tastes.
Additionally, I aim to enhance customers’ understanding of our craft by explaining the journey from bean to cup. I aim not only to showcase our work but also to clarify the reasons behind the unique taste of each coffee, highlighting the intricacies of the entire process.
What is your favourite part of the day in your cafe, and why?
Opening hour is a peaceful moment, one where I get to calibrate everything in tune with my vision. The potential of the day’s coffees starts in the morning.
How do you stay motivated and inspired to keep improving your coffee-making skills?
My strong bond and relationship with coffee drive me to understand it to the best of my ability. To improve my understanding, I constantly strive to better myself.
You’re quite well known for amazing cupping/cup-tasting skills. Do you cup a lot?
I don’t cup a lot, however, each cupping is highly comprehensive. I typically incorporate around 7 or 8 origins, a variety of processes and change some other variables. This approach has proven the most efficient for expanding my sensory memory bank. I believe my success in cupping at the BCN Coffee Awards is thanks to this method.
You’ve been awarded the Best Barista title on the BCN Coffee Awards. How did it feel?
I view the championship as if it were an exam, where the outcome mirrors the invested effort. Winning filled me with pride, as I am intimately aware of the preparation and work that I put into the competition.
Liu while getting announced as Best Barista during BCN Coffee Awards.
What do you think is the most important quality for a barista to have, and why?
I think it’s most important to create a connection with the guest that is expressed not just verbally, but through coffee.
What kind of community do you hope to build around your cafe, and how do you plan to foster that sense of community?
I hope to build a community between the baristas, roasters and the guests. Building a three-way bridge where we can all learn from each other and grow together, I would like to eventually host cuppings, events as well as some other projects that are in the works.
What coffee challenges are you looking forward to? Any new projects or collaborations?
My next big goal is to enter the Barista Championship and expand and advance as a roaster to reach broader markets. I want also to grow Brew Coffee as a brand.
Quick Fire Questions for Junzhi Liu:
Would you serve filter coffee with milk if asked for it?
I would first ask why, then if they still want it, serve it on the side.