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Barista Suavecito - Guo’s Mountain Man Journey

Prologue: Kelvin Yap | Editor: Amir Alamdari


Let’s continue our fool's stories from last last week. 

“Once an impulsive decision has been made, this fool has to face it.

Being passionate and disciplined yet somewhat stubborn is usually misunderstood by others. No one in this world is perfect, and criticism is never as pleasant as sweet talk. 

However, feedback (even when it seems like pure criticism) is essential for one’s growth, and if we completely reject that and don’t reflect on this, we will eventually get stuck in complacency. 

This fool totally understands that this impulsive decision will not be an easy path. This is the path that will drive you to continuously seek out criticism and always remind yourself to never get stuck in complacency. 

From every bit of feedback & criticism we can always glean some valuable perspective on how we improve ourselves. 

This fool slowly came to understand this, and eventually became more conscious about every feedback and how to take it constructively. 

He took it to the extreme by hitting the record of not sleeping for more than 72 hours while trying to figure out how to improve and better oneself! 

Sacrificing everything, family time, friendships, weekends and more, just for the sake of improving himself from all the feedback. 

Staring out the window watching the sun set, street lights turn on, passers-by getting fewer and fewer, and the sun rise again, repeating every single day. 

Is he really happy and are all the sacrifices worth it? He always ponders this question. What is he rushing for exactly? All these radical ways eventually need to stop… he started to slow down a bit…. ”

to be continued

This fool’s stories are actually a reflection of how most of the people in the city rush and chase after their career success. We often strive for completing our tasks with lighting speed, greater efficiency, hitting our KPIs. 

However, have we ever thought about the difference between completing and striving? We can complete all our tasks but still fail if we are not sure what we are striving for. 

But, what is more important is, despite how many times you fail, you never give up—tough times don’t last but tough people do. Keep going regardless how. 

Let’s see how our Barista Sauvecito (Guo) keeps going in this week’s story.

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The Origin of My Name “Xiao San” (Little Three)

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My name is Guo Chongbin, but most of people call me “Guo Xiaosan” (Little Three). 

Many people ask me, “What is the origin of the name of Xiaosan?” My dad and their generation have 7 brothers and sisters. My dad is the second child, everyone calls him “Guo Er” (Guo Two). 

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When I was a child, an uncle of our neighbor said “Since your father is called Guo Er, then you should be ‘Guo San’ (Guo Three)!” The name Guo San accompanied me throughout my childhood, until much later when it became “Guo Xiaosan”, and then I became “Xiaosan” to everyone.

Stumbled Life

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When I was a child, I loved to watch Japanese anime. Every time I saved my money, I would buy a variety of things related to anime, and even taught myself to draw comics for a while. I dreamt of being a cartoonist in Japan until I became fascinated by basketball. I think I was lucky to gradually move on from the idea of going to Japan for development.

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After high school, I should have successfully completed college like all my friends, but suddenly I fell into the first troubles of my life because of overwhelming feelings of frustration and depression. 

I skipped classes, indulged in online games, and had distance with my roommates. I felt depressed, and I dropped out of school to spend a period of time before I could regain the courage to face life. 

(I should say that it’s not good to fall in love with a girl very early!) 

Fortunately, my family gave me another chance, and finally I graduated from university.

I successfully landed my first job right after my university, however within a month I quit because of the laid-back company culture. 

I got my second job because of my good looks, learn how to be a good HR in a big company. The scope of work was pretty relaxed, good compensation. Unfortunately, this job didn’t last long either, because the company forced to shut down due to a law suit only three months time after I joined. 

So I tried different jobs in different businesses, including computer clerk, wedding planner, micro-loan manager, but the longest job was no more than three months. Until fate brought me to Torch.

Coffee & Torch

Even before joining the coffee industry, coffee wasn’t a stranger to me, but I didn’t really understand it either. I never expected that I would be in coffee industry one day. 

When I first joined Torch, our cafe was still under renovation and I worked as a lab assistant, sometimes helping with renovations, so sometimes I feel like Torch Cafe is like my baby. 

Eventually, our cafe opened and after some training, I was assigned as a barista in the cafe. Coffee professionals were coming from all over the world to visit us. I felt like I was in the wrong place all of a sudden, with very limited experience, and thought of giving up altogether. 

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There is a lot to deal with and a lot of struggling in learning the necessary skills, but I took things step by step to learn how to be a barista.

Learning is a Life-long Process

Learning is a long and painful process for me, and initially I was so into pouring nice latte art that I once dreamed of participating in competition and becomeing a famous barista. 

However, all this was just a dream or I shall say this was just my personal fantasy. I am not a quick learner but I was surprised that there were sponsors interested to push me to the championship. 

After that, I shifted my focus on training others. Passing all my knowledge and skills to them. Meanwhile, teaching others also pushed me to keep improving myself. 

Unforgettable Experience as a Barista

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While on duty as a barista, I have a few unforgettable experiences. Many people often said you will get a lot of girls trying to strike up a conversation with you. 

But, it seems like I attract more guys than girls… 

It was a really funny and unforgettable experience. I am rarely on duty now but shifted more to managing, but I still think that the best experience is building your solid foundation as a barista. Greeting everyone who came to the cafe and making the best coffee possible for your customers. 

Despite knowing that your skills may not be the best, putting your full efforts forth to make things great, perhaps that is what drew me to be in love with this industry from the beginning. 

My Glory Moment as a Mountain Man

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In 2017, TORCH launched the mountain man project where coffee enthusiasts came from all over China to stay in the mountains and process coffee along side the farmers. I was not part of this initially. 

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Out of nowhere, my boss assigned me to be one of the mountain men. Asking me to stay in the mountain. This is how my glory moment as a mountain man began. 

Staying in the mountain was a joy for me, as I would always head back to my hometown since primary school. But this time was slightly different, I am not back for vacation but back to the mountains with work to do. 

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Being a mountain man was not as hard as I were expected, but that has been the toughest and the most memorable time during my time in the coffee industry . For example, as mountain men we were tasked to purchase high quality coffee cherries from the coffee farmer, and after that we need to process it accordingly. We strongly believe that a good specialty coffee should start from the first stage—getting high quality coffee cherries. Hence we are very picky during this first stage. 

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However in practice, challenges often arise. Coffee farmers were used to the previous standards and prices. The coffee cherries sent to us didn’t even meet the minimum requirement. With strong emphasis on what we can offer with a higher price, they eventually realized that high quality coffee cherries can bring more income to them. 

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With that in their minds, we saw significant improvements of the coffee cherries sent by the coffee farmers, and soon all coffee cherries sent to us met our standards. 

I was curious why farmers didn’t always pick the highest quality coffee cherries in the first place, but what I learned about the coffee farmers really caught me off guard. 

In the past, the purchasers never really cared about the quality at all. Even with the highest quality coffee cherries, the prices were already fixed. So they stopped caring about getting higher quality coffee cherries, and instead just focused on the volume of their yield. 

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I realized that we also can’t fully blame the purchaser, as there were many more factors involved. But, if we look at it closely, the consequences will affect the entire Pu’er coffee industry to become a second tier or even third tier level of coffee. 

This is not something we hope to see in the coffee that represent China, Yunnan, or Pu’er. 

I am fortunate to have been part of the mountain man project. Through this experience I not only learned how to process coffee, but this also helped me to chart my future coffee career path. Perhaps this might be the tiny effort that all coffee people can contribute to coffee in China. 

Life Outside Coffee

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After all this serious talk, I am still a pretty laid back person. 

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To this day, I still like anime, basketball, swimming, hitting the gym, fishing, playing online games,  watching movies and other hobbies.

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Last but not least, I like to hit the club with the editor as well! 

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The Coffee Seed was Planted in My Heart, 

Now It’s Time to Sprout

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Time flies. It’s already been 2 years since I joined the coffee industry. Perhaps it’s still relatively short compared to other coffee professionals, but I have had a really awesome experience in this short time with coffee.

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Coffee has become an irreplaceable part of my life.

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I might not be able to become the most famous barista, or I might change my career path later, but a coffee seed was planted deep down in my heart, and now what’s left for it is to sprout. 


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While you keep racing towards your goals, the truth is that life is not a race. It’s really a long marathon filled with opportunities to grow, find joy, and spread happiness. 

Despite all of us starting at different spaces and places when we are born, those who live the best & fullest life don’t focus on what’s fleeting & temporary, but instead focus on making it all the way through to the end by enjoying every single moment of growing and learning.