Project Description

United Kingdom
Diana Johnston

Please tell us a little about yourself: 

Coffee came early in my life, because I grew up visiting my grandfather who was working on the coffee farms in Mexico. I can still remember that specific aroma that used to drift into my room in the early morning—coffee being freshly roasted on the stove top. My grandmother or grandfather would wake up early in the morning and roast some coffee with cinnamon on the stove, and then grind and brew it. I used to enjoy a little bit with milk, pretending to be an adult like the rest of my family, as you do when you are small. In those moments I never imagined that coffee would become such a part of my life. But as I grew older I become fascinated with not just the cultural and ceremonial aspect of coffee, but also the scientific side.

My first job in coffee was during high school as a Barista for Starbucks and it was here my interest in coffee grew, particularly from a sensory perspective. While at University I continued working in the industry, eventually become a company trainer for Peet’s Coffee and Tea in Berkeley, California. Now with 15 years of experience in the field working across various parts of the business from quality control to roasting to green, I am a regular on the coffee competition scene. 2017 saw me compete in 10 competitions including all UK SCA comps as well as Coffee Masters, Aeropress and more. This was the first time (as far as I am aware) anyone had done that. I am certified as an AST in both Green Coffee and Sensory, and I am the Head of Quality for DRWakefield, a green importer based in London.

As a person, I’d call myself eccentric, eclectic, and striving ever more to be a renaissance man – you know – like da Vinci or Michelangelo. Ever since I was really young, I liked the idea of studying many things to come up with new ideas. People think that all I do is coffee, but it’s not. I also create film and music; I’ve been doing so for some time.

Please list the coffee competitions you have participated in, what year they took place, and your results:

2013 UKBC – Not sure of placing (first coffee competition)
2014 UKBC – Semi-finalist
2014 UKCIGS – 5th place
2014- Scottish Aeropress  – 3rd place
2015 UKBC – Finalist (6th place)
2016 UKBC – Semifinalist
2016 UKCIGS – Unsure place
2017 UKBC – Finalist (6th place)
2017 UKCIGS  – 3rd Place
2017 UKBrC – Finalist (6th place)
2017 UK Roasting Competition – 7th place
2017 London Coffee Masters – Quarterfinalist
2017 UK Cuptasters – Not sure of placing
2017 UK Latte Art – Unsure of placing
2017 Aeropress – Unsure of placing
2017 Prufrock Brewing Competition – Finalist (second place?)
2017 Another brewing competition but i don’t remember its name – Finalist
2018 UKBC – Semifinalist
2018 UKBrC – 3rd Place
2018 UK Roasting Competition – 9th Place
2019 UK Roasting Competition – CHAMPION (current)

* In addition I have just been selected to compete in Los Angeles Coffee Masters just before the World Roasting Championship in Taipei

What are you excited to do while you are in Taipei?:

I am really excited to meet all of the other National Champions. This competition is my favourite one as I really feel that it brings the community together. Because you have several days together, you really get a nice opportunity to share the experience together.

In addition, I am looking forward to exploring the city and learning about the culture of Taiwan, both in terms of coffee and day to day life. I really hope to go see some of the temples, try many different foods, see cafes, and learn more about that side of the world.

Which coffee-producing country most interests or excites you?:

At the moment Brazil. It’s one of those origins that is so commonly underestimated! It is the biggest coffee producer and everyone expects basic chocolate and nuts, but in fact there is so much more going on out there. Brazil has the history and technology to really experiment with coffee, both in agronomy and processing in a controlled way, and are able to achieve stunning results.

What are your interests outside of coffee?:

Filmmaking, Music, Languages, Travel, Fashion, and Vintage things.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?:

Roasting and Sourcing Coffee.

Is there anyone you would like to thank or recognize, or who helped you to prepare for the competition?:

Jamie Treby, my coach. Everyone at DRWakefield, especially Simon Wakefield (the owner). My family and friends who have been there for my during the many times I haven’t won, and inspired me to keep going. You know who you are!