Nicky Voon of 103 COFFEE, winner of the 2024 Malaysia Latte Art Championship, reflects on the road to success

May 31, 2024


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Now a three-time title-holder in Malaysia's Latte Art Championship, barista Nicky Voon of 103 COFFEE is reflecting on her recent triumph in the national tournament.

She trained for five hours every night for two months, crafting latte art for 100 brews each time, on top of making coffee for customers at 103's cafes. Hunched over countless cups, she persevered through posture pains, taking up physical therapy for her shoulders.

“I worked like a machine, performing non-stop pouring. The process helped me refine the details of my latte art patterns. One by one, I adjusted my angles for each cup to continue improving," Nicky told EDKL in an interview this week.

"During the championship last weekend, I was quite nervous, because you can’t anticipate what will happen - but I feel very relaxed right now," Nicky admits.

Set to represent Malaysia for the third time in next year's World Latte Art Championship, Nicky is inspiring the next generation of baristas with her discipline and determination.

Fun fact: 103 COFFEE’s baristas have now won the Malaysia Latte Art Championship for six consecutive years!

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Nicky's journey as a barista began a dozen years ago, when she started working at a cafe near her home in Seri Kembangan to earn extra pocket money as a secondary school student. 

At the age of 15, she pursued a passion in latte art, learning through YouTube before following latte artists on social media.

Nicky believes in the beauty of latte art, striving to create a wholesome experience where patrons can slow down and appreciate their coffee better.

She eventually became a fan of 103 COFFEE's co-founder Irvin Quek and joined his team in 2016, two years before Irvine won the World Latte Art Championship 2018 in Brazil. 

Irvine and 103 COFFEE's owners, Ken Wong and Jewel Ting, became Nicky's mentors. In less than a decade, she's now 103's Head Trainer, using her experience and expertise to guide the brand's youngest baristas.

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Nicky’s intricate artwork is inspired by animals, a theme that sparks conversations.

“When we do artwork animals, the first impression among customers is very strong," Nicky says. "Oh, it’s a dog! Oh, it’s a bear!”

Nicky harnessed her skills to create a rooster, mountain goat and elephant in her three designs for this year's national tournament.

For budding baristas, Nicky says consistency in training is key. Latte art requires constant recalibration, since heat and temperature impact the consistency of the barista's creations. Nicky's espresso settings in the morning are always different from the evening, 

Practise keeping your hands steady, Nicky notes - a necessity for baristas competing under the close scrutiny of judges, camera crews and an attentive audience. 

“I remember during my first competition, my hands were not shaking, but my whole body was shaking.” Despite her jitters, her art turned out to be competition-worthy.

Next year, Nicky will represent Malaysia in the World Latte Art Championship for the third time. She has improved in each participation, being a semi-finalist in Berlin in 2019 and a finalist in Warsaw in 2022 - a notable international feat for someone who considers English her fourth language after Cantonese, Mandarin and Hokkien.

Through it all, she keeps her mind laser-focused on the attributes tattooed on her arms - 'humble' and 'effort' - reminders to do her best and learn as much as possible from others.

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Follow Nicky's latte art journey at instagram.com/nickyyeahh___
Follow 103 COFFEE at instagram.com/103coffee_official