Yoshikazu Iwase has a tough act to top. As he heads to the World Barista Championship (WBC) in Seattle this month, he'll be following in the wake of Maruyama Coffee's Hidenori Izaki, the barista prodigy who last year became the first Japanese — and, indeed, Asian — competitor to win the title.

Can Iwase replicate the feat? He already caused a minor upset at the Japan Barista Championship last September, when he broke Maruyama's five-year winning streak to claim the prize for Rec Coffee, the Fukuoka-based chain that he co-founded with former university pal Osamu Kitazoe.

Iwase's winning routine that time around culminated with a signature drink that blended espresso, Chinese tea and wasanbon sugar, but he says he's got something "completely different" in store for the WBC judges this month.