My heart is full and exhausted, but so very proud, after taking in what was an intense weekend of coffee in Wellington… it’s tough to know where to start.
The 2012 Barista Championships, held in the lovely Michael Fowler Centre in downtown Wellington, was a fabulous venue to watch the country’s best baristas go head-to-head (or should I say tamper to tamper) with their espressos, cappuccinos, and signature drinks.
Although this was the third National Barista Championship I have attended in NZ, I have to say the emotional intensity of the experience is definitely heightened when your husband is no longer a time keeper or judge, but one of the competitors.
Brendon had been in intense training for the past two months in preparation for this event, practicing his set multiple times per week at the cafe and rehearsing his speech whenever he got the chance.
According to the judges, this was one of the steepest competitions in recent times. The calibre of performances in the finals was extremely high, making the margin for error extremely narrow.
As a first time competitor, Brendon came in as a dark horse and blew everyone away with his exemplary communication skills and astonishing comfort level on stage. After a very successful run in the heats, and an improved run in the semi’s, he won over many hearts and pallets and found himself in the final round (top 6) of the competition.
While I admit that I am writing this from a completely biased perspective, it was pretty apparent that Brendon brought something pretty special to the table.
His set: mezmerizing, inspiring, and spine tingling.
There was something larger he came to do beyond introducing the judges to an excellent coffee and pull some dang good shots of espresso: He had things he came here to say, and in the end, he did all that and more.
In an extensive “post game interview,” he was given the chance to say a few more things about the coffee industry, and even give a shout out to Poul Mark, Josh Hockin, and Transcend Coffee in Edmonton.
In the end, Brendon earned the fourth spot in the country, and top place in Auckland. Coming in first place was Aymon McQuade from Wellington, followed by Chloe Zhou from Crafted Coffee in Christchurch, and Nick Clark from Flight Coffee in Wellington.
To be honest, I never would have been able to pick the top 2. You really can’t tell, from any other position other than the sensory judges, what the coffee tastes like. Unless you’re a technical judge, you aren’t really able to pick up on shot times or many of the other technical aspects that are measured.
What was definitely evident to the spectators, however, was the heart that goes into a presentation and the genuine passion with which one speaks. Brendon won the hearts of many, and I have a feeling he’ll be back on the competition scene again, if not next year, then in future years in Canada.
Supporting Brendon through the process of training and competing in a barista competition is something that I am very new to. I wasn’t sure what it would all involve, but I have to say, I am SO grateful for all of the amazing people who have also been a support to Brendon along the way. From roasting and sorting the coffee beans, to watching and giving feedback on practice runs, there were many people who deserve a massive THANK YOU for supporting Brendon through this process.
A big shout out goes out to Brandon and Kristen, as well as Andrew and Joe from Espresso Workshop for being part of “Team Breno” this weekend. A big thanks also goes out to Simon from the NZ Barista Guild and Cris from Espresso Workshop for all of your support and input.
Something I really enjoy about coffee events is all the great people that turn up. The coffee industry is full of some really stellar people, so it’s really nice to see some kind, familiar faces, and meet some new ones too. Ben Rugg, our very first barista in NZ, was competing again this year, so it was nice to catch up with him and see him make the semi-finals as well. We also had the pleasure of meeting some awesome ladies from Melbourne Coffee Merchants, the people who actually sourced Brendon’s coffee.
All I can say now is just how proud I am of him. Brendon did what he came to do, and did it with outstanding class, genuinity, and confidence. (And looked pretty darn handsome out there, if I do say so myself.) He left it all out there on the bench, and held nothing back.
Coming soon: Brendon’s take on the barista championships.