Thoughts on the 2013 NZBC.

baristaComp2

(photo credit: Emma Markland Webster)

Breno here.  Well, another barista competition has come and gone in NZ. This is the fourth I’ve been to since coming to this fine coffee drinking nation. Each one has been different, and at each one, I assumed a very different role. Let’s recap:

Timekeeper

2010:  (I can’t believe how much hair I’ve lost in 3 years!)  We had just arrived in NZ, so it was my first real meeting of people, competitors, movers, shakers, legends, etc. I was a runner and time keeper. Lui won.

Barista.judge

2011: I wasn’t competing, but wanted to be involved at a deeper level, so I asked to judge at the regional competition, and gained a lot of knowledge about the competition and got to know people a bit better. It made me realize how challenging and tiring judging is (props to the judges this year, huge effort). Nationals were in Wellington, Max from EW was a competitor, there were some really hot machines, it was raining, Natasha was here with her new son, and in the end, Hide won.

competitor

2012: This was my year to compete. Great experience with a great coffee and some great people around me. I ended up finishing fourth, and being very proud of the presentation and message I brought. People seemed to like it too.

So that brings us up to this year. Time has flown (insane). This year, I decided not to compete for a few reasons: 1) We are leaving the country soon. 2) I am trying to write my PhD. 3) A few other reasons which mainly steam from either 1 or 2.

mc

(photo credit: Michael CY Park)

But, I still wanted to be involved in a meaningful way. One of my favorite parts of competing last year was chatting afterwards with the MC’s. Barista competitions are good times not only for the coffee but because baristas are usually cool people. So I asked Emma if Carl (Sara of Crafted coffee and MC extrodinaire) needed an assistant MC for the weekend. This ended up being very good, very tiring, but good. As it turned out, Carl was needed to do a few other important tasks for the weekend and so his MCing was limited a bit. Which left me with the mic quite a bit of the time.

BaristaComp1

(photo credit: Emma Markland Webster)

I was okay with this, though, and embraced the awkwardness of talking to everyone/no one about things like our sponsors and other fascinating items. I also got to chat with the baristas about coffee, and things relating to it, which was the good part of it for sure. For Saturday, I was joined by David Burton, who is a legend in NZ coffee. And we teamed up to entertain and inform.

A few thoughts about this year’s competition:

1. Good to see McDonald’s getting involved. There were three competitors from McD’s and they held their own. I didn’t get to taste their coffee, but they knew what they were in for, and were prepared. As easy as it is to mock or put down their efforts, at least they showed up, and their baristas will be better for it thats for sure. Not everyone did show up.

2. Ladies! 4 of the 6 finalists were women. Good job ladies, in a traditionally male dominated sport(?) this was good to see.

BaristaComp4

(photo credit: Michael CY Park)

3. Go Hannah! Big shout out to Hannah and Akio who did EW proud. 2nd place finish is a huge result. Hannah’s presentation was polished, clear, engaging and thoughtful. She did a series of experiments with acidity which culminated in her adding acid (in the form of cherry infused lemon juice, Himalayan salt solution, and some tannic grape-seed juice) to an already acidic coffee, and then having the judges choose their accompanying sweetness, either glucose, fructose, or sucrose. It was great. Congrats Hannah.

BaristaComp5

(photo credit Michael CY Park)

4. It was cool to see people playing with smells more in their sig drinks.

5. Blends or SO? There were a bit of both going on, and if you have seen any of the latest tweets from @CoffeeGeek this is a discussion that is coming back a bit. With great coffee becoming more prevalent will blending to achieve mind-blowing become more common, or roasting to highlight an already stunning single origin become even more prevalent.

6. All the competitors did well. The finals were very tight and all the coffee was very good. These things just keep getting harder. Good job to Adisson, Hadassah, Masako, Alla, Hannah, and Nick. Great accomplishments all around.

BaristaComp3

(Top 3: photo credit Michael CY Park)

7. Nick Clark. This is our NZBC 2013 Champion. He has placed 3rd the previous 2 years, and has put in a lot of time and effort into a very clear, synthesized, presentation, highlighting a very interesting coffee. A natural (french mission natural bourbon) from Kenya. Natural processed coffees are rare in Kenya and this was a beauty. Lots of clarity for a natural, and huge fruit as you would expect, creating a complex and delicious espresso. He will represent his country well in Melbourne at Worlds in a few months. Big shout out to Nick, Richard, Steve and the whole flight team. Good job boys, go-get-em.

judges

Finally, I guess just a quick word of thanks and reflection on the whole NZ specialty coffee community. These events (along with other coffee events here) are exceptionally run. Emma is a Legend (heaps of respect for her).

Andrew

I also want to thank Andrew and the whole Espresso Workshop family for giving me a place to ply my trade, and grow as a coffee professional. To the whole NZ coffee scene, thanks for accepting me, and teaching me many things. Even though I will leave your beautiful land shortly, you will always be an amazing part of my story, and development.

Thanks, and I leave you with a bit of a benediction:

May your coffee be sweet, and full of acidity,

And may your flatwhites be not too big, and not too hot.

May your art be symmetrical and deep in contrast.

As your pallets grow in discernment,

May you source coffees from around the world,

Making connections that enrich many.

May your customers trust you as you lead them to tasty experiences.

Brew with precision, innovate with courage, and be humble!

IMG_6306

Peace, my friends!

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