Far far away towards the bottom of the earth is a lovely little city called Wellington (aka. Middle Earth) the capital of New Zealand, the town responsible for these two:
and this year the home of the New Zealand Barista Championships.
Moi, and the 2008 Australian Barista Champion David Makin on top of Mt. Victoria overlooking Wellington.
Australia and New Zealand have shared a unique exchange programme since 2002 – allowing the champion barista from one nation to compete in the other’s national barista competition, usually as the ‘calibration’ barista before the Finals competition starts. We’ve found over the years it takes at least one ’guinea pig’ competitor to get all seven judges thinking cohesively and this has also been a great way for our competitors to get experience with international judges and test how our respective coffees and roasts travel on international airlines.
We tasted each of Dave’s coffees just to see how the air travel treated them and how they’d perform on foreign soil!
Too much espresso….
This year, for a change Australia finished their national competition (on 4th May) first – and fresh from his extraordinary victory (with 848.5 points) in Melbourne for the Australian Barista Championships David Makin travelled across the ditch to line up agains the best NZ had to offer.
I was lucky enough to be invited by the ever lovely Emma Markland Webster of the NZCRA to participate as a sensory judge for the TEN finalists (agh!) and check out the amazing Wellington coffee scene. New Zealand has the highest number of micro roasteries per capita in the world and will be an international force to reckon with in years to come. It is after all the place that let Carl Sara loose on the world (NZ Champ in 2004, 05 & 07) and WBC finalist 3 times – ranking 3rd after James Hoffmann and Heather Perry last year in Tokyo. Rumour has it Carl will also be an MC in Copenhagen in just three weeks time…
The host for the NZBC finals in 2008 was the awsome and truly funky Wellington icon Caffe L’Afarre
and they put on a great show – clearing their usual showroom and seating area to make way for the two competition stations as well as providing food and coffee all day long…
On the day of the final, there was a minor setback, when the over zealous construction workers outside the Cafe decided to punch a hole in the water mains… so the machines had to be switched over to tanks rather abruptly!
It was a long day, but a great day, it’s always a blessing to be able to judge baristas but especially competitors, coffees and countries you are not always familiar with. It reminds you how awesome this community is, and how passionate people are about coffee all around the world.
Wellington City Council got right behind the NZBC this year, with media support as well as a huge billboard in the city centre and organising TV and newspapers to be there on the day.
Six hours and 30 espresso shots later, the New Zealand 2008 Barista Champion was announced. None other than Brazilian native but New Zealand national Luciano Marcolini from Christchurch was the winner, and will now represent along side approximately 50 other countries in Copenhagen at the WBC in just over three weeks from now.
I also learned two new things in New Zealand in the four days I was there.
1. You cannot win Texas Hold’em Poker with six cards (three pairs no less! Thanks Carl! x x)
2. I am crap at Latte Art SMACKDOWN!