Dove Chen flies high, again

NZSCA barista champion

The NZSCA inducts a two-time barista champion and celebrates outstanding milk and newcomers to the New Zealand coffee industry.

Winning a national competition of any description is challenging in itself, be it surfing, dog breeding or cake decorating. But winning a national title for a second time is the sign of a determined, dedicated and passionate champion, and that’s what we discovered in Dove Chen this year.

Emma McDougall is the Communications and Administration Co-ordinator of the NZSCA.

Due to the World Barista Championships (WBC) occurring in line with the Specialty Coffee Association Expo in Boston in April, the timeline to host the 2019 New Zealand Barista Championship was shortened. Given that we only had nine competitors in the field last year and a shorter timeframe to find a champion, it was imperative to gain momentum and regenerate the competition, and that we did. This year’s event saw a sell-out field of 22 competitors, including a former champion.   

After an incredible final on 3 February, it was the experienced hand of Dove Chen who won the 2019 Meadow Fresh New Zealand Barista Championship. Dove, of Grey Street Kitchen in Hamilton, had previously placed eighth in 2015, third (by two points) in 2016, and first in 2017.

After four years on the competition circuit, Dove says it was the theme of happiness that inspired him to compete once again. 

“I didn’t give myself any pressure on the result. My goal was to deliver my happy coffees to my happy customers, [or] in this case, the judges,” he says.

Dove says the feedback he received in the previous year’s debrief was that his routine lacked personality. That valuable feedback inspired Dove to bring more colour to his routine, while making his presentation simpler and more focused on the sensory experience. 

Dove also credits a strong team effort including his wife Amy Chen, coaches Sam Low and David Huang, roaster Han Sol Kim, roaster and mentor John Gordon, and Dan Webster, Toni Izard-Price, Ria Lingad, Stu Hargie, Glenn Woodcock and the Grey Street Kitchen team.

For his routine, Dove used an anaerobic natural Gesha coffee from Finca Nuguo, Panama. Han Sol Kim from Handpicked Coffee drum-roasted the coffee for Dove’s espresso and signature drink courses. “We focused on the balanced taste as well as showcasing all the flavours from the coffee,” he says.

John Gordon, 2018 Meadow Fresh New Zealand Barista Champion hot air roasted the coffee for the milk-based beverage course. “John used halogen to penetrate the inner beans during the drying phrase, in order to achieve the perfect development percentage in a fast roast,” Dove says.

Dove was also the recipient of this year’s NZSCA Most Outstanding Milk Beverage Award as voted by consumers. He spent a lot of time experimenting with different milk to match the roasting style and decided to use the competition naming rights sponsor Meadow Fresh because it helped complement his concept of ‘sweetness and happiness’ in his milk coffee beverage. In this beverage he achieved flavours of banana milk, and Kiwi confectionary icon ‘pineapple lumps’. 

For his signature beverage, Dove had a clear idea from the start. 

“This coffee is very special to me as it brought back my happy memories when I visited the producer José and Finca Nuguo.  The anaerobic natural process was one of the methods that José and I discussed before the harvest. It just stood out from other experiments, so I used different ingredients to represent and celebrate this process in the signature drink,” Dove says.

The NZSCA would like to thank our sponsors for making Dove’s championship campaign possible, and congratulate Kenneth Te of Society Coffee in Auckland who won $2000 cash as this year’s Best Newcomer, awarded to a first time competition entrant. 

As for the second-time WBC competitor Dove, he will fly the flag for New Zealand in Boston from 11 to 14 April. 

The New Zealand coffee industry is behind Dove as he flies high, again. 

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