NZ Latte Art Champion Hoony Chae hits new heights

Hoony Chae

New Zealand Latte Art Champion Hoony Chae relives his World Coffee Championship experience and why reality can bite.

Often, the journey is as important as the destination. Especially when it takes 26 hours and four flights to get from New Zealand to Berlin for the World Coffee Championships. I talked to Hoony Chae about his experience representing NZ at the World Latte Art Championship (WLAC) in June.

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

Hoony has entered the Meadow Fresh NZ Latte Art Championship (MFNZLAC) three times. When he describes standing with the top six finalists in 2019, he says: “I was very nervous and excited to hear the results. It reached the point where only the top two were left. It was when emcee Alan Bruce called out the name for runner-up, I realised I’d just become the champion of MFNZLAC 2019.” 

Hoony “teared up” as he remembered all the time that he had spent preparing for the competition and was pleased to have persisted. His next thoughts were of being “extremely happy and honoured to be a champion”.  He also knew he had a lot of work to do to reach the WLAC level. 

“Luckily, I had Team Mojo and Team New Zealand on my back. I could never fit it in without their help,” he says.

One of the concerns Hoony faced was knowing that other competitors had at least three months’ preparation time, some as much as eight. He finalised his patterns just one week before Berlin. He had also never poured with a 600-millilitre jug and was not confident with a bigger 300-millilitre cup. 

Watching at home online, a big group of the NZ coffee community gathered to cheer on their champion. However, on reflection, Hoony says his time on stage was not perfect.

“I was super nervous but did my best to calm down and pretend to be confident,” he says. “I can’t really remember what I did on the stage.”

Backstage however, Hoony enjoyed helping and getting to know other barista competitors. He says the WLAC experience was a big learning opportunity and next time, with his goal to be a WLAC finalist, he wants to improve his time management and preparation skills.

“I don’t think I prepared enough for the world stage. If I’d started practicing for the WLAC while I was preparing for the national [championship], I think the result in Berlin might have been different.”

For newcomers, Hoony recommends that artists “read the rules and regulations and really study and analyse how to gain scores for each category”.

Hoony hopes to defend his title at the NZLAC on 1 March 2020 in Auckland. 

 “I really wish to have another opportunity on the world stage,” Hoony says. “I would love to try again, with a better performance and even better signature patterns and use all things that I have learnt from the world stage experience.” 

This article appears in the August edition of BeanScene Magazine. Subscribe HERE.

Image: Rosa Friend

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