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The New Zealand Specialty Coffee Association (NZSCA) has crowned its first two coffee champions for 2017.

A strong crowd of about 80 people packed into L’affare in Melrose in Auckland on 17 March, cheering on each round of the fast-paced, lively NZ Cup Tasters Championship.

Ken Shi from Roma Coffee won the Championship, with Michael Stevens from Ozone Coffee Roasters placing second, and Takahito Koyanagi from Toasted Espresso placing third.

This event rewarded the coffee cupper who demonstrated speed, skill and accuracy in distinguishing the taste differences in specialty coffees.

Ken won the event with a score of eight out of eight cups correctly guessed in a time of five minutes and 17 seconds. Ken is a veteran competitor in the NZ Barista and Latte Art Championships, and a first-time Cup Taster competitor.

Hot on the heels of the Cup Tasters competition, the NZ Brewers Cup on 18 March attracted a total of seven competitors at John Burton Limited/Jacks Coffee.

In a tightly-fought battle of the brews, Nara Lee from Black and Gold Coffee Eatery in Auckland won the NZ Brewers Cup.

Sarah Stephens from Mojo Coffee placed second, and Dianne Wang fromToolbox Plus placed third.

The Brewers Cup event highlights the craft of filter coffee brewing by hand in a two-stage championship, an open service and compulsory service.

During the open service, competitors used any whole bean coffee of their choosing and accompanied their beverage preparation with a presentation. Nara’s winning coffee was a washed Pacamara from Hacienda Don Julian in Panama.

In contrast, during the compulsory service competitors prepared three beverages with the whole bean coffee provided to them by the competition sponsor, which was a Gatare from Rwanda.

Compulsory service judge Emily Zielinski, a Q-grader and coffee roaster at Ozone Coffee Roasters, said this year’s competitors face a tough set of conditions to score highly.

“It’s incredible how the same coffee can taste completely different during the compulsory service part of the competition. The coffees are tasted blind, with judges having no insight into the brew method or competitor. Each cup flavour is affected by brew time, brew method, water temperature, and grind,” Emily says. “To score highly in the compulsory service, the coffee must have qualities of acidity, be balanced with sweetness and body, and have great flavour.”

Ken and Nara will now compete in the World Cup Tasters and World Brewers Cup respectively in Budapest, Hungary from 13 – 15 June.

The NZSCA says it couldn’t run these events without “fabulous” volunteers and sponsors.

A big “thank you” to sponsors Ozone Coffee Roasters, Marco, Cafetto, AMC Roastery Supply NZ, Acme & Co, event partner Huhtamaki, and to Emma Markland-Webster and Jessica MacDonald for organising the events.

The next NZ Coffee Championship event will be its National Meadow Fresh NZ Latte Art Championship, taking place on 8 April.

For more information visit nzcra.org.nz/

Images: : Nick Kean

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