NZSCA highlights Alan Bruce’s return to world competition

Specialty Coffee Association white paper

The NZSCA highlights Alan Bruce’s return to world competition in Milan, where competing was exciting, but connecting with the industry again was even better.

Way back in February 2020, (remember those days?) we held the New Zealand Cup Tasters Championship, and Alan Bruce of Flight Coffee Roasters in Wellington took the crown. Our borders have been tricky and expensive to get through, with a stay in quarantine a lottery only afforded to a select few. New Zealand sadly missed the 2021 World Cup Tasters Championship (WCTC), and heartedly supported Australia in the event.

Suddenly in May 2022, the border situation changed again, and NZ had the opportunity to send our national champions to the Championship Tasters and World Latte Art Championship in Milan, which took place from 23 to 25 June. “I immediately thought ‘how can I make this happen?’ and started begging my bosses for some assistance,” Alan says.

Thankfully, Alan has awesome bosses who supported him all the way and helped him prepare with the short turnaround time. We would have also loved Hoony Chae, our Meadow Fresh NZ Latte Art 2020 Champion to attend the World Coffee Championships and represent NZ however, had just opened his own café in Auckland so was unable to go.

With such short notice, Alan didn’t have as much practise time as he needed. “Everything was confirmed two weeks out from travelling, so that coupled with a heavy workload meant that there wasn’t much time to train – I maybe got five or six sessions under my belt before heading out to Milan,” he says.

The short lead time had Alan concentrating on running a simplified version of the competition format. As a hint for budding cuppers, Alan ran eight sets of three, but only using three or four coffees. “It’s not quite as full on as the full competition, but I can tweak things to make it harder as it starts to feel too easy,” he says.

We watched Alan online, comfortably heading into the quarter finals. Did the competition level up the next day? “It was pretty brutal in the first round too. It definitely felt harder than the 2019 Championship, but it’s hard to say whether that’s just down to being a little out of practice or if it was deliberately more challenging. So much of the competition is about being in the right headspace and on the second day I couldn’t quite find my focus,” Alan recalls.

Alan says despite the intense heat, he was most excited to see everyone. “It was my first time catching up with a lot of old coffee friends since 2019 and coming off the back of lockdowns and travel restrictions it was just great meeting up in person again – even if it was a little overwhelming,” he says.

Even though, there weren’t many people in the Championship as the last 2019 event, Alan says lots of people were in a similar position to him with limited preparation time.

When asked if he makes any special dietary changes, Alan advises, “I’m not too big on changing my diet up too much these days. The only things I’ll avoid are alcohol too close to the competition, and food that’s very hot (physically, not spice-wise) so I don’t burn my tongue.”

Aside from the competition, visiting Italy was a chance for Alan to explore Milan’s coffee scene. “The best coffee was at a place called Nowhere [Coffee Roasters]. Every coffee I tried was great, and the team were super lovely,” he says, even bringing back a natural Ethiopian coffee called Iron Lion from the roaster. “I had too many nice natural wines to recall at Cantine Isola in Chinatown on the last night of the exhibition. I could easily have eaten pizza every day.”

As for the World of Coffee event itself, Alan says it was so huge that even after three days, he felt like there were things he missed seeing. “It’s a bit like when you go to the supermarket without a list and end up wandering the aisles and picking up the most random stuff,” he says.

Alan was also surprised to meet a fellow colleague from Auckland in Milan, someone he had been working with remotely for about a year-and-a-half, but had never met in person. “We got introduced to each other at a bar by a mutual friend,” he says. We love those special coffee connections.

Alan would like to thank his sponsors, the team at Flight Coffee and wife Bec. Special mention to his Mum and Dad who flew to Milan from Scotland to support him. Isn’t that what coffee is all about? Bringing people together.

The NZSCA looks forward to uniting at the upcoming 2022 NZ Cup Tasters Championship, which takes place at L’affare Melrose, Auckland on 15 July. Alan, along with 35 others, will be back to contest the title and the chance to win a trip to the WCTC 2023.

This article appears in the August 2022 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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