NZSCA reveals why it’s reintroduced regional competitions

New Zealand Specialty Coffee Association

The New Zealand Specialty Coffee Association’s Emma McDougall reveals why it’s reintroduced regional competitions ahead of its national championship.

Winning a barista championship is a prestigious achievement which can lead to recognition, career opportunities, and a platform to influence and contribute to the coffee community.

But how would you describe the competition? It’s not just making 12 drinks in 15 minutes: it’s showcasing coffee with a dramatic technical performance set to music and judged by sensory and technical experts.

With this in mind, we wanted to break down the barriers for those wishing to compete. The New Zealand Specialty Coffee Association (NZSCA) believe a great barista should shine through their coffee and service, not through elaborate setups. We communicated this to baristas during announcements and ticket buying, explaining what we would bring and what they could bring. This included one electrical item only.

The competition is all about understanding coffee and delivering exceptional customer service. As such, the NZSCA has simplified the rounds to just four espresso pours and four milk- based beverages. These are presented to a distinguished panel of judge consisting of two scoring sensory judges, two guest non- scoring sensory judges, a technical judge, and a head judge. Baristas are encouraged to present menus that describe their coffees, but the real challenge is verbalising this during the competition. This sensory part of the competition requires baristas to describe the tasting notes in the cup to match what the judges taste.

This challenge was addressed during a free online workshop the NZSCA held on 15 February. The workshop was a rules- based lecture and PowerPoint presentation that gave attendees the opportunity to ask questions, meet others involved, and best prepare competitors for presenting their coffee.

The regional New Zealand Barista Championships took place in Auckland on 3 March, Christchurch on 10 March, and Wellington on 17 March. It’s been at least 11 years since the organisation has held regionals, but we brought them back due to demand from the New Zealand coffee community. Requests during member surveys, questions at annual general meetings, and pleas online and at national events meant we decided to give regionals a shot.

Regionals gave baristas a taste of competing. Each regional winner received prizes from principal sponsor Meadow Fresh, including flights, accommodation, and fresh milk for practice sessions, to help them get to the finals in Upper Hutt, North Island, from 5 to 6 October 2024. Winners also received a voucher for Wellington restaurant Kisa from ceramics sponsor Acme Cup Co, a La Marzocco voucher

from the machine sponsor to support competition costs, and a voucher from green coffee sponsor Cofinet. Bonus goodie bags, discount codes and merch packs were also provided thanks to sponsors.

The nationals will give regional winners an opportunity to stretch their creative skills further with the addition of a signature drink round. This round flexes the creativity of the barista and will give them an opportunity to create a delicious drink to make that competition menu complete.

Competitors who placed second, third, and fourth are also invited to compete in the national event, and we encourage all placeholders to take this opportunity to progress to the next level.

This article appears in the April 2024 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.

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