Barista loves daily grind

Auckland City Harbour News - - NEWS - By JESS LEE

Al­bert Au is hop­ing his spe­cial brew will give him the best shot to win over the judges at this week’s Huh­ta­maki New Zealand Barista Cham­pi­onships.

Mr Au, a barista at Ben Cafe on Auck­land’s Fort St, has crafted his own unique cof­fee us­ing Hawai­ian beans and the in­gre­di­ents of beer.

Imag­ine a pint of Guin­ness with a caf­feine hit.

The strange con­coc­tion has gone down well with peo­ple so far, he says.

‘‘But it’s really un­sta­ble be­cause I’ve got to shake it, so it could ex­plode – and we can’t have that in the com­pe­ti­tion.’’

A visit to a cof­fee plan­ta­tion in Hawaii four years ago opened his eyes to the world of spe­cialty cof­fee, he says.

‘‘Be­fore that I had no idea where cof­fee even came from – it com­pletely blew my mind.’’

He spent just four days be­hind a com­puter screen as a newly qual­i­fied ar­chi­tect be­fore giv­ing up the daily grind and de­cid­ing to hone his skills as a barista de­spite hav­ing no cof­fee back­ground.

This year Mr Au will be step­ping up to the plate as a first time com­peti­tor. But his main aim is to pro­mote Hawai­ian cof­fee, he says.

The event puts the coun­try’s top espresso mak­ers’ skills to the test over three days of in­tense com­pe­ti­tion.

Com­peti­tors have just 15 min­utes to wow the judges serv­ing up four espres­sos, four cap­puc­ci­nos and craft­ing four unique sig­na­ture drinks.

While as­sem­bling the drinks, con­tes­tants must ex­plain their choice of cof­fee and the kinds of flavours the judges should ex­pect it to pro­duce.

Judge Jes­sica God­frey says com­peti­tors need to do more than just make ex­cel­lent cof­fee.

‘‘The na­tional cham­pion will really push the bound­aries to ex­plore the pos­si­bil­i­ties of espresso.

‘‘We’re

look­ing

for some­one who can chal­lenge our un­der­stand­ing, be bold and use tech­niques we’ve never seen be­fore.’’

The win­ner will travel to Mel­bourne in May to rep­re­sent New Zealand at the World Barista Cham­pi­onship fi­nal.

A New Zealan­der is yet to take the world cham­pi­onship ti­tle.

The Huh­ta­maki New Zealand Barista Cham­pi­onship heats take place on Thurs­day and Fri­day with the semi­fi­nals and fi­nal on Satur­day.

Photo: JA­SON OXENHAM

Good shot: Al­bert Au’s spe­cialty cof­fee – a twist on the tra­di­tional beer – looks set to help him steam ahead of the com­pe­ti­tion at the na­tional barista cham­pi­onships.

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