Barista loves daily grind
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.
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.
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.