Talks to New Zealand Spe­cialty Cof­fee As­so­ci­a­tion ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Ay­mon McQuade about cof­fee bean ori­gins, spearfish­ing and serv­ing the rich and fa­mous at Not­ting Hill.

Kapi-Mana News - - FEATURE -

How many cof­fees do you drink a day?

Usu­ally three or four, mostly at home. If I go a few days with­out one I tend to get a headache.

Has the cof­fee in­dus­try changed in New Zealand?

In the last few years a lot of com­pa­nies have em­ployed cof­fee spe­cial­ists, who have to en­sure the qual­ity of cof­fee. There’s a grow­ing num­ber of roast­ers go­ing di­rectly to the source of their cof­fee and hav­ing a di­rect re­la­tion­ship with the farm­ers.

What ex­cites you about the in­dus­try?

It’s con­stantly evolv­ing. There’s al­ways a new cof­fee or peo­ple get­ting in­volved who are pas­sion­ate about cof­fee and about shar­ing cof­fee with other peo­ple, like I am.

What cof­fee are you drink­ing right now?

A Red Rab­bit cof­fee from a farm called Aricha in Yir­gach­effe, Ethiopia. It’s a co-op­er­a­tive of 400 tiny farms that com­bine their cof­fees. Some farms are as small as a hectare. It would be ex­pen­sive for each farmer to process and ex­port their un­roasted cof­fee beans, called green beans, in­di­vid­u­ally, so in­stead they col­lab­o­rate.

What’s your favourite way to make cof­fee?

Fil­tered, with no milk and unadul­ter­ated. From the farmer to the roaster there’s a lot of work done to cre­ate the char­ac­ter­is­tics in a cof­fee, so I want to taste them.

What’s the best way to ruin a cof­fee? By drink­ing tea! Do you judge tea drinkers, then?

No. I ac­tu­ally work for Bell Tea and Cof­fee com­pany two days a week. I’ve worked there 51⁄ years as a lower North Is­land sales rep. When I’m at the com­pany’s Grav­ity Cof­fee head­quar­ters in Auck­land, I at­tend cup­ping events where you can sam­ple the new teas and cof­fees. I en­joy try­ing new and in­ter­est­ing things, whether its beer, wine, food or cof­fee. Do you cook? I love cooking. There’s this re­ally amaz­ing Le­banese dish I’ve been mak­ing that uses but­ter­fish or blue moki, which I catch, baked in yo­ghurt, lemon and tahini. The orig­i­nal recipe came from Greg Malouf’s cook book, Malouf, but I’ve tweaked it. You fish too? Spearfish­ing and hunt­ing are big in­ter­ests. I’ve just done a scenic dive in the marine re­serve in Owhiro Bay. Nor­mally I dive off the south coast or Makara.

Are you Welling­ton born and bred?

Yes. I grew up in Plim­mer­ton and have been living in Mt Cook for three years. What do your par­ents do? My mum’s a phys­io­ther­a­pist and my dad’s in­volved in the build­ing in­dus­try. Mum was the one who got me ex­cited about food, so when I left school I stud­ied cater­ing, hos­pi­tal­ity and tourism. I left a qual­i­fied chef and spent three weeks at the for­mer Pa­rade Cafe in Ori­en­tal Pde. Then I saw how much fun they were hav­ing up the front, so I switched.

Where did you train as a barista?

On the job. I stayed at Pa­rade Cafe about a year, then worked as a barista in Syd­ney, and at a wine bar in Mel­bourne. Af­ter that I went to Lon­don. I started work­ing in a pretty crummy bar and grill. Then one of the staff started work­ing at Elec­tric House, a mem­bers’ club in Not­ting Hill, and she poached me. That was good fun. What was Not­ting Hill like? I love how ec­cen­tric it is. You’ve got mas­sive state hous­ing blocks on one side and some of the most op­u­lent pieces of real es­tate in the coun­try on the other.

The peo­ple as­so­ci­ated with each mill around in the same com­mu­nity. I’ve been to the car­ni­val a few times. It’s such a won­der­ful melt­ing pot of cul­tures ex­press­ing them­selves in mu­sic, food and dance.

Did you celebri­ties?

The club was mostly for arts

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any peo­ple, any­one from ac­tors to screen­writ­ers to cast­ing agents. I saw Elle Macpher­son, Kate Moss, Sting and Mick Jag­ger, but I didn’t fawn over them. I just gave them a bit of Kiwi hos­pi­tal­ity.

Caf­feina­tion, the cof­fee fes­ti­val, was on this month. How has it evolved?

The ex­per­tise of the com­peti­tors has never been higher, but also the va­ri­ety of cof­fees avail­able for them to com­pete with has never been greater. When I en­tered the barista cham­pi­onships in 2011, I didn’t know much about it, but I was up for a chal­lenge. I won the fol­low­ing year.

Speak­ing of chal­lenges, how’s par­ent­hood?

It’s great. I have a 6-week-old son, so there’s lots of new chal­lenges, but en­joy­able parts as well.

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