via Stuff : A Hamilton barista has been named the best in the country after competing at a national championship, but Dove Chen has said it was half skill and half luck.
Chen, who has worked at Grey St Kitchen in Hamilton East for four years, took home the coffee crown after beating sixteen fellow baristas from across New Zealand.
He has been practising intensely for the past month, and secured naturally roasted beans from Panama to use for his presentation.
The beans were grown by producers Jose and Aileen Gallardo and have become Chen’s favourite bean to create with.
But when he’s not using internationally-sourced beans or winning national awards, a simple shot of black coffee tickles his fancy.
“I always tell my customers, good coffee doesn’t need anything to hide behind.”
The Meadow Fresh New Zealand Barista Championship was held in Wellington and the winner was determined by an array of judges.
There were four sensory judges, two technical judges, two shadow judges and one head judge, Chen said.
“It’s kind of like the Olympic Games. You have a coach, a mentor. You have to be mentally, physically ready.
“Making coffee is the easiest part,” he said.
“All of the competitors are really good, just unfortunately there can only be one winner.
“New Zealand has such a small coffee community, we all know each each other. I really liked the atmosphere.”
Chen was coached by David Huang and Sam Low, and mentored by master roaster Scott Pepler.
“I’ve got a dream team that stand behind me. They’ve been really helpful,” Chen said.
His coaches are both based in Auckland, and during the lead-up to the competition, visited Chen once a week for training.
He would perform his coffee-making routine for them, then they would write notes and tell him what to refine for their next meeting.
It is the third time Chen has entered the Barista Championship, and he said he will now take a break from coffee – kind of.
“I’m back to work as a normal person, back to reality,” he said.
Chen will head to the World Barista Championship in Seoul, South Korea in November.