A Wellington barista hopes coffee beans from his home region in Vietnam will be the winning ingredient at next week's New Zealand barista championship.
Vietnam-born Long Nguyen moved to New Zealand 10 years ago and works as a barista at Caffe L'affare.
He studied finance and management at Victoria University, but because of the recession was unable to find a job in the finance sector.
"I had to survive, so I got a job at L'affare and have never regretted it. I love it," he said.
Mr Nguyen is using arabica beans from his home region in Vietnam for the barista competition.
He said it would help him create a story.
"I've got a good connection with the beans. My family has been in the coffee industry for 20 years. I wanted to showcase what Vietnam has to offer the coffee world.
"I went back home and went to the coffee areas to see out how they grow it and which beans were best."
Mr Nguyen said the beans had a light body, a slight sweetness, cucumber notes and a high acidity.
He would be blending them with another bean to find a more balanced flavour.
"I love the flavour of it and am trying to find a bean that will complement that.
"If I can make the flavour of the beans from my home area taste right with a full body, then I'm a winner no matter what."
Each entrant in the barista championship, at Michael Fowler Centre from March 7 to 9, will have 45 minutes to make four espressos, four cappuccinos and four signature coffees.
Mr Nguyen said he would not give away the secrets of his signature drink.
Judge Dave Green said the judges looked for consistency, skill, creativity and a story.
"It's not enough to make good coffee now; you have to tell a story. Also if you tell the judges it's going to taste like apples, pears and oranges, then it has to taste like apples, pears and oranges," Mr Green said.
"However, it has to still taste like espresso because that is what the competition is all about. That is where a lot of entrants fall down with their signature drink."
The champion will travel to Melbourne in May to represent New Zealand at the 2013 world barista championship final. The 2013 Huhtamaki New Zealand barista championship, Michael Fowler Centre. Heats: March 7 and 8, 8am till 5pm. Semi-finals and final: March 9, 8am till 5.30pm. Open to the public, free entry.
- The Wellingtonian