Capital's up-and-coming baristas battle it out in annual challenge video

MONIQUE FORD / Stuff.co.nz

Weltec's barista challenge is between two teams of young and up-and-coming baristas. Weltec food and beverage tutor Alex Hewitt talks us through what she is looking for in the judging.

Alex Hewitt and Perry Sue pace the room with their clipboards.

To the sound of grinding coffee beans and steaming milk they take notes on each under-pressure barista.

It's a fittingly tense scene: everyone knows Wellingtonians take their coffee very seriously.

WelTec barista Hamish O'Donnell takes part in the Barista Challenge, in which baristas must create six coffees - two ...
MONIQUE FORD/FAIRFAX NZ

WelTec barista Hamish O'Donnell takes part in the Barista Challenge, in which baristas must create six coffees - two espressos, two cappuccinos and two lattes - in 12 minutes.

Hewitt and Sue are judges in WelTec's annual Barista Challenge, now in its fifth year, which pits students against each other in 12-minute heats.

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Within those 12 minutes they need to create six coffees: two espressos, two cappuccinos and two lattes.

Challenge judges, Whitireia hospitality tutor Perry Sue, left, and WelTec food and beverage tutor Alex Hewitt, judge the ...
MONIQUE FORD/FAIRFAX NZ

Challenge judges, Whitireia hospitality tutor Perry Sue, left, and WelTec food and beverage tutor Alex Hewitt, judge the barista's work methods, presentation and hygiene as well as the coffees they produce.

The baristas with the top four scores from heats then battle it out in the final round.

Sue, Whitireia hospitality tutor, says it's a simulation of what baristas can expect in a real-world cafe, especially during the early morning, pre-work rush.

"There's a sense of reality to [the competition]," he says. "We are putting the baristas through their paces a little."

Judge Alex Hewitt says Wellington's coffee culture is strong due to the use of high quality product and competition ...
MONIQUE FORD/FAIRFAX NZ

Judge Alex Hewitt says Wellington's coffee culture is strong due to the use of high quality product and competition between roasters.

Hewitt is food and beverage tutor at WelTec, and an experienced national coffee judge. 

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She says they judge a barista on more than just the coffee they present. Also in the mix are their organisation, work methods, station set-up and hygiene.

A good coffee can be identified in a single sip: "It should have a nice, strong, dominant espresso flavour," Hewitt says.

"Creamy milk, sweet milk, and it should look amazing as well. It should make me want to drink it."

This year's barista challenge winner was WelTec student Zevanya Ranginui, who ticked all the judges' boxes and has a knack for latte art.

Hewitt says Wellington's reputation as a coffee capital is  due to the quality of the product in the city.

"In Wellington we're really focused on a fresh product. And there's so much good coffee in Wellington that there's a lot of healthy competition so that naturally drives up the standards of the product."

With cafes on every corner and numerous roasters throughout the city, the standard of drinks produced by baristas needs to be high.

Fresh beans imported from a quality farm, freshly roasted and made with good-quality milk is a winning combination, but the most important factor in a good coffee is the skill of the person making it.

"At the end of the day if the barista isn't trained, if they don't know what  they're doing behind the coffee machine they could still undo all of that hard work that the farmer has put in to creating a good product ...", Hewitt says. "Everyone puts in a lot of hard work but if it's not made well then that can undo everything."

 - Stuff

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