When competing against the best of the best, there is more to a good cup of coffee than a steady hand and love of caffeine.
The New Zealand Barista Championship kicks off next weekend and three Christchurch baristas will challenge for the title.
The championship is an exclusive event. Few baristas enter, and even fewer can count themselves among the top in the country.
Mark Chirnside (Lumes), Alex Casserly (Crafted Coffee Co) and Addison Dale (Pure Cafe Co) have been perfecting their routine for months.
Each competitor makes four espressos, four cappuccinos and four signature drinks in 15 minutes.
All three Christchurch entrants have been practising for 40 hours a week recently, using a borrowed coffee machine in Lumes owner David Pai's garage.
For four-time entrant Chirnside, the competition is a chance to present his ideas on coffee in a setting of like-minded people. Baristas have a tendency, like any professional, to have an opinion on the correct way to make coffee - whether that means serving it at room temperature, roasting it a certain way or refusing to add sugar for customers.
"There is no one right way to present coffee," Chirnside says. "I'm not into baristas who condescend to customers and the way they like to drink their coffee."
Chirnside roasts his own coffee at home in small batches, in a machine he and some friends built from an old rug machine and spare parts.
Casserly comes from a hospitality family and got into coffee, in part, because he wasn't old enough to drink when he chose a career.
"This is a time and place for us to geek out," he says. "Lots of people in Christchurch don't see hospo as a real career. The standard of these competitions proves it is."
Dale works in the family business, Pure Cafe Co. He came sixth in last year's competition and is looking to beat that this year. "It's focusing on one specific project and doing it really well."
While all three are keeping the details of their signature drinks under wraps, the standard is high and the competition demanding.
Pai, who is mentoring them, says the time has come for Christchurch to regain its status in the coffee industry.
"Christchurch is really good at coffee," he says. "But since the earthquake, everyone's been focusing on getting back on their feet and making some money.
"These guys are young and passionate and have the capacity to influence others, to improve coffee here."
Christchurch has a strong history with the championship and Pai says it's time for Christchurch to take that position back. Dale, Chirnside and Casserly fly to Wellington next week for the competition.
- The Press
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