The Grey St Kitchen worker took the crown from 16 of New Zealand’s best baristas, after presenting a 15-minute routine to a panel of judges hosted by the New Zealand Specialty Coffee Association – including four espressos, four milk-based beverages and four signature drinks. Chen used an Extra Grueso Natural Geisha by Jose Manuel Gallardo of Fine Nuguo in Panama – the coffee is processed naturally and fermented before being shipped to Auckland and roasted by master roaster Scott Pepler.
For his milk-based beverage, the coffee exuded flavours of warm lemon meringue pie and toasted sugar cane; and for his signature beverage, Chen used fermented pineapple juice and freeze-dried fruit turned into juice. He will now compete in the World Barista Championship in Seoul, South Korea in November. “Making coffee is the easiest part,” Chen says. “New Zealand has such a small coffee community – we all know each other.” Coached by David Huang and Sam Low, Chen was mentored by master roaster Pepler, and describes his team as “a dream.
They’ve been really helpful,” he says. With his coaches based in Auckland, Chen has hit the road each week to train with them, perform his coffee-making routine, take comments from them and refine areas of concern for the next meeting.