One of the country’s best baristas believes practice, passion and strategic screen time helped him win a national barista competition run by Muffin Break and Jamaica Blue Cafés.
Garrick Armstrong, barista at Muffin Break Upper Hutt, won the final of the national barista competition, held in association with Goodman Fielder, at Vodafone Events Centre in Manukau on 14 March. Judges included World Barista Championship Judge, assessor and Altura Coffee master roaster, Chris White.
Garrick beat baristas from more than 45 Muffin Break and Jamaica Blue Cafes from across the country. He credits part of his success to online tutorials: “I watched YouTube video after YouTube video, until my fiancée couldn’t stand it any longer,” he says.
The competition was the first held in New Zealand for over five years, allowing local baristas to test their skills nationwide. Judges spent two months touring the country to assess entries. Each competing barista made three cups of long blacks, cappuccinos, piccolos and flat whites in their efforts to impress.
The four finalists were the eventual winner Garrick from Muffin Break Upper Hutt, Sharmaine Moses from Muffin Break Dunedin and Kong Jiang and Steven Trinh from Jamaica Blue’s Auckland Hospital and Auckland Airport sites.
Garrick says the secret to making the best coffee is putting passion and care into every single cup, every single time. “I can make a good cup of coffee, but anyone can do that once off,” Garrick says. “I felt confident with my strategy about making coffee in the real world and hoped the judges would understand what I was on about.”
However, he admits to being nervous on the day of the final. “Theory and reality are two different things and I can tell you that I was nervous about everything I was doing for those judges and I was pretty sure they could see,” he says.
Garrick has been a barista at Muffin Break Upper Hutt for eight months. “My customers are positive and happy and so are my team! I’m so lucky to have them.”
Muffin Break and Jamaica Blue national operations manager Jon Hassall says the standard of entries in the barista competition bears testament to the brands’ coffee quality, training and franchise structure. “We continually seek to strive for the best quality for our customers by offering our staff ongoing training and support, and rewarding our franchisees,” he says.
As well as the title, Garrick won $1000 cash, with the other three finalists each taking home $250. All competing baristas had to have completed, or have been in the process of completing, the national barista accreditation programme, which involves more than 300 hours working on coffee-making skills, as well as a final exam.