Rotorua McCafe barista a big shot in coffee world

By Katie Holland

Proving there's more to the golden arches than just burgers, four Rotorua McCafe baristas have scooped medals at this year's "coffee Olympics".

On Sunday, Jane Jeong, Justin Baek, Joshua Kim and Kaleb Yang wowed the open barista class judges at the New Zealand Culinary Fare in Auckland, the largest culinary competition in the Southern Hemisphere. Miss Jeong won the only gold medal awarded, while Mr Baek and Mr Kim picked up silvers and Mr Yang a bronze.

In the final, each contestant had 15 minutes to make four espresso shots, four single shot flat whites and four double shot lattes, as well as give a presentation about their beans.

With seven judges and a big crowd watching their every move, they scored highly on all aspects, including frothing, temperature, latte art and blend.

"I was so excited, it was really unbelievable. I never expected I would get a gold medal," said Miss Jeong.

Making their achievements all the more remarkable was that none had made a coffee before starting at McCafe between seven and 18 months ago.

McCafe regional manager and former champion barista John Kim saw their potential and trained them.

For three months they put in the hours, often practising past midnight and going through 3kg of coffee beans a night.

To help with the nerves, McDonald's Rotorua owners Rob and Linley Parry arranged three dummy runs, bringing in experts to give feedback.

"These guys are like rock stars here, they are very well respected within the group ... people came in and watched them practise," said Mr Parry.

It's the first time any McCafe baristas have medalled in the competition and a proud Mr Parry is now considering sending his stars to next year's world championships in Melbourne.

However for this quartet the main motivation is simple. "Making people happy with a coffee, especially when they have had a long day, makes me happy," Mr Baek said.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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