In less than two weeks, the inaugural Tauranga Coffee Festival will be descending onto the Tauranga Waterfront, showcasing our vibrant local cafe and coffee scene. Karen Clarkson talks to three locals who will be sharing their intimate knowledge of the craft of coffee and showcasing their latest skills to coffee lovers.

The Barista
Brittany Kippax, fulltime barista

Favourite drop: A natural Ethiopian coffee served through a Chemex

Brittany is a fulltime barista and as well as being her job, coffee is her undeniable passion.

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A self-proclaimed coffee nerd, Brittany could talk for hours and hours about the humble bean. And with good reason; she has lived and breathed all things coffee since the age of 17, including spending almost three years in New Zealand's coffee capital learning from some of the country's best at Wellington's Mojo Coffee Roastery.

She returned to the Bay last year to become the head barista trainer at Excelso Coffee, responsible for training local baristas and at-home coffee enthusiasts.

Brittany is one of a dozen local baristas who have entered the Tauranga Coffee Festival Barista of the Year competition. It is the perfect opportunity for her to test her craft against some of our region's best.

"This is my first time entering a barista competition and I'm really excited to challenge myself and see if I could take my skills to a national or even international level. I watched the New Zealand Barista Championships about three or four years ago and was blown away at the baristas' insane intimate knowledge of not only the craft, but the supply chain, bean and roasting profile. Now that a competition and festival of this calibre is on my doorstep, it really speaks to the growth of the region and the strength of the cafe culture here and I can't wait to test my competition nerves."

For Brittany, preparation is key especially when testing and selecting the origin of the coffee and the roast profile to partner with.

"For me it's like a marriage - the origin and quality of the bean and the roasting process used to highlight its natural flavours are critical in providing the best canvas to work from. I'm a huge fan of single origin coffees that are sourced with integrity and am currently experimenting with Flight Roastery to source the best to use in the competition."

Contestants will be judged by a panel of judges in a series of preliminary rounds before three finalists go head to head in a live battle at the festival. They will create two flat whites and two short blacks in a 15 minute set and will be critiqued on the flavour and balance of the coffee, the technique on the machine, milk consistency as well as wastage, taste and presentation.

Having missed the magic of the daily grind, Brittany has recently returned to doing what she loves - working on her craft behind the machine and refining her art for the competition.

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"I love the science of coffee and the whole process from seed to cup, but nothing beats the positive experience of crafting coffee for those faces on a daily basis. I am so passionate about seeing a natural yet variable product being finessed with skill to achieve a beautiful, consistent result. That's what every cup and coffee lover deserves."

AllPress Espresso. Photo/Richard Robinson Photography
AllPress Espresso. Photo/Richard Robinson Photography

The Coffee Brand
Cole Jones, Allpress Espresso

Go-to coffee: A long black

"I'm so glad to be back home, doing what I love to do and representing Allpress in the regions," says Cole Jones.

Cole is now based fulltime in Tauranga and has helped grow the Allpress brand for the better part of seven years. The speciality coffee brand now partners with more than 1000 independent cafes around the world.

It's at home in the Bay of Plenty, however, that Cole has seen strong growth in the last two years which has enabled his move back down to the region.

"Tauranga and especially Mount Maunganui have always had a strong seasonal market, but with the region's recent population growth, the demand for quality and consistent espresso coffee has enabled new cafes to flourish and there is a renewed consistency throughout the year," says Cole.

Cole and the Allpress team will be front and centre at the Tauranga Coffee Festival with their caravan and 'Make Your Own' (MYO) set up, encouraging coffee lovers and baristas to create, taste and discover more.

Their team of coffee experts, including the Allpress Espresso trainer, will be on hand all day for coffee enthusiasts keen to extend their knowledge of coffee.

"There are a lot of new styles and trends adding interest to the industry and while we focus on what we do best, we also like to ignite a broader appreciation and understanding of beautiful coffee beyond the much-loved espresso. We encourage professional and at-home baristas to come armed with questions.

"We've been doing it for over 20 years now and remain one of the country's original speciality coffee brands. With social media blurring the geographic lines and increasing expectations around consistency and quality, the region's cafes are looking strong and competitive. And so they should, as everyone now demand and expect it," says Cole.

THE COFFEE EXPERT
Charlie Self, Tauranga Coffee Festival judge and creator of Little Drum Boutique Coffee Roastery

Favourite coffee: A Guatemalan El Socorro made in a pour-over vessel
Tauranga Coffee Festival's Barista of the Year head judge and former New Zealand 'Cup Tasting' Champion Charlie Self says there are exciting changes afoot in the local coffee scene as the industry enters a new age of culinary awareness.

He says events like the Tauranga Coffee Festival are supporting this.

 Charlie Self, creator of Little Drum, with wife Theresa and children Baxter and Hazel. Photo/Richard Robinson Photography
Charlie Self, creator of Little Drum, with wife Theresa and children Baxter and Hazel. Photo/Richard Robinson Photography

"There remains a lot of coffee drinkers sticking to what they are used to, but that is slowly changing. Many people have grown up in an espresso nation and the concept of a quality filter coffee may not hit the spot if you've only ever drunk flat whites or steamed milk drinks. But now there are so many different forms of not only the beans themselves, but also the brewing methodology on offer and events like the Tauranga Coffee Festival provide the perfect environment for people to learn and discover something new."

Charlie operates the Mount Maunganui boutique coffee roastery Little Drum and encourages coffee lovers to come to the festival and get involved.

His advice is not to sit on your usual one big morning coffee all day, instead put on your coffee hat and sample lots of different styles; talk to roasters, talk to baristas, ask questions and find out exactly what you're drinking and why it tastes different to the last one you had.

"The festival is a place where the local industry will be showcasing their wares direct to you so it's a wonderful opportunity to taste as many blends and varietals as you can and learn from the best," he says.

Charlie says as an industry we are moving away from drinking 'coffee that just tastes of coffee' and moving towards roasting coffee in a way that showcase the natural characteristics of the bean.

"There is definitely a trend towards coffee drinkers demanding more information about what they are drinking. Commodity coffee is being replaced by culinary coffee. People are wanting to find out more about what they are drinking, they want to take the time to enjoy it, savour it and be present with it. It's up to the coffee industry to provide information so consumers can have the confidence to make a change," he explains.

On the day, the team from Little Drum will be releasing samples of the latest crops for people to try as well as setting up 'flights' of coffee at their stall.

The festival is a place where the local industry will be showcasing their wares direct to you so it's a wonderful opportunity to taste as many blends and varietals as you can and learn from the best.

"If you like the idea of comparing coffees from different countries side by side, then you'll likely enjoy a coffee flight. Our team of baristas will assemble a table consisting of different types of coffee served together as a set, which you sample with a spoon. We'll also be doing a roast profile flight so you can really study how one type of bean taken out of the roast cycle at different points can vary from another," he explains.

As a former coffee competitor and national winner, Charlie is one of four judges of the festival's Barista of the Year competition and has designed the competition different to the national competition that he once competed in.

"Within the local industry, there are many talented baristas that have the skills to compete at a national level, however that competition environment can sometimes be heavily dominated by intimidating protocols. I have set up this festival competition as a chance for our local stars to dip their toes into a competitive environment without the strict format of a national competition," he explains.

"I want to see baristas showcase what they do daily and not only deliver a beautiful cup, but also convey what is in the cup, where it's from, what roast profile it has and what flavours there are. You can have the best beans or blend in the world but if the barista doesn't know how to get the best out of it, then the nuances can be lost in translation," he says.

Brittany Kippax, self proclaimed coffee nerd. Photo/Richard Robinson Photography
Brittany Kippax, self proclaimed coffee nerd. Photo/Richard Robinson Photography

Charlie will also be judging the barista from a technical point of view including station management, how they flow safely within their workspace and making sure they own the space by using industry techniques to minimise waste and noise. "On the national circuit, the baristas that do well practise their routine continuously. They put a lot of energy and effort into perfecting their style with methodical movements and a clear presentation," he says.

the details
What: Tauranga Coffee Festival
Where: Tauranga Waterfront, The Strand
When: Saturday, July 29 from 10am-6pm.
Tickets: Eventfinda, and limited door sales on the day. Adults $15, children 12 and under free.
Learn more: Keep up to date at www.facebook.com/taurangacoffeefestival.

Highlights:
*Free tastings from New Zealand's best coffee brands
*Espresso martini bar
*Street food lane serving gourmet food
*Workshops hosted by coffee experts and producers
*Award-winning Bay of Plenty brewery Mount Brewing Co is creating a limited edition coffee-infused beer for the event, in collaboration with Flight Coffee
*A bustling kids' area with face painting, bouncy castles and festival-themed colouring in
*Live music from Wellington-based, New Orleans-style brass band Richter City Rebels.