Competition insights from a coffee pro

A preview of the 2021 Barista Champs with Logan Collinge

COVID-19 put a lot of things on the back burner. Some important, some that may seem super trivial. A coffee competition might seem like something that fits in that ‘oh well, it got cancelled, suck it up’ bucket. But for many, the return of events like the 2021 New Zealand Barista Champs is a return to normality, a link to a world that used to exist, the motivation to keep grinding away (yeah, that pun was legit).

The 2021 New Zealand Barista Champs is being held in Upper Hutt on 20/21 March 2021. It follows the cancellation of the 2020 event (twice!) which was meant to happen during the fluster-cluck of a year.

In preparation for the event, we had an absolute blast talking to Logan Collinge, barista extraordinaire at The Beanery - by Mojo, instagram influencer, coffee blogger at Positively Coffee, all round LEGEND, about his experiences in the coffee competition world.

Over the years, he has competed in three New Zealand Barista Champs, the Brewers Cup and the Aeropress Championships, so he has definitely learnt a thing or two about how to prepare for the big dance.

Logan shared some his insights as he prepares for his fourth New Zealand Barista Champs (or since the last one was postponed, is it his fifth?).

Preparation - start thinking about the coffee early, and ease into it

For barista champs, Logan gives himself six months to easily build up into it, and then a couple of months of solid prep.

“I started thinking about my routine and my coffee from about July 2019, but that was extremely limited, but I was thinking about it,” Logan told The Magic Roast over a quiet brew in a pre-COVID bar.

“Once I have a coffee, I casually take my approach into dialing it in, all the while thinking about the themes of the coffee I can take into the routine. And then about three months that’s when you start really piecing things together.”

Logan’s practice set up mimics what he’ll experience on the day - with an espresso machine, prep table and judges table, so he can run through his whole routine, stand at each station and go through his script. Prefect practice makes perfection after all.

Take the time to dial in the coffee

Once you choose a coffee, it takes time to get it to where you want it be and get an idea of where you want it to go. Give yourself that time by starting to think about things early!

“You definitely want to allow yourself the time to dial it in - cos you can’t drink coffee every night all night - you can try it, but it sucks!

“I definitely try to drag on the initial working out the coffee recipe, otherwise you will burn yourself quite early.”

Don’t practice all the time

It might be surprising to learn that Logan doesn’t practice every day - he’s rocking a full run through only three days a week.

Rest is an important part of the preparation.

“I definitely notice the value of not doing it too much. I’ve found that when I’ve tried to push myself, my attention span just hasn't been there and I’ve made a lot of mistakes.

“And while it’s good to practice with mistakes, at the same time if you’re practicing subpar, you just cement errors and get frustrated.”

Be chilled - be Zen

Practicing when you’re frazzled or without some space to chill, will just make you doubt yourself. You’ll doubt your routine and start making changes when you don’t need to make changes.

“Once you finish practicing you’ll no doubt go home and not sleep because you’ll be thinking about what you can do better. Some of that constructive internal feedback is good, but if you’re trying to do it while you’re frazzled, you’ll just end up making rash decisions with your routine.”

Get a good crew around you

Logan says he’s got a great crew around him to allow him to focus on what he needs to do for his competition.

“I’m quite fortunate that everyone around me is super supportive. My co-workers are phenomenal baristas so they can hold the ship by themselves. I’ve got an ideal situation in the build up.”

You can’t prepare for things like COVID

When I first got into Logan’s head about the competition, COVID was a thing that was happening to others. New Zealand was naïve to the disruption and devastation. So I asked Logan how this year long postponement has impacted his approach.

“COVID has definitely had its pros and cons when it comes to the competition. With the competition being postponed just three weeks out (both times), it was a bit deflating to be so ready but have to drop it all.

Similarly, for the coffee I am using, it was right where I wanted it and a year later, it's no way near it's peak. Fortunately I was able to pick up some fresh crop of the same coffee and it's probably tasting even better. I've also been able to make adjustments to the routine that I wouldn't have if I didn't have this extra time.”

It’s been a crazy year, and I’ve witnesses amazing people get beaten down by this extraordinary event. Somehow, Logan has taken it all in his stride, and seems unflappable. On the outside at least! He’s relaxed, philosophical about it all and ready to take on New Zealand’s best baristas.

Get to the 2021 New Zealand Barista Champs - it’s free!

Next Saturday and Sunday - 20/21 March - at Expressions Art & Entertainment Centre in Upper Hutt. There’s 12 amazing barista’s ready to pull some shots, make killer flat whites and wow the judges with their mad skills. It’ll be a blast.

You can secure your free tickets on Eventbrite - doooo it.

And if you’re in Wellington and at a loose end, you can test Logan out yourself down at The Beanery - by Mojo. It’s a great cafe with excellent coffee, great service and [of course] amazing baristas.

Thanks for reading!

I hope you liked this little insight into Logan and what makes him tick. He’s fueled by coffee, and so am I! If you’d like to support me by buying me a cup of coffee, I’d really appreciate it.

Buy me a coffee :D