Some people love to compete for the thrill of beating their competitors. Others love to compete for the thrill of bettering themselves and for the joy of learning about their craft.
The latter sums up Logan Collinge, a barista and manager at Mojo - The Beanery, in Wellington. In fact, it seems to sum up his whole philosophy of life.
While most of us are looking forward and planning our Easter holidays, Logan is deep in preparation for his forth New Zealand Barista Champs, that are being held on 4-5 April in Upper Hutt.
The Magic Roast had the pleasure of chatting to Logan over a few brews, and got a chance to understand a bit about what makes him tick.
Logan got into his first New Zealand Barista Competition back in 2015, after one of his early mentors, Aymon McQuade [and 2012 New Zealand Barista Champion himself] “pressured [in the nicest possible way]” Logan to get into Barista competitions. “At that stage I had already reached a ceiling where [I wasn’t going to ] learn anything more doing my job, because you don’t tend. So I threw myself in the deep end as a way to learn more about coffee.”
When the desire to compete starts at a fundamentally pure level - the desire to learn - you can find yourself almost paralyzed with the endless amount of choice. In the early days for Logan, his view of competitions didn't mean he had to go in certain directions to the get the points to win - he just wanted to soak it all in. So to find that magical and all important coffee for his first competition in 2015, he turned to the mean streets of Wellington.
“I wasn’t at that stage where I was sourcing coffee, or roasting coffee - I just needed a coffee. So I pretty much just went around everywhere in Wellington drinking coffee until I found one I was happy with - I was so caffeinated!
“I ended up with Coffee Supreme’s Origin Blend - a three bean Ethiopian blend with Yirgacheffe, Sidamo, and Limmu - it was a really good coffee that really resonated with me.”
He had the passion, he had the enthusiasm, and now he had the coffee. But Logan isn’t the sort of person who would just take his competition coffee and start pulling shots with it. Oh no. In his desire to learn, and get everything he could out of the competition, he reached out to the coffee roaster himself, Fraser Lovell, to understand what went down in the roasting process.
“Supreme were super welcoming, and Fraser was super forthcoming. He was like ‘here’s the coffee, here’s what we do with it’ and got to understand the roast profiles and development ratios.
“I was already learning things in leaps and bounds, so it was like great!.”
Being the rookie that he was, Logan went into his first competition back then pretty relaxed, taking an “easy as” approach to what was ahead of him. “All I had to do was pour an espresso, make a cappuccino - easy as! Never mind that’s where all the points are,” he said, looking back on his youthful naivety with a laugh.
“So initially I went in just focusing on my signature beverage, and developed my script not really focusing on points like I do these days, but it was good!”
And his signature drink that year is worth trying out. He went out and bought a soda-stream, mixed that big acidic Ethiopian coffee up with some lemon and “a nice sugar - not one from the supermarket” and made a coffee lemonade. Amazing.
Logan didn’t make the cut that year [boo], but the experience didn’t crush his desire to continue on his coffee learning journey, and he now has the wisdom of those experiences to share with others getting into the world of coffee, and competitions.
Wherever people are on their own learning curve, whether they are prepping for competitions or just brewing at home - Logan has some devilishly simple advice.
“There's a lot to be said for using different coffees. It's all well and good to know how to pull an espresso - but knowing how to pull a great espresso for the coffee you're using is key.
“Use different coffees and experiment. That's how you can start to learn that with dark roasts you don't want to pull it too long, and with African coffees with a heck of a lot of acidity you want to draw it out longer to tone it down a bit.
“Just small things that you pick up after playing around with different coffees. It gives you a hard start with your preparation.”
Over the next few weeks we’ll drop more advice and tidbits of wisdom from Logan, and will be posting a bit about his progress as we get near the big dance. It’ll be worth checking back to read more!
We also went of some pretty fascinating coffee tangents, which will turn into some great posts down the line. A bit thanks to Logan for his time, and letting us in on his coffee journey.