May 4, 2015

Riding the Third Wave: What I’ve Learnt from Coffee Professionals


About 10 years ago, I realized that I wanted a coffee shop of my own at some stage in my life. I worked on and off at a café when I was at university – twisted my wrist, burnt my hand, but never really mastered the craft of making coffee. Following graduation, “barista” didn’t quite seem like a career option (at least in my parents eyes), so I landed a job at Auckland airport in an aviation management role. After working there for several years, last year I realized that in fact I couldn’t give up on my coffee shop dream and the very fact that I was restlessly drawn to coffee reassured me that it must be my true love.

However, before even considering opening a coffee spot I realized so many questions needed investigating. What’s considered a good cup of coffee? What is specialty coffee? How was coffee processed? The coffee scene in New Zealand had evolved so much since the last time I touched an espresso machine. Everything was fresh and exciting to me again. If I wanted to succeed, I had no option but to start from scratch.

Woman walking on a road in the sun

Before even considering opening a coffee shop, I  had to travel in order to meet people and discover the coffee industry.

In order to answer my questions and learn how to do something different I decided to embark upon a coffee journey from producer countries (Guatemala and Colombia) to SCAA events and even to coffee events at emerging coffee drinking nations (China). It was a journey not only to learn about coffee and catch the third wave, but also to find myself, who I am and who I want to be.

In this Perfect Daily Grind article series I will talk about the inspiring individuals I’ve met during my coffee travels over the past year – their lives, their stories and what I’ve learned from them. I’ve been extremely fortunate to have had direct contact with coffee experts from all stages of the specialty coffee supply chain and would like to share the real life insights and education they provided me (often unwittingly) with. I hope these articles will be useful for anyone considering entering a career in the world of specialty coffee or simply anyone who wants to read what I’ve learnt from coffee professionals across the globe.

These individuals, from farmers to baristas, have offered me guidance and an education and I often felt touched by their kindness and generosity. There are times where I feel lost, confused and want to give up and these are the people who inspire me to keep going. These are also the people who have shown me the bigger coffee world and who have opened my eyes. This article series will be about the special “them”.

Man and woman smiling

I was lucky enough to meet Pete Licata, 2013 World Barista Champion! Judging at 2015 US Barista Championship, I was stoked to see him.

A year has passed since I decided to get back into coffee, I may have wandered off track from the initial plan of opening a coffee shop, in fact I have realized that a coffee shop may not be right for me, but I am on track to riding the third wave. The journey is still going and my book of special coffee people and stories is slowly filling up.

Article edited by N. Bhatt.

Perfect Daily Grind.