2023 Barista Championships: an interview with Jenny Kim

When did you decide to run in the 23 NZBC, and why?

It took a while to make the decision, but it was really at the end of last year that I decided to enter. I wanted to get out of your comfort zone and learn something new.

How did you choose the coffee? Why did you choose this coffee?

We tried a few different coffees with my coach Heesun and our Head of Training Masako. Some were really out there, this one was a bit more classic but still super tasty. Because it was my first participation, Heesun and Masako adivsed I choose this one, as it was a bit 'safer', easier to use and get the most out of. 

How did you come up with the routine? Why sustainability?

Well, first we had to do a lot of trial and error. Different roast profiles, then a lot of tasting to figure out the best profile, age date, ingredients for the milk and signature drink. 

The routine and its core focus changed so many times. Initially, I wasn't particularly leaning toward sustainability, although I knew I kind of wanted to do something around climate change and coffee production. Then I started looking more into the variety, and it just made sense to go down that road. 

How long did you prepare for?

I think in total it took about four or five months.

What was the hardest part?

Drinking coffee at 11pm and opening the cafe at 6:30am the next day. So much coffee tasting! So much shaking! Especially initially, when we had to do all the testing.

Tell us about the competition.

Oh, I was so nervous. The whole competition felt like being in dreamland. Then you blink and it's finished, and straight back to reality.

How did you go? Any troubles?

Actually, the first round didn't go as well as I you would have wanted. When I was making my first shot, the coffee puck dropped on the tray, so I had to troubleshoot that. Oh and I went overtime as well... The second round went much better. The nervousness didn't build up as much. I heard my music play and felt immediately like 'We can do this'

How was your experience backstage, with the other competitors?

It felt busy - there's actually so many things to do. Unpacking all of the ingredients and tools, cleaning and polishing glassware (we actually broke a glass 10 minutes before going on stage the second day...). Everything needs to be perfectly placed and ready, because there's a strict time limit for preparing the station once you're allowed on stage. 

Everyone there was really nice though, the competitors were helping each other. Mike, from Meebs Coffee, let me borrow a glass, and I lent him a distributor when his broke.

Tell us about that 3rd place. Was that what you'd hoped?

I was hoping for third but the goal really was top 6, to be a finalist and make it to day two.

After my run on the first day, I went outside and just sat there alone on the stairs, with my head in my hands, just thinking "why? no!" 

You looked pretty miserable…

Yeah, so I was really happy that I got to perform one more time, get a chance to do better. I did it and I was so happy.

Would you do it again?

I kind of want to do it again... Although maybe not Barista Champs. But another competition, definitely. I'm actually already practicing for the Latte Art Championships in August.

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