WBC Countdown: Barista Champion of New Zealand Nick Clark

cover 10.58.46 AM

Barista Mag:  Before coffee, did you work in a different job or industry, or what did you study in school?

Nick:  I was at high school when I started making coffee. After a spot of travel and other hospo related gigs, coffee was the career that was singing to me and still is!

BMag:  How did you get started in coffee?

Nick:  I was 16, sitting in maths class chatting with my mate who had a job at a cafe/bistro. His role was kitchen hand, part of which was plating up all the deserts in the evening, which sounded awesome!! I went for a job – sadly no jobs in the kitchen were available, so I ended up working out in the front of house. After a couple of months of clearing tables and being ‘a glass polishing king’ I was invited to a coffee training. I moved to Wellington when I was 20 and started working for a coffee roastery which is when I was first introduced to barista competitions. Two years later we started Flight Coffee and to be honest it’s all downhill from there!


BMag:  What was your first amazing experience with coffee?

Nick:  The first time I went to a cupping was in 2008 and it blew my mind!!! I distinctly remember tasting something other than coffee! Ethiopian Yirgacheffe was on the table – it was my first stand out “wooo I can taste lemons” tasting experience.

BMag:  Who has been your greatest influence in coffee? Why?

Nick:  I don’t know if the main one is a who, maybe a what? A couple of things.  The book, God in a Cup. This was huge for me. It took me on a journey with people similar to myself and explored a world we’ve always dreamed of… Now we’re doing it! It was hugely inspirational.

The other would be Chris Dillon. The man behind Coffee Supreme NZ and one of the pioneers of coffee in NZ back in the early days. I’ve spoken with Chris on several occasions and have always found him humble, genuine, and constructive in his feedback and/or thoughts. He’s done a fantastic job paving the way for the coffee industry in NZ.

BMag:  What would you like to see change about the coffee industry/community?

Nick:  More education for consumers and more companies working together.  There’s been a lot of change recently and I’m a huge fan! Mostly in educating the consumer and the market about quality and traceability, both of which we have adopted into our own business model. I think more and more roasters need to focus on educating the market, and commit to it. We’re moving forward as an industry but not nearly as quickly as we need to. It’s all about aligning ourselves with the same set of values and goals and then smashing it!

BMag:  Name a coffee luminary (famous person) you would like to meet, and why:

Nick:  Stephen Morrissey. He’s a former world barista champion and has a wealth of knowledge and experience. From what I’ve heard he’s an absolute riot over a few beers. I’d like to pick his brain about his role in coffee and how it’s come to be.

BMag:  Name a barista you admire, and why:

Nick:  Colin Harmon. I’ve learnt a lot from watching Colin compete over the years and to be honest I just want to say thanks for being an inspiration and to hang out – seems like he’s a good guy who’s good for a laugh.

BMag:  Do you have a favorite customer? If so, tell us about him or her.

I’d have to say a lady by the name of Dale. Her occupation is a taxi driver and I’ve been making her coffee for around 5 years now. She started off drinking a regular flat white and now it’s a long black. We’ve shared a lot of conversations and coffee over the years and she’s followed me for 3-4 cafes before we went out on our own.

BMag:  Besides your own cafe, what cafe do you think everyone should visit?

Nick:  Proud Mary’s in Melbourne Australia. Hands down the best cafe experience I have ever had.

BMag:  Which coffee producing country you would like to visit, and why?

Nick:  Mexico. We have a friend who is studying their PHD in natural processing in Dunedin university New Zealand. His father has a farm over in Mexico which has recently been replanted with a Gesha variety. It would be pretty special to be there for the first harvest (2014) and learn from 2 amazing individuals who happen to be father and son.

BMag:  What are your interests outside of coffee?

Nick:  I love to eat!! Cooking and eating is a fantastic way to learn about other cultures with friends and colleagues. Travel usually revolves around this too, along with coffee of course I have a huge interest in design which I’m luckily enough able to express through a lot of channels in our business.  I also have a weakness for “rom coms” (romantic comedies – movies), what can I say…  Travel – I haven’t done much yet, but I’m super interested!!

BMag:  Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

My life revolves around my passions and luckily enough my work happens to be one! We’re aiming to be working with more farmers at origin with the aim of producing better quality coffee on a micro scale. I’m hanging out to travel the world – to take in, experience and learn about different cultures. Food and coffee and the driving factors but I’m very interested in how different cultures work from the running of a business to the running of a family. I’d like to stay with locals when traveling instead of backpackers or hotels to get a better understanding of the above.  I’m also Chairman of the New Zealand Barista Guild and sit on the board for the New Zealand Specialty Coffee Association – I’d like to work towards having more to do with the NZSCA board and growing our industry here in NZ.  I love this industry and I can’t wait to give back, contribute to our industry and keep flying the flag for specialty coffee!

BMag:  Is there anyone you would like to thank or who helped you prepare for the WBC?

Richard Corney – My business partner, roaster and friend. He’s has been invaluable.  Steve Hall – My coach, friend and assistant roster. Steve has been amazing and I wouldn’t be where I am with out him!  My lovely lady Tash Kusel – Thanks for being the most supportive and amazing partner, she’s the best!!

About Sarah 934 Articles
Sarah Allen (she/her) is co-founder and editor of Barista Magazine, the international trade magazine for coffee professionals. A passionate advocate for baristas, quality, and the coffee community, Sarah has traveled widely to research stories, interact with readers, and present on a variety of topics affecting specialty coffee. She also loves animals, swimming, ice cream, and living in Portland, Oregon.