Today we have this honor to be with MR. ALAN BRUCE who catch finals in coffee competition such as barista, brewing and cup taster in new Zealand since 2016- and he went to semifinal last year. Alan is from Flight Coffee that is located in New Zealand and as I remember Flight Coffee was the first specialty coffee provider in that region. if you search about them you’ll see they’re all professionals and they serve absolutely high quality coffee.
How and When did you first move into this business?
I’ve been involved in Hospitality since I was 15 working in my local hotel in the Scottish Highlands. I started to focus on coffee after moving to NZ and in 2013 became a Barista Trainer for a local chain of specialty cafes. After a few years of competing I was approached by Flight Coffee and joined the team here.
What motivated you to become a competitor as long as you’re so busy in your company?
I’m a big believer in competitions as a force for personal and professional development. I think you learn something valuable every time you compete, so it’s important to make time to grow – even when you’re busy.
Do you had any coffee mentors or you just roll on base on experience and self-learning ? and which one is better in your opinion?
I’ve competed with and without mentors before, but the times when I’ve performed the best have been with coaching. It makes any training more effective, because you have an extra set of eyes on each performance, help with setting up and cleaning up, etc. The process of improvement becomes much faster. It’s also important to have constructive criticism right through your training – When I work by myself, I tend to go so far down one path before showing anyone where I’m at. Then when they suggest improvements, I might have to change quite a lot of what I’ve already spent a lot of time working on. When you have another person or people as a sounding board, you can get yourself to those good ideas with a lot less wasted effort.
Where did you get the idea of competing in coffee ?
I entered my first competition because I had far too high an opinion of my skill set! I signed up a few weeks before the competition and had no idea what I was getting into – I didn’t know the rules, I didn’t know what I was being scored on. I came dead last, but it really opened my eyes to how little I actually knew about the product that I worked with every day.
what did you learn of the competition? why are you competing? It’s works for what? Why you wouldn’t be a judge?
I learned that I had a long way to go before I could call myself a coffee professional, and I’ve continued to compete to prove to myself that I’ve progressed on that path. I’ve avoided judging in the past because I know how much pressure there is on judges to perform well too. I’m still a little wary of considering myself an ‘expert’ after my first time competing – I’d hate for my first time judging to go the same way! But ultimately, I also enjoy the atmosphere backstage at competitions and having the time to connect with the other competitors, which you can’t do so much as a judge.
As a cup taster and roaster, you can make lots of challenges for yourself to keep the consistency stable, is it possible? how the cup taster competition helped you in this business?
As a roaster, consistency is the highest goal for me. It doesn’t matter how good one roast of a coffee is if I’m not able to repeat it. We now have three roasters on our team, so it’s more important than ever that we maintain a high degree of consistency across our roasting – We have strict protocols to ensure that the three of us are operating in the same manner and achieving the same results. Since we started more focused practice around Cup Tasters triangulations, we’ve all become more adept at spotting inconsistency between batches, which makes us work even harder towards eliminating those inconsistencies.
what did you do to find the difference in the those 3 cup at 8 session with a lot of different algorithm? What was your personal method? What did you focus more on it?how you controlling your stress on the stage?
I think the easiest way to control stress is being prepared. You should have practiced so much that you’re almost bored of doing it by the time it comes around. For Cup Tasters we started with very easy triangluations once a week. Once we were confidently getting 7 or 8 right, we made it harder. By the week before the competiton we practiced multiple times every day with incredibly difficult triangulations (tiny variations in the cups, different roasts of the same coffee etc.) When I started tasting the coffees at the national competition, I couldn’t believe how easy it was in comparison and my nerves disappeared! If you’re worried about doing it in front of a crowd, get some friends in to watch you practice.