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A Chat With Hoony Chae, NZ Latte Art Championship

Posted by Tay-Lann Mark on


Hoony Chae from Mojo Auckland shares some insights on his journey from the MeadowFresh NZ Latte Art Championships to the recent 2019 World Latte Art Championship (WLAC) in Berlin, Germany.

Mojo: Congratulations, Hoony on your wonderful achievement! How did you feel when you heard the announcement that you had won?

Hoony: I was very nervous and excited to hear the results…I couldn’t believe it! I am extremely happy and honoured to be a champion.

M: Tell us about your journey from starting to make coffee to winning the competition.

H: I have been making coffee for about 5 years now and I started at Mojo 3 years ago. I became interested in creating latte art and my goal is to be a great barista. I was so surprised to come third the first time I competed, and it inspired me to keep competing. I was really focused this year and was practicing for about six months before the competition. In my opinion, to be a champion, you need a lot of support and help... Without the help of Mojo and Team New Zealand I could not be the NZ champion or do well on the world stage.

M: How long did you practice for before the Worlds?

H: I only practiced just one month because the national competition was just a month before the worlds.

M: How did you choose your patterns?

H: Choosing patterns is the most difficult part for me. I find it really hard to create new patterns. You need a lot of practice but Mojo managed my roster to work in the morning, and afternoon was my own practice sessions. 

M: What was your favourite part of the process before you left?

H: The training sessions with Team New Zealand! Every Thursday evening we invited national judges and other past champions to watch my routines, give feedback and help me out with my patterns and performance.

M: How many competitors were you competing against?

H: 41 national champions from all over the world.

M: Tell us a little bit about what you have to do in the competition.

H: In the first round, I have to show the judges two photos of drinks I am going to pour. I then have to pour both of them twice. One is a ‘free-pour’ where I can only create a design with the jug. The other one is a ‘designer pour’ and I can use some etching tools, chocolate powder or colour if I want. I also pour another drink backstage that is judged blind by separate judges. These two scores are added together to see who goes through to the semi-finals. I also have to speak to the judges and treat them like my customers.

M: Tell me about your presentation.

H: My presentation went well but not as perfect as I wanted. Honestly, I can't really remember what I did …!! I was super nervous but very excited that I could be on the world stage.

M: What was it like being backstage?

H: Backstage was a diverse atmosphere and mood of competitors. Some competitors are very into the championship - very serious. But also there were many people who were more relaxed and enjoying the competition.

M: What was it like meeting other national champs and did you meet any famous coffee people?

H: I was a bit nervous and also everyone is your competitor! In the beginning, all the competitors were very focused on their own things, but once we got to know each other, everyone was really nice.

I met so many past world champions as well, and not just latte artists. I met the 2018 WBC Champion Agnieszka, 2017 WLAC Champion Arnon, 2018 WLAC Champion Irvine and many more.

M: What were the highlights of competing at the WLAC?

H: It was great experiencing the world level, getting knowing other national champions and being encouraged by them.

M: Unfortunately, you weren’t able to go through to the semi-final round but we heard you helped some other teams. Please tell us more about that.

H: Some competitors were happy with their results and some of them were not so happy, but they end up accepting their results and cheering for the finalists. I talked with many competitors and I also was asked to help out the Korean team. I also lent some equipment to some competitors. It was a great opportunity to see how other people train and prepare. I learnt so many new things from everyone.

M: What did you think of Berlin? Did you have any spare time to look around?

H:  It was my first time in Europe and I had a great time! It was really hot but I walked a lot on my first few days and tried to see many interesting places. After the competition I hung out with Team Korea. I am big fan of theirs and they kindly asked me to hang out before they went back to Korea. I also spent time with our NZ Cup Tasters champion, Alan Bruce who ranked 5th in the world and our NZ superstar Emma Markland Webster. We enjoyed Berlin and did some coffee tours around the city. It was interesting to go to their cafes and experience their culture.

M: What’s next? Are you going to compete again?

H: Absolutely – I would love to be on the WLAC finals stage!

To read more about the NZ Latte Art Champs, check out www.nzsca.org.nz