Where discipline meets creativity
Wanaka locals will be familiar with the Coffee Shack, a cute building perched on Brownston Street next to Charlie Brown Crepes. Arguably one of the favourite pours in town, the Shack is owned by Bonnie Lam, an NZ Barista Championship competitor who knows her coffee.
More recently, Bonnie has opened her second caffeination venture, the Coffee Dojo located on Umbers Street. The Coffee Dojo is a different spin, aiming to bridge the gap between coffee consumers and professionals. One of the ways they do this is through workshops.
As the Lake Wānaka Tourism team are a bunch of coffee fiends, we just had to join Bonnie at her Barista 101 workshop. Here's what we learned.
The name truly describes the setting at the Dojo. Raised seating makes the cafe space feel like a classroom, while wing-back chairs, beautiful wallpaper and natural light create an open and inviting atmosphere. By day, the Dojo is a cafe serving up incredible coffee and delicious snacks and treats. By night, workshops and events are hosted.
Both The Coffee Shack and The Coffee Dojo use Flight Coffee, a roasting operation based out of Wellington. Bonnie said she's gone through several bean suppliers in her short time in business because she was after a company that had both great beans and operated in a mindful capacity.
In the coffee bean industry, producers' prices are often volatile and low. Bonnie also explained to us that the supply chain is generally quite long, with lots of unnecessary middlemen, leaving even less earnings for the producers. Flight Coffee have cut out much of the middlemen in their scheme and in doing so, have been able to provide a stable price structure for their producers. This is obviously a vast oversimplification of Flight Coffee's solutions, but we don't want to give too much away, now do we?
What we can say is that Bonnie's passions for Flight Coffee's mission is evident and it's fascinating to hear her talk about their supply chain improvements.
After we learned about where the beans came from, we got into learning how to make the perfect coffee. For Bonnie, the process of making a cup of coffee is a precise science - one that we were keen to know more about!
First, we learned about grinding beans. Bonnie showed us that when espresso is brewed, the quality often comes down to an exact measure of brewing time and amount of coffee brewed. And this depends on the size of your grinds; whether they are more coarse or more fine. Bonnie explained how to use the machine to adjust the size of the grinds and we experimented with the espresso machine, playing with what kinds of grinds produce certain results.
She also taught us how to properly use the tamper and knock bin.
Next up, milk. Bonnie gave us each a small milk jug and a pencil and we practiced steam wand placement. Bonnie came round and checked that we all had optimal pencil placement before we headed into the real thing.
After learning to steam our milk, it was time for everyone's favourite part - pouring it into the espresso. Now, we didn't master any fancy milk designs this time around; we'll leave that to the pros for now.
Now that we had learned all the individual steps, it was time to put them together. With a little supervision from Bonnie, we all made our own cup of coffee - from start to finish.
And while we can admit that we did pretty well, we'll still be visiting The Coffee Shack and The Coffee Dojo for our daily caffeination. After all, they're the experts!
Check out The Coffee Shack at 75 Brownston Street and The Coffee Dojo at 1 Umbers Street in Wanaka.
The Coffee Dojo hosts a ton of workshops for burgeoning baristas and coffee fanatics.
Bonnie Lam will also be returning to the Meadow Fresh NZ Barista Championship on March 20, 2021.