The Barista – Simon Lewthwaite

Inaugural New Zealand Vice Chair Simon Lewthwaite is headed abroad. Before he left we asked him some questions about his time on the Guild committee and his plans for while he’s away. We wish Simon all the best. We will miss his upbeat temperament and infectious grin!
What is your earliest coffee related experience?
I got dragged along to this tiny little shop in Takapuna, the original toasted espresso, and being forced to try a beverage called the ‘Triple Bypass’ (a triple long black). Uuuggggh! The only saving grace for my mouth was the 3 jaffas that were served with it!
When / why did you first get working in coffee?
I started as a waiter at Altura Roastery Café. I was studying full time and it was my part time job. This coffee job, soon becames my passion.
What led you to becoming a barista?
I showed a bit of interest in making coffee, as the process itself interested me. I trained initially under the guidance of Ben Boyle, who was then training for the NZBC. As soon as I knew it, the two main baristas were sick one day and Hans Pronk and I were put on the machine on a Saturday morning. 600+ coffees that day and I was hooked!
What is the best part of your job?
Currently, I am working as an espresso consultant for toasted espresso. I get huge kicks out of passing on my knowledge and being around people. My job is great because I get to do both everyday!
Talk us through a typical work day
First job, make a coffee; slow brew filter, espresso, flat white, anything goes. Work starts with calling through our daily customer list. I then ensure orders and scheduled services are on track for that day/week. Heading out, I visit my coffee customers, checking machines, checking stock and up keeping barista standards. I even jump on the machine at most cafes to give the staff a break, and cause I love it.
What are your roles outside of making coffee?
My role title is ‘espresso consultant’, so I guess my boss trusts me enough to provide consultancy around all things espresso related. With account management, this helps a lot. Cafes request help with menu layout and pricing, workstation flow, and even café setup. It’s a very variable job from day to day; it keeps me on my toes.
What is your favourite coffee origin and why?
EL SALVADOR. Straight up, ever since I first tasted the sour stonefruits (as espresso) and strawberry milk (as flat white) in the La Ilusion from Rocket Coffee, I was sold. It was unique and expensive, so I used it in the 2011 NZBC. Ever since then, I have tasted consistently great coffees from El Sal, the Finca Alaska and El Carmen to name a couple. Lately, I have been brewing with a chemex, but I am interested to try out the aeropress.
Tulip or rosetta?
A crisp tulip looks awes, but I think technical difficulty is right up there with multiple rosettas.
What would be your dream ‘coffee experience’?
I feel like I am about to head off and do it! I have always wanted to go to origin and take my skills somewhere else as a bit of an industry confirmation, you know? So my OE coming up should be fun!
The dream for most baristas is to own our thing, so to have somewhere that is my own would be grand.
Do you have a ‘coffee crush’ (person you most respect in the business)?
I think maybe the pioneers that have done something different and made it work. I admire innovation or twisting the norm in order to benefit/extend the industry. Guys like, Stephen Leighton, Doug Zell, Tyler Wells, James Hoffman catch my attention internationally.
How have you found your role as Vice-Chair in the inaugural NZ Barista Guild?
I’ve loved it. It’s been awesome to be involved in the committee itself, also. I feel that, even though things haven’t happened as fast as we’d liked, we’ve done a good job at creating a platform for the guild to grow and grow. There are so many baristas for us to get involved with, the best thing is that they want to learn! Getting the opportunity to pass on knowledge (through IEPL) is great and the best step towards industry quality improving.
What has been the highlight of the last year?
I think just being able to rub shoulders with the ‘bigwigs’ in the NZ coffee industry. It’s great to have people that you look up to, appreciate and see your input as being beneficial. The symposium was a great day too! Meeting the guest speakers was incredibly helpful prior to the OE.
What are your plans for overseas?
My wife and I are heading on our OE. We are in the United States for 3 months. The plan is to hit up roasters and breweries to see how the yanks do it. Meeting Doug Zell at the symposium was good, as I will be popping into visit and see inside of Intelli. At some point, I am judging a latte art throwdown in St. Louis with the team at Kaldi’s Coffee.
Then in March 2013, we are heading to the UK to hopefully work for a couple of years. I am ever hopeful of being able to get a job in coffee in the UK. I feel like a have a fair bit to offer and of course it would be a massive learning experience. You can follow our travels on my blog at
You’re a BGA Level One Certified Barista, do you think that will help you find work overseas?
Hell yes! It has been awesome to see the reception I get to adding the certain courses I have taken and the certification itself. It really hit home that the education services we’re offering are worth it!
What’s your main piece of advice to incoming VC Hadassah Green?
Try not to let the position in the committee dictate how you learn. Let the committee be an axis point for your own learning, both coffee wise and professionally. It’s such a good vehicle to learn when you let it.