The Barista – Masako Yamamoto

We caught up with Masako Yamamoto, former Barista Championship competitor and Barista Guild member from Auckland
What is your earliest coffee related experience?
My father owned a restaurant when I was young. I vividly remember sharing long blacks with a dash of cream in them. When I got a bit older dad introduced me to Hot Shots – a beverage consisting of espresso, galliano and cream.
Why/when did you first get working in coffee?
I was pretty much born into hospitality. All of my childhood photos are of me polishing cutlery, standing on milk crates while washing dishes and having naps on chest freezers.
My mum also owned a café, which fate may have it, used Atomic Coffee. So I have come full circle. At one point Dave Tobeck, who I now work with at Atomic, trained me.
What led you to become a barista?
Coming from a family with an immense interest in food and beverage may have something to do with where I am now. Both of my parents are outstanding cooks. My brother is also trained in winemaking. Plus, I love doing things with my hands – sounds creepy – but I feel the need to ‘create’ or produce tangible things. I could never sit behind a desk.
What is the best part of your job?
One of the greatest things about working in a café is the fun you have. So much of my time working is done whilst laughing! The first thing ex-hospo people admit is that they miss the social interaction. Not to mention free coffee! I would clock up a hefty debt if I had to pay for my coffee intake.
Talk us through a typical work day…
No day in the café is typical. The most important thing to do when I get to work is drug all of the staff with coffee. If they don’t get their caffeine fix they go mad. I like to think of myself as a drug dealer, it makes me sound badass.
What are your roles outside of making coffee?
I take coffee trainings for the public and also for our staff. I’m that annoying person to work with who is methodical and pedantic. I thrive on being super efficient.
What is your favourite brew method and/or origin and why?
That’s like asking who’s your favourite child! It’s all about mood. You don’t eat the same food for every meal. Each brew method and origin has their unique place.
Tulip or rosetta?
Tulip. It’s classic. I’m a classy lady (not at all!)
What would be your dream coffee experience?
Visiting origin is a given dream coffee experience for all baristas including myself. A definite nightmare would be to stop learning about coffee, so any experience where I learn something new is all I can ask for.
Do you have a ‘coffee crush’ (person you most respect in the business)?
I wouldn’t say it’s a crush but I did have the fortune of getting to work a couple of days with Gwilym Davies when he last visited NZ. I must admit I did not expect him to be as genuine, humble and approachable as he was (sounds a lot like a crush.) Gwilym was really open-minded and very knowledgeable. He taught me a lot. Cheers Gwilym you are welcome back anytime!