Our Barista Champions: Emma Markland Webster 2002

As we move towards 2024 and the return of regional barista events we want to acknowledge and celebrate the past and the people that were part of the journey in New Zealand. We asked our past champions about their journey in coffee competitions in NZ to help inspire the competitive baristas and coffee community of 2024.

Where and when did you start in coffee? Dixon Street Deli, back in the day, 1998 maybe, I was in charge of the cheese counter and coffee. A perfect combo!

When did you first start to compete? The first-ever national NZ championship that led to the world event, was the Robert Harris Barista Awards in 2001. I came second in the Wellington regional earning a place at the finals in Auckland. I think I aced that general coffee knowledge test we had to do 🙂

What did you learn along the way? I learned so much, it was the people and then the coffee then the amazing coffee family I found. I learned that you will never know everything in coffee, and it will challenge you daily.

What was your motivation, what did you want to achieve? I was teaching people to make coffee so I thought I should really see what the top level was all about. I wanted to prove others wrong, and that coffee was more than just a means to an end. I also wanted the profession and myself to be taken more seriously.

Most memorable experience as a champion, what did you get out of it? There have been so many memorable experiences and moments, as a Champion that I cannot pinpoint one. I am still involved in the championship events and the evolution of the World Championships. What do I get out of it? A drive to make things better, to help others along the way to get others involved, to have fun, to taste amazing coffees. It opened the doors to the strange and wonderful world of coffee, judging other events like the AeroPress Championship, to competing in the inaugural Coffee Throwing Championship!

Who helped you along the way? Many, many people helped me, but I think those early people and their companies that believed in what I was doing and helped sponsor me get to the other side of the world to the events early on truly helped me the most. Chris White at Altura Coffee in Auckland has been a constant throughout all these years and to this day, back then I traded my time training for money towards airline tickets. Now as a fellow coffee brother and geek assisting and mentoring others in their coffee journeys, he is always there to help in the NZ and world judging calibrations. Another that stood out in my coffee journey was Chris Dillon of Coffee Supreme, he always listened to be and took me seriously even though I was just a barista. He made be a honorary coffee roaster in a meeting of roasters in 2004 prior to the formation of the original coffee roasters association. I couldn’t always articulate what I wanted to say when asked to ‘break it down to in a nutshell’, but appreciated always my time with him and his mentoring over the years.

Where are you now? Who knows on a daily! Nelson-based, still teaching, training, events managing and planning, equipment selling, brainstorming, overthinking, developing new ideas, and competition formats.