Our Barista Champions: Ben Simcox 2003

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? It’s been over half a lifetime ago! While living and traveling overseas, I discovered my passion for coffee and a strong desire to be a barista. So I returned home to study the science and learn the art of creating great coffee. My brother and I decided we were going to build and run a coffee cart when there was only one cart in Auckland at Victoria Park Market. I was then fortunate to be offered the role of National Barista trainer for Burton Hollis and Gravity in the late 90’s and haven’t looked back since.

When did you first start to compete? Early 2000’s

What did you learn along the way? Coffee is subjective. Still to this day, as I continually hone my craft I know I’ll never get to master it, but still totally enjoy the quest of striving to.

What was your motivation, what did you want to achieve? Hospitality has been in my blood even while I was still at school. I came from a Chefing and DJing background before becoming a Barista. The common thread between these vocations for me has always been about flavour, focus, timing, and creation through intuition while underpinning it all, getting to share my passion with others, and being able to bring a little joy to people’s day.

Most memorable experience as a champion, what did you get out of it? As part of the preparation for the WBC, I got to compete as practice in the Australian barista championship, where I obtained the highest score in Australia for that year. Also, I was invited to be the Asian Pacific trainer for the WBC.

Who helped you along the way? I was self-motivated, but the support and use of equipment and products from Burton Hollis and David Burton were invaluable in my journey to compete.

Where are you now? After competing in the WBC I established my international hospitality consulting and training business, which took me to the States, UK, and Dubai. I then set up and ran a cafe/restaurant/bar/music venue for 10 years in Napier called “Groove Kitchen Espresso”, which won NZ Cafe of the Year in 2008. Through my continuing consultancy business I’ve recently set up a couple of businesses locally. A brewery/winery/restaurant, and a cafe, which I’m currently managing.

I continue to train Baristas and the public in the art of coffee, while still Cooking and DJing regularly. More importantly to me, I get to Barista most days, and it still gives me as much joy as it did when I began this journey almost 30 years ago.