Our Barista Champions: Dove Chen 2017 & 2019

As we move into 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? Technically, my coffee journey started at a young age in my hometown Shenzhen where I would sneak instant coffee from my parents and crave anything coffee-flavoured, especially lollies. Later, the more specialty coffee I tasted and experienced the more my love for the field grew, and by 2007 my passion for coffee was very fruitful.

When did you first start to compete? I first competed in 2015. In the 2017 Meadow Fresh New Zealand Championship I won my first title which was a defining moment for me, it propelled me into many avenues that I am still actively refining and building on.

What did you learn along the way? I am always learning. In terms of coffee, there is so much to learn, and the industry is always evolving. Over the years I have learned alot on the value of consistency, balance, determination, mindset, and of course gratitude.

What was your motivation, what did you want to achieve? My motivation is purely my passion and love for coffee. A goal I have always held close to is to produce coffee that makes people happy and grants them a unique and exciting experience. For myself, I never want to stop learning, I live for the mind-blowing experiences and highs coffee gives me.

Most memorable experience as a champion, what did you get out of it? The entire experience of winning a championship title was and is still very surreal to me, for me it is the journey coming full circle. The process of entering and presenting something that I was proud of and felt worthy of was riffleing and many fine details go unmentioned, let alone the execution of it all. Little moments will always be memorable to me, but I will never forget the feeling of seeing how thrilled and excited my team was for me, and at the end of the day it’s all about teamwork.

Who helped you along the way? Along the way, I have been lucky enough to have some amazing mentors, friends, family, and team who have all supported me. I have to give special thanks to Sam Low, David Huang, Scott Pepler, John Gordon, River Vili, Dan Webster, and Alex Hong.

Where are you now? Nowadays, I am running with my passion project, Grey Roasting Co., my Roastery and Tasting Room, located in The Sheds, at MADE. 401 Grey Street, Hamilton. My dream is coffee, and I am very lucky to do it every day in such a special, close-knit community.