For the love of the game

Wednesday, 8 May, 2013

TheCoffeeMag: So the last two years have been all about barista competitions for you hey? Which has been more difficult, competing yourself or training with Lovejoy?

Wayne Oberholzer: Hands down… getting Lovejoy ready for the worlds. I have been handling a lot of the PR, flights, hotels, visas and customs control. Have you seen border security? My dreams have been filled with cameras in our faces… and my old lady watching me being frisked searched on Discovery channel. ha ha ha. But other than that, it has been fun. The rush and uncertainty of putting together a set, tasting a myriad of different signature drinks. Now we are pretty settled. But i'll be honest, I'm still nervous as hell!

These things never run as smoothly as we hope, have there been any major hiccoughs along the way?
Problems???… you mean like getting an email 2 days ago from the Australian consulate. They wanted to know who was paying for this whole trip. Normally a simple question right? Well as Zane and I found out last year, this is normally the precursor to them denying the visa. What concerned us even more, was the original letter sent from Origin clearly stated that they were covering all costs. Then when I spoke to the agent handling our visas… She said this was the first time… in 12 YEARS, that she has ever had them ask for such forms etc. So to say we were freaking out, is an understatement. Emails, letters, bank statements, everything i could think of got fired off to them in the hope to avoid a HUGE problem. After a full day of freaking out, we finally got an email last night saying that both our visas have been approved. I think i did a little happy dance… that kinda resembled the dancing hippos from fantasia.

How many times have you run through Lovejoy's set?
We do a minimum of 4 sets each and every night. I would have to guess close on 80 times so far. But even then things don't always go to plan. Last week we were both freaking out about the signature drink. We re worked a few things, and now we are very happy with what we have before us.

What was going through your head on stage when you competed and what have you told Lovejoy to focus on? There's a lot of pressure when you're up there.
Don't vomit… its not a good look. Ha ha ha. To be honest, when you get on stage, everything kinda goes out of your head. You try and forget about everyone around you and just get into a comfortable position. The way i like to deal with the pressure, and train Lovejoy to deal with the pressure is this simple saying… Smooth is fast. The more you try to rush, the more uncomfortable and out of control you'll get on stage. Next is to force the emotions into your toes. Sounds weird i know, but ask anyone who has been on stage that you can physically feel the fear and nerves. Its actually an incredible rush!

Who is your barista inspiration?
We both look up to a few guys. But I would have to say Collin Harmon. His approach to competition and the way he talks about coffee is just amazing. He really hasn't forgotten why it is that we are in this industry. Gwilym Davies of course is awesome. The way he explores coffee, is just inspiring!

Are you looking forward to Melbourne, should be pretty interesting, being one of the global hubs of coffee culture?
Excited… I was really excited to see Metallica again. Melbourne is going to be mind blowing! The food and beverage culture… if thats a real term.. is one of the best in the world. Bring the WBC into the whole equation, it is going to be insane. Look at all the guys competing this year? Its a who's who of the coffee industry! Pete Licata, Collin Harmon, Matt Perger to name just a few. Then we have all these amazing coffee shops and roasters there. Not to mention… BEER! Ha ha ha lots of great beer!

Words of encouragement for Lovejoy?
Have fun. People forget to much that this competition, at its core, is all about having fun! Lj is the hardest working barista i have ever met. Take yesterday for instance. He started at 6:30am, managed the entire cafe all day, worked on the espresso machine, then after all of that, still put in 3 sets. Smooth is fast, and just go with the flow brother.

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