All Good Interviews: Honoka Kawashima

We sat down with Honoka, who took out Best Newcomer, Most Outstanding Milk Beverage and over all Winner at the NZ Barista Championships 2023. We learnt about how she honed her skills and her vision for coffee culture in Aotearoa. 

on May 26, 2023

Tell us about yourself and your background:

I'm from Japan, and I came to New Zealand four years ago on a working holiday visa. In the beginning, I only planned to stay here for a short time. But when I started working at Franks, I became interested in coffee and learnt and practiced a lot.

You won an incredible amount fo awards at the Barista Champs, how did you get to that point?

I've competed at the latte art champs for the past three years. Last year, I came third, and my goal was to be in the top three. Achieving that made me brave enough to move on to the Barista Champs. It was my first time competing, so I didn't know much about the competition, but the technique is similar to a latte art competition.

I started putting in extra practice six months before the competition, initially dedicating three hours a day for three days a week, on top of my normal work hours. Later, I increased it to three hours every day, so I was spending a significant amount of time making coffees! I didn't expect to win in all three categories, but I had set a goal to at least be in the top six. I received a lot of support from different people leading up to the event, so I believe I won this award thanks to others' support.

What was your winning concept and how did you come up with it?

My concept was about how to be more approachable for our customers. Coffee can seem difficult as there is so much complicated information out there. I wanted to make it simpler for customers, so I gave the coffee a name as if it were a human. I talked about what makes her special, her parents, and the environment she grew up in when she was a cherry. That's why I chose this concept. I want more people to be involved and for them to know that it's not scary or complicated.  

Who inspires you the most?

The main reason I came to New Zealand was because of my role model Luise Metelka from Flight Coffee, who won the barista championship two years agoShe helped me a lot in deciding the concept and direction I should pursue. Logan Collinge from Hammerstone Coffee was also very supportive from the very beginning and provided me with a lot of inspiration. He even helped me twice a week, which was incredibly kind.

What is your favourite thing about being a barista?

The main thing is communicating with customers. I feel a connection with people through the coffee. We have loads of regulars at Frank's, we share what we enjoy and have created a sense of community.  

What’s next in your coffee career? 

Now I'm looking at the World Barista Champs next year in South Korea. I am setting my goals based on the belief that I deserve to be there. I'm not just setting low expectations because it's my first time; instead, I'm putting in a lot of effort.

How can we keep up with your journey?

Follow me! @kwsmhnk