Meet the Barista: Ashley Cooper, Field & Green

Field & Green Café Manager, Ashley Cooper is originally from Forster, a coastal town in New South Wales, Australia. He studied a Bachelor of Business in Hotel & Resort Management before moving up to the Gold Coast and working his way up the hospitality food chain. Getting the itch to travel, he made his way to British Columbia, falling in love with Whistler “as most Australians do”, before he and his wife made their way to New Zealand. 

“My wife and I made our way to New Zealand for a one year working holiday. Three years later - we are looking to call New Zealand our permanent home!”

Now in Wellington at European soul food eatery, Field & Green, Cooper was at first attracted to a career in coffee for the hours hospitality can offer.

“You can always find more work in hospitality when you are proficient in making espresso coffee.”

Starting out in a pub bistro, Cooper figured his way around the coffee machine by making kitchen staff their before-shift beverages. 

“Great way to practice for customers!”

He enjoys helping people start their day right, with a little cup of joy.

To Cooper, first and foremost, coffee needs to taste good! 

“With the rise of smartphones, people tend to judge a coffee immediately by the latte art.”

But, like the old adage goes ‘you should never judge a book by its cover’. In Ash’s experiences, perfect latte art does not guarantee the best drink.

“For a barista there is nothing worse than getting your coffee and seeing a perfectly formed rosetta, only to take your first sip and immediately be let down by bitterness and burnt milk.”

Cooper is making his stamp in New Zealand and Australia’s phenomenal coffee cultures, and has seen trends across the industry. 

The trend that really stands out to me is the absence of new baristas and floor staff coming through the doors with resumes. With the hospitality industry in New Zealand comprising at least 50 percent overseas working holiday visa holders, the border restrictions have created a massive skill shortage.”

He hopes that the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions don’t dampen the region's reputations as coffee masters, and hopes to see the next generation of baristas coming through.

Cooper also acknowledges the huge rise in popularity of plant-based milk and other milk alternatives. When he started his coffee-making journey, soy milk was the only alternative option. 

“Oat milk has easily overtaken other options as the most popular alternative to dairy. In my opinion, it is the best milk alternative as it allows the coffee to shine rather than overpowering it.”

Cooper’s go-to coffee order is a large oat flat white, with one sugar and his favourite blend comes from an Australian company called Campos. 

“I really fell in love with the blend of Ethiopian, Kenyan and Colombian beans.”

He also enjoys the Don Wilfredo blend from People’s coffee, finding it the only one that comes close to Campos’ blend. 

“Interestingly enough, they both have a very strong farm-to-cup focus on quality and fair trade. It must make it taste better!”

His advice to baristas in the making - “Dial in your grind first thing in the morning, don’t burn your milk and put your soul into that cup of beans!”