Meet the Owner: Bonnie Lam, Coffee Dojo

Coffee enthusiast Bonnie Lam still loves being behind the coffee machine even after years of competitive barista work and owning two cafes. In the heart of Wanaka, Lam has always loved the rush of working in a cafe setting, her experience dating back to helping her parents in their cafe.

After leaving an office job and moving to Wanaka to be a snowboard instructor, Lam rediscovered her love for coffee. Great coffee is made with love by baristas who care about the craft, and Lam has undoubtedly loved the process of building her passion over the years. Taking lessons from fellow baristas is how Lam developed her hands-on skill and is what she recommended to aspiring coffee makers.

Lam advocated the strong coffee culture in Wanaka. With so many great locations for locals and travellers, Lam dreams of Wanaka taking over Wellington to become the coffee capital of New Zealand. She finds joy in passing her experience and passion on to young baristas. With the industry taking a hard hit after COVID, Lam understands how many people still view this line of work as a “filler job.”

“I would like to provide my team with a fulfilling job that can provide for life. I do love it when my baristas go on to learn more about coffee in other countries. In five short years, one of my baristas is in the U.K, and one is in Canada pursuing the art of coffee.”

Trends come and go when it comes to coffee, and Lam has noticed that the attention from customers is turning to the production side of things. Customers are asking the right questions rather than looking at the labels that are on the coffee bag. To be fully transparent with customers and supporting everyone in the supply chain is what Lam advocated strongly for.

Lam expressed her excitement for the return of barista competitions, especially since her coffee hero, Agnieszka Rojewska, won the world barista championship in 2018.

“I always get asked if I want to get into roasting, and the answer is a big no. I belong behind the machine, and I love being behind the machine. You can’t perfect your art without being on the tools.”

When Lam is not behind the coffee machine, she takes all Wanaka can offer by snowboarding, skateboarding, and mountain biking. Some of Lam's tips for those wanting to get into the craft are taking notes, learning from skilled and passionate baristas, doing a course, and finding happiness.