Gerson Parlindungan was born and raised in the outskirts of Jakarta, Indonesia. In 2014, aged 18, he migrated to New Zealand to study Hospitality Management. Without much English-speaking experience, Gerson found it extremely difficult to get a part time job, finding it hard to keep up due to an inability to fluently communicate with customers and the team. He decided to volunteer at his study institution’s student café to gain more knowledge. He worked closely with managers and trainers Christine and Karuna, learning important industry skills and service routines.
“That volunteer job gave me the confidence to keep working in hospitality.”
Within a few months, Gerson became a supervisor. At the conclusion of his study he took over a temporary management position, though his duties did not quite bring him satisfaction or an opportunity to progress.
“One day, the café trainer mentioned a barista competition at the National Culinary Fare (now NZ Hospitality Championship) and asked if I wanted to be trained to compete. That was an immediate yes from me.”
Gerson enjoyed the intensity of the training, making a lot of coffee in the process of his practice. He took home a Silver Medal and a newly discovered passion - coffee.
His career in the hospitality industry has only elevated from there and his passion for making coffee has skyrocketed.
Gerson is now in Taupō, as Café Manager and Head Barista at The Cozy Corner.
Since moving to Taupō, Gerson has tried to build a community amongst local baristas and coffee lovers. At Cozy Corner, he has hosted two events in association with coffee roasters Firsthand Coffee and Flight Coffee. Baristas travelled to the events from other towns, but no local Taupō baristas showed up, though Gerson hopes the next event will bring them in.
Immersing himself further into the community, Gerson also started an evening barista training course last year and began teaching a hospitality class at local Taupō-Nui-A-Tia College. Most recently, he trained staff at a newly opened coffee shop.
“It’s great fun to introduce my passion to beginner coffee drinkers who want to learn how to work the machine.”
Balance and consistency are the key features of great coffee, according to Gerson.
“It’s not about strength or how many shots you have in your cup. It’s about extracting and brewing coffee to its full potential, finding the right balance of sweetness and acidity, served at a temperature that’s drinkable.”
To Gerson, the less ingredients the better - just coffee and hot water, and “maybe a bit of milk if you wish”. He recommends staying away from flavoured shots.
His favourite blend changes all the time. Meebz’ Blend and Grey’s Daily Blend are amongst his favourites at the moment. Last year, Cozy Corner coffee supplier, Ripe, had a Barrel Aged Indonesian-Sumatra coffee he particularly enjoyed.
When he first started working as a barista, soy milk dominated plant-based milk coffee orders, with the occasional request for almond milk. Gerson saw the rise of coconut milk, particularly popular amongst customers on a keto diet, but now oat milk is the most popular milk alternative in his workplace.
“We introduced oat milk three years ago and many regulars who would normally have soy or almond milk quickly fell in love - especially after learning that oat milk has less environmental impact.”
The Cozy Corner is the first café in Taupō to serve NZ-owned Boring Oat Milk, which is produced right here in New Zealand. Gerson is proud to use clean products without added sugars, emulsifiers or other unnecessary additives.
Oat milk has shifted from a trend into the norm, with at least one in five coffees at Cozy Corner being made with the milk alternative.
The coffee industry has a constant wave of trends though, and many social media coffee crazes have come and gone in Gerson’s time as a barista.
“From frothed instant coffee with crazy amounts of sugar, to steaming cold-long blacks - I’m glad to see none of those trends remain relevant today.”
Gerson is yet to try new trends such as minerals that make made-at-home coffee tastier when added to the water. However, trends he does welcome to stay include the use of reusable coffee cups. At Cozy Corner Taupō, Gerson sees more handmade cups than manufactured ones such as the Keep Cup.
“There are plenty of very talented local potters in Taupō, making awesome reusable coffee cups.”
When not working as a barista, Gerson likes to explore new cafés and restaurants with his partner, Olivia.
“I like to sit and read, either at home or at a café - mostly at my workplace for the discounted food!”
Of course, he will always have a cup of coffee close at hand, preferring soft brew where possible for its cleaner mouthfeel.
“It’s coffee - great ideas appear after a good cup or two.”
Keen to collaborate with Gerson on his next coffee event? Find contacts and more information at thecozycornertaupo.com/