Cameron Hoogevorst, senior roaster of Vivace Espresso, helped his locally based team pick up three bronze medals in the Golden Bean awards in Australia—the world’s largest coffee roasting competition. This is the first time that Vivace had entered, and they ended up placing in each of the three categories they entered. The competition involved professional roasters blind-tasting blends from Australia and New Zealand and marking them on a points-based scoreboard across ten categories such as sweetness, acidity, body, balance and aftertaste.
“We had entered just to give it a go and take a crack at the scoresheet,” Hoogevorst explained. “I was stoked to see our blends place. It gives you a real sense of motivation to keep improving the product for next year and maybe even enter a few different competitions.”
Hoogevorst was first introduced to coffee when he was at high school. He would hang around cafés with his friends, eventually finding a love for the hospitality industry and coffee. Following that, he completed a Diploma in Hospitality Management which helped him to land a few jobs at some well-regarded cafés. He then attempted to teach himself how to roast coffee on one of his friend's machines, eventually leading to him landing a job at Vivace. He has been at Vivace for almost two years.
Hoogevorst said that they, “approach everything with a focus on quality—all of our decisions stem from that.” He believes that in order to make good coffee, there must be, “passion of all the people involved.”
The coffee culture in New Zealand seems to be taking off, with local cafes popping up all over the country. “The average coffee in New Zealand is pretty great compared to what you may find in a lot of places,” he said. “There is a real café and flat white culture here, and I think people have a certain expectation for quality coffee and like being immersed in the whole café experience.”
“Coffee is a wicked industry. There is always something new to taste and learn. The coffee community is also great with plenty of events to attend,” said Hoogevorst. Despite the upside, the hours and conditions that roasters work in are often tough. “Summer days coupled with very hot roasting machines can bring the temperature of the roastery anywhere up to 38 degrees Celsius. It’s pretty hard keeping cool.” On top of this, Hoogevorst said that their coffee is only ever as good as the barista using it. He describes how their support team has to be close to the cafés so that they can assist wherever needed. “Training at the front end is so important—so is effective machinery maintenance. We need to be aware of how the New Zealand market is evolving and ensure we stay one step ahead of the curve.”
Vivace is always growing and expanding throughout New Zealand, and currently has bases in Dunedin, Christchurch, Wellington, and Auckland. As the industry moves at a rate of knots, Hoogevorst is aware of the need to keep on top of technology as well as techniques and flavours. The development in technology adds a multitude of ways in which the coffee can be analysed and improved upon.
“Falling in love with coffee had a rabbit hole effect,” he explained. “There’s just no end to it.”