Meet Hilary Gwaze, the Eastern Cape Region’s Barista Champion for 2019

22 Oct 2019 | Coffee Competitions, Competitions, Eastern Cape, News, Regionals

Meet Hilary Gwaze from Zimbabwe now residing in Jeffreys Bay. Hilary placed second in 2018 but came back strong this year to win the Eastern Cape’s Barista Competition.

Tell us a bit more about yourself? Who you work for and how you got into coffee?
l’m a Zimbabwean residing in Jeffreys Bay close to Port Elizabeth and have been working at Infood Coffee Roastery since 2013. l got involved in coffee through a dear brother of mine as a means of putting food on my table, little did l know that it was going to become a passion and my life…

Tell us a bit more what this win means to you?
This win means everything to me, because as a barista trainer l have a lot of people who look up to me as their role model, so this win has inspired a lot of young people to have a different perceptive on coffee, that you can actually make a career and a profession out of this.

The Eastern Cape Region Coffee Competitions were such an exciting event this year, tell us more about your experience and how it felt like competing? Please tell us more about your set? Beverages/Signature Drink.
It was a great experience no matter how many times you compete it’s always a nervous experience standing in front of judges. l used an ‘Ethiopian Guji Anasora Grade 1 Natural’. Wow l can confidently say that it’s one of the best coffees l ever had and it really shines through in the milk, but you have to be careful because not all milk will complement this coffee. l used a farm fresh milk and it really brought out the best in this coffee. My signature drink was my favourite course because the complexity of this coffee gives you so many options to play around with. l discovered that as this coffee cools down it begins to change and have a dominant berry flavour, so l wanted to highlight that berry flavour, that’s why l left my coffee to cool down to add my reduction which consisted of blueberries, strawberries, orange and sugar which l mixed with my coffee and it brought out flavours of chocolate, berries and orange with a lavender finish.

How long did you train? And what specific methods do you apply when approaching a competition?
I don’t recall exactly how long I trained, but at our roastery where l work we have about more than 10 specialty coffees and more than 20 high commodity coffees which l sell about everyday, and when l’m selling these coffees l always explain about the origin, altitude, processing method, roast profile and taste profiles which is very similar to the barista competitions, so my approach to coffee competitions are the same as my approach to our costumers who walks through our doors everyday asking me different questions which always challenges me to grow and do more research.

Did you ever expect to win two specialty awards?
Not at all l just gave my best and the hard work of my team and l paid off.

What is great about coffee in the Eastern Cape?
l really love the coffee community we have here in the Eastern Cape because there is unity and everyone is willing to help and learn. My set involved a lot of people that showed how great coffee is in the Eastern Cape.

What is your favourite coffee at the moment, and why?
The ‘Ethiopian Guji Anasora Grade 1 Natural’ because it’s very complex and versatile, you can enjoy it as anything, but my favourite is when you introduce milk to it as a cappuccino or cortado.

Is there anyone you would like to thank or recognize, or who helped you to prepare for the Eastern Cape Region Coffee Competitions?
l would love to thank my colleagues who helped me, and a special thanks to Jayne Davies the owner of Infood for supporting me and sponsoring me with everything l needed for the competition.

What are your interests outside of coffee?
I like playing and watching soccer, by the way l used to be a professional soccer player.

What’s next for you and where do you see yourself in five years? 
I think making top six at nationals will be great because it will inspire a lot of young people like me, that it’s possible and it will be a good example as l have a lot of people who look up to me as their leader and role model. l think in five years l see myself making a lot of impact by training young people who are less privileged and who don’t have hope anymore. By giving them skill and impart knowledge in them so that they can also start their career in coffee.
Thanks Hilary, and all the best for the future!

(Photos: Shaun Aupiais)