On the Grind

Roaster Collaboration #70 - Aoraki Coffee Roaster

Roaster Collaboration #70 - Aoraki Coffee Roaster

In the world of coffee, there are enthusiasts, there are experts, and then there's Ken Shi – the Director and Head Roaster of Aoraki Coffee Roaster. Ken's journey into the realm of coffee is a tale of passion, dedication, and the pursuit of excellence.

Ken's fascination with the complexities of a coffee career began when he traded the bustling streets of Shanghai for the serene landscapes of New Zealand in 2003. At the time, he was juggling multiple roles, from running a karate dojo to pursuing a Bachelor's degree in Maritime. It was amidst this dynamic backdrop that Ken's love affair with coffee began.

Ken's transition from novice to virtuoso in the coffee industry is nothing short of inspiring. He's explored every facet of the coffee world – from being a roaster to a barista trainer, a technician, and even a discerning coffee competition judge.

Ken Shi judging coffee

Not content with merely witnessing the coffee world, Ken made his mark as a champion himself. In 2017, he claimed the prestigious title of the NZ Coffee Cup Taster Champion. His accolades didn't stop there – Ken consistently demonstrated his coffee craftsmanship, securing the Australia International Coffee Awards Silver Medal and the Australia Golden Bean Awards Silver Medal from 2018 to 2022.

Ken Shi with award
Ken's journey extends beyond the coffee machines. For the past five years, he's lent his expertise as a judge at the NZ Barista and Latte Art Championship. When he's not roasting, you'll find Ken donning various hats – as Chair of Events and Community Portfolio and Membership Portfolio at the New Zealand Specialty Coffee Association, and as the Chapter Director of Buddha’s Light International Association in the North Island of New Zealand.

Ken's artistry doesn't end with accolades and titles. At Aoraki, he's currently orchestrating his coffee symphony using two distinct roasting machines – an old classic single drum roaster and a modern indirect double drum roaster. For each machine, Ken meticulously selects the most suitable single-origin coffee, continuously refining his recipes to perfect the delicate balance of acidity, sweetness, bitterness, and umami.

Now, let's talk about the star of the show – Ken's Choice Blend. This harmonious blend brings together beans from Kenya, Colombia, Peru, PNG, and Guatemala. With strength rating at 3.5/5, it offers a delightful fusion of flavors – think sweet chocolate, pink cherry, and dry raisin notes, with a subtle winery aftertaste.

Aoraki Coffee Roasters Kens Choice bags

This blend is more than just a coffee; it's an experience. Whether you prefer a rich sweet cocoa espresso or a silky smooth milk chocolate flat white, Ken's creation has something for everyone. It's versatile, perfect for both milk beverages with its delicious cocoa and dry raisin notes, and for espresso or long black where you'll encounter stone-fruit acidity and a hint of shiitake mushroom umami flavor.

Ken's craftsmanship has been acknowledged far and wide, with awards like the 2018 Melbourne Coffee Awards SILVER, the 2018 Australia Golden Bean SILVER, the 2019 Australia Golden Bean SILVER, and the 2022-2023 Australia Coffee Awards SILVER.

NZ Cup Tasters Championship Trophy
So, how does Ken enjoy his own blend? He recommends it for all types of espresso drinks, with or without milk. However, if you're seeking a personalized touch, Ken's personal favorites include the single ristretto espresso, double espresso long black, oat flat white (prepared with "no ordinary" oat milk), and a refreshing iced latte with fresh Anchor dark blue milk and ice made from clean filter water.

In conclusion, Ken Shi's journey in the world of coffee is one marked by passion, skill, and a deep understanding of the craft. His dedication to perfecting the art of roasting and blending shines through in every cup of Aoraki coffee. It's not just a brew; it's a masterpiece crafted with love and expertise. So, next time you savor a cup of Aoraki's finest, remember the magic that goes into each sip – the magic of Ken Shi. ☕🌟