Auckland-based fine art photographer and barista James Mazey exemplifies a multi-dimensional approach to coffee. Alongside his Account Manager role at Ozone Coffee Roasters (NZ), James shoots stunning imagery, both commercial pieces and settings near to where he lives. Surf in Dunedin, power stations in Huntly, and tumbling streams at Okere Falls, his Instagram account defies the generic. In this interview, James outlines his entry into the coffee industry and some ideas for how to ensure progression - larks are summoned.
When did you start your career in coffee and how did you come across the industry?
Prior to being employed in the industry I started learning how to make espresso at home. I was super passionate about coffee and wanted to learn as much as I could, I fell in love with the process and culture, and would spend any free time visiting cafes. In 2012 I decided that I wanted to work with coffee full-time and did an espresso 101 course at a local roastery, not long after I found work as a barista. During my time in that job I got to know our coffee suppliers and would take any opportunity to talk coffee with them. A couple of years later a role became available at their roastery as an account manager/barista trainer/technician, so naturally I leapt at it. That role saw me being based at the roastery but also travelling around the country training baristas and fixing machines. It was an exciting time and I gained a lot of knowledge across many channels. At the start of 2020 I moved cities to further my career and am now living the dream with Ozone Coffee Roasters in Auckland, New Zealand.
What's the status of specialty coffee in Auckland?
I think we are seeing a shift in the way more and more people are valuing specialty coffee.
What types of people are suited to working in coffee?
I wouldn’t say that there’s specifically one “type” of person suited to working in this industry but the following characteristics definitely help... you need to be motivated and have initiative. Be focussed with an eye for detail - while working quickly under pressure. Making consistently high quality coffee is one thing but being hospitable, energetic and passionate also go a very long way. It also wouldn’t hurt if you’re a morning person!
If someone is new to coffee and looking to start out, what would you recommend they start with?
Learn as much as you can. Practice and then practice some more. Live and breathe it. Talk to other people in the industry in various roles and learn from their perspectives too. When seeking employment you may have to take another position within a cafe first before you’re let loose on the machine. That’s cool, the more you know about hospo the better, just make sure every day everyone there knows your desire to progress.
Are there some central blog posts or websites that you go to gain more knowledge, develop further skills?
I’m sure there are many insightful blogs/sites online these days that can be helpful, but for me I initially started by reading books/guides about the exact machines, methods, or origins I was using at the time and really focussing on getting the best out of the beans I was working with. Whoever you buy your coffee from should have this information readily available for you. Sometimes the best way to learn is just by experimenting, making mistakes, and learning from them. Nowadays all I read are sourcing reports and memes from @50percentarabica
What's next for your career? What's on the horizon and what goals do you have for the coming three years?
I’ve been on the wholesale side of the fence for just over five years now and the past couple of months have been the most rewarding time of my career to date, so I’m still really enjoying the day to day right now. Every day has new challenges and that keeps things interesting. As for three years down the line? Longevity in this industry has always been something on my mind. I'm a fan of taking opportunities when they come your way, but recently I also learnt you can create them through your actions and sincerity, so I am super excited and grateful to say I'll be moving on to a newly created role towards the end of the year - watch this space!