Wellington’s most popular coffee shops frequently resemble science laboratories, complete with carbonated caffeine and triple-strained piccolo. Others appear to be dangerous, with graffiti art adorning dark corridors.
However, Tait Burge, the best barista in the coffee capital, does not regard himself as a scientist and dislikes the dark.
He drinks flat whites whenever the sun shines, pretending to be on a beach in the heart of Wellington City. He appears to be onto something, having recently won the Felix Wellington Hospitality Awards as Wellington’s Outstanding Barista.
It’s the café that this 27-year-old owns and has been operating at the end of inner-city Te Aro Park since 2019.
At the age of 16, he was turned down for a job. Burge began working with coffee at the age of sixteen.
He applied for a position with Mojo but was not hired. Rather than that, he was able to get his foot in the door through Wellington College’s gateway programme, which offered career counselling and job training to students.
That is where he “fell in love” with coffee. It was a passion that blossomed into an extraordinary career, courtesy of the school’s gateway programme.
With a high school qualification in coffee, and on-the-job experience, he locked in a weekend job with Mojo – and then worked as a barista full-time after leaving school.
“I was more on the career route at school, not really part of the ‘smart bunch’,” he recalls.