Careers advice

How to become a barista in NZ

Those flat whites aren’t going to make themselves.

Last updated: 10 April 2024

In Aotearoa, we’ve become a nation of coffee snobs. Whether it’s on the way to work in the morning, or as a hangout with friends at the weekend, popping out for a coffee has become something of a national pastime.

This means that, in all parts of the country, there’s a strong call for quality baristas. And, because we’re coffee snobs, we all know that not all baristas are created equal.

So, how do you become a barista in NZ? And what soft skills will help you succeed in this role?

Becoming a barista in NZ

Generally speaking, there are two routes that most baristas take to learn the skills:

1. Take a generalised hospo job and learn as you go

Of course, baristas are usually just one cog within a larger hospo team at a cafe, restaurant or bar. And many baristas learned their chops by first taking a more generalised role such as a server, and then getting trained up by an experienced barista...

The benefits of taking this route is that you don’t need to pay to take any type of qualification (see the next section for more on this), you’ll learn exactly how the cafe owner likes it done, and you’ll be earning as you learn.

The downside is that it can take a bit longer, as you’ll only have the opportunity to learn when the establishment is quiet enough for the barista to teach you. In addition, if you happen to work at a cafe or restaurant where the coffee isn’t great, you’ll be learning from someone who might not be the best teacher.

Additionally, if the establishment already has a resident barista, you may have to leave and look for a role elsewhere when you’re confident enough to step into those shoes.

You have different options to learn how to become a barista in New Zealand.

2. Take a barista course

As you’ll probably have realised by now, you definitely don’t need a qualification to work as a barista in NZ.

However, that doesn’t mean that such qualifications don’t exist. In fact, there are a whole heap of options out there if this is the way you want to go, from universities such as AUT to well-known coffee chains like Mojo.

The obvious downside of taking this option is that these courses cost money and take time. Although it’s worth noting that most courses are in the order of a couple of days to a week.

On the plus side, employers will see this qualification on your CV and know with confidence that you’re able to make a great cup of coffee. As a result, you’ll be able to apply directly for barista jobs in NZ without having to first work as a server or in another role. This, in turn, will broaden your job search prospects.

You can take dedicated barista courses to learn the tricks of the trade.

Important soft skills for baristas in NZ

As we’ve already alluded to, baristas in NZ are typically part of a larger hospitality team. And, as with just about any job, soft skills are highly valued by employers looking to hire baristas. Here are some of the most important:

  • Communication: Your role as a barista isn't just about brewing coffee; it's about creating experiences. Clear and effective communication is key to understanding customers' preferences, guiding them through the menu, and ensuring they leave satisfied. Whether it's recommending a new blend or explaining the brewing process, your friendly demeanour and articulate communication will make every interaction memorable.
  • Customer service: Being a successful barista means being a master of customer service. It's about going the extra mile to ensure every customer feels valued and appreciated. Greet patrons with a warm smile, engage in genuine conversations, and be attentive to their needs. Whether they're in a rush or looking to unwind, your ability to anticipate and exceed their expectations will keep them coming back for more.
  • Adaptability: In the fast-paced world of coffee, no two days are alike. From handling rush hours to catering to special requests, adaptability is crucial. Stay calm under pressure, prioritise tasks effectively, and be ready to switch gears at a moment's notice. Whether it's adjusting to a new brewing technique or accommodating dietary restrictions, your ability to adapt will ensure smooth operations and happy customers.
  • Teamwork: Behind every successful coffee shop is a cohesive team working in harmony. Collaborate with your fellow baristas, support each other during peak hours, and communicate effectively to keep the workflow seamless. Whether it's helping a colleague with an order or stepping in to cover a shift, your teamwork skills will strengthen the bond within the group and enhance the overall customer experience.
  • Attention to detail: From the perfect grind size to the precise milk froth, it's the little details that make a big difference in coffee-making. Pay close attention to each step of the brewing process, ensuring consistency and quality in every cup. Take pride in your craft, meticulously clean and maintain equipment, and present each drink with care and precision. Your attention to detail will elevate the coffee experience and leave a lasting impression on customers.


Al Hall
Al Hall

Al Hall is a regular contributor at Trade Me Jobs and Trade Me Property. He’s dedicated to helping people succeed in their aspirations to find their dream job and place to live.