Camper Coffee

We asked our previous hospitality profile subject @Honebegood to nominate our next subject, and he sent us to theologian-turned-coffee-guru Lee Woo Hyung of @camper_coffee. Johnny suggested Lee “simply because I really like what he’s done with the place and he seems like a really nice guy. He’s a stylish dude who is quite obviously extremely passionate about the coffee!” Lee was the winner of this year’s New Zealand AeroPress awards and will rep us in Dublin this June. Go check out his Newmarket hole in the wall.

SSS – How did you get into the hospitality game?

I started in hospitality in 2005, working as a part-time barista. The more that I was exposed to this industry, the more I realised that this profession was suited to me. In 2008 I started to be deeply involved in the industry – I guess you could say that this was when I started working as a barista full time. The more I understood and developed an in-depth knowledge of coffee, the more I immensely enjoyed the full potential of the industry. I love hospitality because it builds a wholehearted rapport with customers.

SSS – New Zealand has historically seen hospitality work as something you do to pay your way through university, not a long-term profession in and of itself like in some other parts of the world. How is hospitality work viewed in Korea, where you come from?

To tell you the truth, South Korea still has a similar conception of the hospitality industry as New Zealand does. Baristas are still viewed and acknowledged as part-time jobs that are worked to get through academic studies. A good analogy I like to give is that baristas are more like chefs and that people in the industry need to start viewing baristas as an actual occupation rather than a part-time gig. But this goes both ways, as baristas need to start believing that this will lead to a full-blown occupation, recognising the coffee industry as a career in itself, otherwise it will be impossible for the society to accept this craft as a valuable profession.

SSS – What’s the most important thing hospitality life has taught you?

The one massive value that this industry has taught me is that “whatever you do, everything will pay off in the end” and that it is one of the most rewarding feelings you could ever have in your lifetime.

SSS – What’s your favourite spot to enjoy a feed in New Zealand with a friend or a group of friends – restaurant, bar, cafe or beach…?

I actually have a couple of spots in New Zealand (especially in Auckland) that I always go to enjoy good coffee and food. My choices would be The Return of Rad (in Mt Eden) and Geeks on Sainsbury (in St Lukes). If it was a restaurant I would go to Tanpopo (on Symonds St), my favourite Japanese ramen place in New Zealand.

SSS – Is the customer always right?

They say that a customer is always like your mother-in-law. However, sometimes I get very grumpy customers – for no reason – and in these cases I try my best to be professional, but I honestly don’t want to serve them respectfully.

SSS – What does good service mean to you?

I think this is quite simple. As long as you are giving them more than what they have paid for, I believe that this is recognised as good service.

SSS – Describe your perfect customer.

I could describe this in two words: “empathising customer”. Not just a customer but also a friend who at the same time is like family. They are not here just for the product, but being able to share your best moments and be happy for you as much they are happy for themselves.

SSS – What are you going to be drinking during the cool and dark months? Have you got a recipe for us?

In all seriousness, I would like to recommend South Korean instant coffee called “Maxim”. It is intensely sweet and super addictive, you can get it at any Korean supermarket. The recipe is simple: add 100ml of hot boiling water to a sachet of Maxim instant coffee. And in summer, just add ice. Please enjoy ~ 😀

SSS – Would you like to suggest who Stone Soup should talk to next in New Zealand hospitality?

I would like to suggest Yuki from Tanpopo. He is a professional ramen maker and I think he makes the best ramen in Auckland.

Camper Coffee

Photography: Aaron McLean