She may be a very long way from home, but popular Swedish barista Madeleine Strömbäck, of Joe’s Garage, beat off some top local opposition to be crowned Queenstown’s ‘queen of coffee’ at the recent Queenstown Hospitality Awards.Madeleine, who grew up around the Polar Circle, has been in Queenstown for three and a half years and took out the prestigious Outstanding Barista honours at the awards. She first honed her coffee making skills back home in Sweden’s Caffe Ritazza and after several years working in Gothenberg, she headed off to travel overseas, working in Australia and Asia, as well as New Zealand.

Queenstown drew her back and she’s hooked for now. “I just love the people here so much. I love working at Joe’s Garage – every second,” she says, bubbling with enthusiasm for her job.

Winning the award was a huge honour and one that has both Madeleine and the family back home in Sweden feeling immensely proud.

For Madeleine being a barista is much more than just making good coffee. It’s about throwing your whole heart into making great coffee, whether that be for locals or visitors passing through. “It’s like you have a personal relationship with your customers,” she says. “Everybody is very honest and open here about how they are – maybe it’s a Kiwi, or Queenstown, thing.”

There’s never a bad day at the office for her. “You can’t have a bad day at Joe’s. It’s always good fun and everyone likes to joke around with each other and the customers,” she says.Renowned locally for her recognition of regular customers, Madeleine’s boss, Joe’s co-owner Justin Bird says she’s pretty much got their coffee ready before they walk in the door.

“She remembers everyone’s names and what they drink,” he says. It just comes naturally to this Scandinavian blonde with the beautiful big smile. “For me it’s just great when all the locals come in and I come off shift having had a fantastic day, the whole team is on a high and everyone is letting us know how much they’ve enjoyed their coffee,” she says.

It’s two in a row for Joe’s when it comes to making coffee. Madeleine’s former co-worker Nat Payne, now back home in England, took out the Outstanding Barista honours at the awards last year.

Other winners this year included young Karan Dhillon, of Slow Cuts, who took out Emerging Chef as well as the Supreme Award for Emerging Talent; Outstanding Waiter – Elisa Bellei – Botswana Butchery; Outstanding Café – Bespoke Kitchen; Outstanding Bar – The Sundeck where William Prior also took out Supreme Crew Member and Outstanding Bartender; Outstanding Front of House – La Rumbla; Outstanding Chef – John Pickens (Akarua Wines & Kitchen By Artisan); Outstanding Establishment and Central City Establishment went to Tanoshi, while Amisfield Bistro took Supreme Establishment and Cardrona Distillery – Supreme Supplier.