Crunch Time

Blair Tickner: 'I packed three kilos of coffee beans for the Bangladesh tour'

The New Zealand fast bowler on juggling his cricket and café side-hustle, his love for coffee, and his team-mates who are the worst cooks

Bean there, done that: Tickner plays barista in the morning, cricket in the afternoon  •  Associated Press

Bean there, done that: Tickner plays barista in the morning, cricket in the afternoon  •  Associated Press

You've opened your own cafe at Hawke's Bay Regional Sports Park.
Me and my fiancée, Sarah Reid, got the opportunity at the Sports Park from our old physio who used to work with the Central Stags. So we wanted to deliver healthy delicious food and just good coffee with our motto, "Power to perform". So that was our point of difference.
You named your café 13th Stag and you also use No. 13 on your jersey. Is 13 a special number for you?
My birthday is on October 13, so it has always been special to me. From there to here, it sort of came together.
You've worked as a barista during the off season. How did coffee turn into a major passion for you?
I've always loved coffee and understanding how coffee beans are formed and how best to use them for different blends of coffee. I've got the opportunity now and I've always wanted to run a café and we've been going for two years. It has become a part of our lives now and it has been awesome to see it grow day by day.
What's the most popular breakfast dish at 13th Stag?
Probably, the avo feta smash - avocado with poached eggs - but the most common dish in Hawke's Bay is Eggs Benedict; people love that in New Zealand.
Can you recall any celebrations with your team-mates at the café after winning a game?
I get to see them every day because there are gyms there and we train there. No real celebrations there, but it was good when we had the TV going when New Zealand won the World Test Championship over in England, which was pretty special. We had a good crowd in the café having breakfast, so it was pretty cool to see.
How do you juggle between running a café and playing cricket for Central Districts and New Zealand?
I play till about March for the Central Stags and over the last few years I've been part of the New Zealand winter squad… so we've trained throughout.
It has needed balance. Obviously, my partner, Sarah, has had to do a lot of work on it while I'm away playing cricket, but when I'm back, I can work for the last four months. So I've been getting up early in the day and working and training in the afternoon. All the facilities are there at the Sports Park, so I can do the training and also work for a few hours at the café.
What's your favourite style of coffee?
I only drink long blacks, so no special ingredient to it - just hot water and a double shot of coffee.
Mitchell Santner is also really fond of coffee. Are there any other team-mates of yours who are as big on coffee?
Sants is probably the biggest in talking about coffee and understanding it. He loves it, but everyone in the New Zealand team and even at Central Stags loves going out for coffee. Most guys are into it, but maybe not crazy enough to start a café while still playing cricket (laughs).
Which team-mate puts in the most requests for coffee?
As I said, the Central Districts boys are in every day. I can't pick who is the best customer, but Doug Bracewell hangs around quite a lot and he's a pretty good customer.
Who is the best cook among your team-mates?
I can tell you the worst cooks - Scott Kuggeleijn and Doug Bracewell. They're easily among the worst cooks who burn food. For the best cook, I'm not sure, because I'll be biased towards some people.
What's your favourite meal, week in and week out?
I'm lucky enough in the winter to eat at the café most days, so my go-to meal most days is the avo feta smash with salami and a couple of poached eggs. I get to enjoy that, but I'm missing it at the moment [on tour].
Did you pack a snack or something for the tours to Bangladesh and Pakistan?
I packed three kilos of coffee beans with me and I've got a coffee maker and a grinder to make my coffee every day. I have about three, four coffees a day.
Is there a dish that your mates suggested to try out on the tour to the subcontinent?
Not really. We're confined to our hotel rooms. We can make a few decisions [on food], but I did request to get some mangoes, bananas and tropical fruits.
What does your cheat meal typically comprise?
I usually have hot-potato chips, but sometimes when we do win and do well, Ross Taylor buys KFCs. So, looking forward to some wins at home when he's around because he'll buy all of us some KFCs.
What's your favourite post-workout snack or smoothie?
I just have lots of coffee (laughs) and a protein shake.
What's your favourite place to eat out at in Hawke's Bay?
It's a place called Black Betty BBQ, an American barbeque-style burger place. It's a pop-up for slow-cooked meat and it's actually quite a good one for a cheat meal because it's all locally sourced foods.
What's your favourite city to eat out in New Zealand besides your local?
Probably Wellington. It has all sorts and different types of food, and again, it has a very good coffee culture.
What sort of fast food is okay to eat as a professional fast bowler?
I feel like you can get away with quite a lot on a big bowling day. But anything that's healthy-ish [is okay]. We do have quite a bit of healthy-ish burger places in New Zealand where there is not much deep-fried food.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo