For the Love of Coffee

James Burt, Engine Coffee Brewers

James Burt is a self-proclaimed coffee geek who detoxes on Saturdays.

Find James at Engine Coffee Brewers

270 Saint Asaph Street, Christchurch Central City, Christchurch

When James Burt took on a job in a cafe while studying law and marketing management some twelve years ago, it was meant to be just that – a student job for the time being. Little did he know that this small move would end up steering him towards a future where coffee would become his ultimate passion and full-time profession.


The light filled, simplistic space of Engine Coffee Brewers is James Burt’s second home. This is the realisation of a dream that brewed in his mind for quite some years: his own coffee shop within the four avenues where coffee is at the very centre of it all. No gimmicks, not too much emphasis on anything else but providing customers with exceptional coffee every time. 

James is a doer. He likes to keep busy and was brought up with a kiwi can-do-attitude. In his spare time he likes making things in his dad’s workshop. In fact, together with his dad James has made pretty much all things wood at Engine. His standards are high and he takes pride in doing whatever it is he’s doing to his best ability. “I’m never content with the idea of ‘that’s it’, there’s always room for improvement and development,” James admits. This really shows in the way he runs his business, like a well-oiled machine, each piece of the puzzle at Engine is tended to with love and care.

“I fell into coffee half by accident,” James recalls. Like many young students he began working in cafes while studying but never thought it was more than a job until he found himself working at Lumes for David Pai (the man behind Embassy Coffee who now supplies beans for Engine). That’s when his interest for coffee really sparked. “David was geeky about coffee back before it was a thing,” James says with a laugh and remembers learning a lot from the man. However, soon everything was shaken up with the earthquakes and James decided to relocate to Wellington with his partner Emily.

It was in Wellington working at Fuel Espresso when James really began gaining deeper knowledge of the craft of coffee through an intensive training programme. He climbed the steps there rapidly, dabbled in roasting and management, but soon realised his true passion lies in making coffee and creating customer relationships. The idea of opening his own coffee shop was born.

A move back to Christchurch saw James hop on board with David from Embassy Coffee once more, and he ended up managing Little Merchants for a few years. The time to realise his dream was drawing near and when James came across the development site at Boxed Quarter he decided to take the plunge and create Engine. It was a no-brainer to make Embassy Coffee his supplier.

These days the business owner and father of two (soon to be three) children dedicates all his time at work to perfecting the art of coffee. There’s a set routine in place that he goes through every morning, tasting all the coffee (single origin for black and blend for milk coffees), making sure everything is as it should be before the doors get opened. Throughout the day he brews each cuppa with as much passion as the one before and loves chatting to and knowing his customers. But when four o’clock comes round and it’s time to close up shop, James leaves work behind and dedicates his time to his growing family.

Saturdays are spent with his two girls and running errands. It’s also a day James dedicates to detoxing from caffeine. “I don’t need caffeine to function,” he says, although a life without coffee would hardly be worth living if you ask him. James’ priorities are simple, family comes first and coffee is a very close second.

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