Havana coffee roasters. Wellington.
Let’s just start with a little fact…there are more coffee shops per capita in Wellington than New York City. With all these great coffee shops there has to be great roasters and so on referral from Hemi at The Wakefield Hotel we took a stroll in the rain to Havanas Roasters on Tory Street.
It’s difficult to describe the monumental episode that was about to transpire but I’m going to give it my best. From the out set you know that Havanas is going to be something very special, it’s basically a warehouse, factory with a coffee shop with a great visual vibe. As I passed into this warehouse I felt like I was walking through the wardrobe to Narnia. A gust of heat, I stood stunned as if i’d stumbled across buried treasure. A giant 60kilo roasting machine being monitored by a chap with an expression of intense, passionate concentration. We’d hit jackpot, he was roasting. I slowly walked up, camera in hand asking if it was okay to take pics, no response, attention fixed on the sample of beans he just pulled out of the roaster, I asked again, he waved me on. OH MY GOSH. I was so excited. I watched with pure fascination as Lucas (I later found out) pulled out a sample of the roast, ‘3 minutes, stand there!’ the beans were coming out…a two minute had signal came, ‘get ready guys’, a cloud of thin smoke followed by a beautiful aroma arose from the open hatch and out poured 40 kilos of beautifully roasted brown wonderfulness!
What came next was an informed, hands on guide to all the beans Havanas roast from India (Lucas’s favourite), Ethiopia, East Timor, Vanuatu, Cuba, Kenya…the list goes on. The aromas of all these different beans was amazing. Thank you Lucas!
We went in search for the cafe..but ended up in the shop where I was snap happy asking all sorts of questions about training when I was forwarded to Joe who casually asked…’do you want me to show you around?!’ YES. At this point Zara recognised that a geek session was brewing and so decided she would go and sit in the cafe and have a drink.
We went upstairs past all the very cool artefacts, posters and art onto the mezzanine where he took me to the founder, Geoffrey’s office. It was cool, full of great trivia collected over decades with port hole windows and model boats. Joe described Geoffrey’s next adventure, sailing around South America to the Galapagos islands. I’d heard abut Geoffrey from Hemi, he sounds like my kind of guy, extrovert, creative and passionate, all these qualities have produced something truly great at this company.
The team are just having fun and at the same time professional and knowledgable about what they are doing. The energy radiates through the building…or maybe it’s the caffeine. Either way, it’s addictive.
Joe dragged me into the next room, I can’t stress how much creativity radiates from the place and for someone with an over active mind the stimulus was making my head buzz. In this room it was totally different but still great. It was like a gallery of methods to make coffee, I felt like I was in MTV cribs with shiny coffee machines, tampers, filter, grinders….
Next - into the training room with Emma, who does barrister and coffee training for cafes, was experimenting with filters to get the best cup. I was able to try coffee from East Timor, Ethiopia and Cuba. I dug deep for some terminology to spit out in describing the brew but all I could conjure was ‘it’s good’ and ‘I like that’. Duh. I thought I knew a bit about coffee but after talking with Joe who has immense knowledge, I feel I know zilch.
Joe’s been with Havana for 15 years and the boutique company is now celebrating it’s 25th anniversary. They used to be down on Cuba Street but grew and moved. Now they roast over 5 tonnes per week and have just got another huge roaster which will begin it’s life in another location!
It’s a small friendly community of cafes and roasters in Wellington, Joe told me how he learnt to make coffee from a roasters down the road, then taught a neighbouring roasters and now he is master roaster at Havana and has had the opportunity to meet suppliers from around the world such as Papua New Guinea. I have to thank Joe for the great tour, info and patience as when I found Zara she informed me I’d been gone for over an hour. Still, I managed to get their trademark 5 star blend (5 different beans from South America) which has to be said, is the best coffee I’ve ever had and a trip back into the store to get some Indian and some Cuban beans!
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