A-Block, the flagship café of small-scale roastery Society Coffee, creates a space that embodies the company’s ethos of treating coffee like art.
“The name comes from the art block you used to get in school,” Owner David Huang says. “We work with a lot of local artists who do our murals, décor, and small table settings. With the company working with so many different types of art, it kind of feels like an art block to us.”
David began working in the café industry in 2000, working his way up before opening his first café Espresso Workshop in 2007. In 2014, he launched Black and Gold and by mid-2015, Black and Gold was roasting small batches of specialty coffee itself.
“Once people started buying our coffee, identity became an issue,” David says. “They would ask: ‘Are you a café or a roaster?’
“We can be both, but when we started distributing it became confusing for our customers. By the beginning of 2017, we thought it was probably time for us to get a separate brand going.”
Society was a word frequently tossed around while David and his partners discussed their plans, and it was eventually incorporated into the name of the roastery.
“We began to gain traction and pick up more café customers so we had to find a place that’s not in the middle of the café,” David says.
A-Block and Society Coffee share a location in Browns Bay, where both sides of the business have enough space to stretch their legs.
“Society Coffee takes up one third of the space,” David says. “It’s still not big in comparison, but it gets its own 20 or 30 square metres.”
Being a joint café/roastery, A-Block serves house-roasted seasonal blends. David says the café highlights natural coffees, with natural and honey processed coffees making up 80 to 90 per cent of its selection.
“We buy a lot of specialty coffee. We work directly with Panama and the farms over there a lot,” David says.
“We’ve met [the farmers] directly, discussed coffee with them, and been to the actual farms. It’s good to keep that relationship going.”
A-Block is well equipped with a manual La Marzocco Linea Classic, two Mythos One grinders, and a Ditting KR series grinder.
“We serve batch brew, cold brew, V60, and a couple of mocktails using coffee like the espresso tonic,” David says. “There’s a couple other things we’re still playing with. We’re trying to find a way to make coffee more than what it is while still being purists.”
David’s trips abroad have influenced A-Block’s menu.
“The menu has a lot to do with my travels and what I enjoy eating, but keeping in mind that when we bring these ideas back to New Zealand we’ll need to put our own spin on it,” he says.
“Last year I attended the World Barista Championship in Amsterdam and came back with the idea of doing Dutch fries. We took that concept, and tweaked it up, a bit less like street food and better suited to a café.”
With A-Block, David hopes to establish a space for the local community for people who enjoy and appreciate coffee.
“We’re just looking for people that believe in what we believe in,” he says.
76 Clyde Road, Browns Bay, Auckland, New Zealand
Open seven days 7:30am to 4pm