Walking into Havana Coffee Works, visitors will easily forget they are in the heart of Wellington. Instead, guests are transported to a Cuban oasis in the Caribbean, with rustic wooden furnishings and eclectic paraphernalia.
“I love Cuba and its grand opulent architecture, beautiful cars, music, cigars, and rum. Havana Coffee Works has got all that and more,” says Co-Founder Geoff Marsland, who travels to Cuba regularly.
Geoff and Co-Owner Tim Rose have been friends for years. In the late 1980s they met up in Vancouver, Canada and fell in love with the city’s late-night café culture. It inspired them to bring back a coffee machine to New Zealand. Together they opened Midnight Espresso in 1989, followed by Deluxe café three months later.
In order to manage a consistent supply of well-roasted coffee, Tim and Geoff started roasting their own coffee. To do so, they introduced New Zealand’s first fluid-bed hot air roaster, producing 150 kilograms a week.
In 1997 Geoff travelled to Cuba and met with the local coffee farmers. “In the early years of importing coffee we became part of the Fairtrade movement, but we got disillusioned and started Real Trade in the late 1990s,” says Geoff. “The concept is about establishing long-standing, close relationships with all the people involved in the production and distribution of green coffee from farm to café.”
Havana Coffee Works was born in 1989 as a dedicated coffee roasting business. The company now supplies coffee to more than 250 cafés in New Zealand. The Tory Street site roasts five tonnes a week on a 60-kilogram Petroncini hot air drum roaster, with electric blowers that supercharge the roast. The venue is inundated with visitors who flock to the adjoining Havana Lounge to savour their daily cup of coffee on a La Marzocco machine, or partake in one of the daily coffee training classes.
“We have an open door policy. People are welcome to come into the factory, workshop, training centre, or coffee bar talk to staff and try our coffee,” says Geoff. “Our coffee is great but our customer service and machine service are second to none too.”
Havana Coffee Works serves an extensive range of eight blends. Geoff says the standouts include the Afro Cuba, Krazy espresso blend, Organic, and Five Star blend, which is an all-round “crowd pleaser”.
Alternative brew methods are available, in addition to 14 single origin coffees, which Havana Coffee Works has imported for the past 20 years. Favourites include beans from Bolivia, and Cuba – of course.
In the past three years Geoff has also committed to planting 25,000 coffee trees on Tanna Island – his own direct supply in the Pacific.
“Our motto is ‘the coffee you feel’. After 25 years it still surprises me how much fun this industry is. We’re still riding the wave and we’re loving it,” Geoff says. “People can follow us on social media and go to our website, but there’s nothing better than a good old fashioned visit to Havana.”