In the heart of Christchurch is a café that resembles a Lego set more so than a café. But that’s the unique part of Hummingbird Central in Re:Start. It’s a life-size, pull-apart café.
Hummingbird Central was established in October 2011. It was built as part of a community initiative called Re:Start, to rebuild the culture of Christchurch’s CBD after the 2011 earthquake. “It’s been a very successful project and great for the city to get its atmosphere back,” says Nick Cowper, General Manager of New Zealand’s Hummingbird Coffee Roasters.
The temporary café is made out of 12-metre long shipping containers, overlapping each other in an eye-catching urban structure. “We only had eight weeks to convert the shipping containers into a café space. The pressure was immense,” says Nick. “I personally didn’t think it would get off the ground, but it’s been a great learning curve.”
Hummingbird Central was constructed as a temporary site, however, the café has increased its lease in Christchurch until 9 January 2014. “The best part about the concept is that its portable – all it takes is 48 hours to pick up and move somewhere else. We can pull it apart and put it back together again,” says Nick.
On a busy day the café serves about 700 to 800 coffees. They use a two-group La Scala coffee machine in the upstairs container and a three-group machine downstairs.
Hummingbird Central is the sister café to Oddfellow’s, also established by Hummingbird Coffee Roasters. Nick says it is the first company to import Fair Trade coffee into New Zealand.
“The two cafés are distinctly different, one has a lot of history and the other is developing its own history,” says Nick.
To coincide with the café opening, Hummingbird Coffee Roasters created a Fair Trade Organic blend called Re:Start, sold throughout New Zealand. The blend consists of six origins, which Nick describes as “gutsy, sweet with winey peaks”.
Thirty cents from each 200-gram pack of Re:Start blend sold is donated to the rebuilding of the Court Theatre in Christchurch, badly damaged by the earthquake.
A full commercial kitchen fits into the 57 square metres downstairs container. An outdoor seating area is also available for customers to take in the sun.
“The coffee industry is incredibly rewarding,” says Nick. “There’s always lot of challenges, but the biggest thing is getting the best product you can and seeing other people enjoy it. That gives me a great sense of pride.”