Style and design are obvious considerations at Kokako café and roastery in Auckland.

“In our first fitout in Parnell I was inspired by Melbourne’s use of upcycled lights and the idea of installing plywood cabinets, timber walls, exposed wires, soft colours, and bold features,” says Owner Mike Murphy. “For our new café and roastery in Grey Lynn we wanted to go with a Berlin utilitarian style with more functionality.”

The brand Kokako was established in 2001, originally operating as a small coffee cart in Auckland’s CBD. Twelve years on and the name has expanded into its own dedicated space that is fast become a favourite among locals. “Kokako was the first organic coffee business in Auckland,” says Mike. “I had been living and working in Melbourne and I was inspired by the coffee market.”

Working as a retail food consultant, Mike says he had limited knowledge of the roasting industry, but had always taken a liking to the profession. As such, he returned to Auckland with the desire to open his own café and roastery.

“It was the time in Melbourne when third wave coffee was just emerging and people were transitioning to artisan style roasting. It was an exciting time to be in Melbourne, and I wanted to see something similar happening here [in Auckland],” he says. “The fact that I didn’t know much about coffee made me hungry to know more. It’s been a competitive advantage.”

Kokako is located in an old 1930s post office building. Inside, the café is segmented into three divisions: kitchen, espresso bar, and roastery.

“We’re transparent and open. We want Kokako to be accessible to our customers, so they can see the chefs preparing the food and the baristas on the bar,” says Mike.

Kokako’s house blend Aotea uses three distinct origins of green beans from Fairtrade cooperatives in Papua New Guinea, Mexico and Sumatra. Mike describes the Aotea blend as “floral, fruity and earthy with medium acidity”. It also has hints of apricot with a sharp, malty mouthfeel.

Its Rangatira blend has been created using specialist green beans from Fairtrade cooperatives in Mexico and Colombia. It has low to medium acidity with citrus and berry notes. Kokako’s Decaf is a blend called Cascadia, which brings together selected Fairtrade origin bean that have been decaffeinated using the chemical-free Swiss Water process.

Kokako rotates three single origin coffees weekly. Each are selected for their special characteristics. Typically they have a higher than usual grading and a distinctive geographical or varietal origin. Café favourites include Guatemala Huehuetenango, Ethiopian Sidamo, and Uganda Mt Elgon.

Kokako’s cold brew is fast becoming a popular among regulars, served in a medicine style bottle. Cold drip, chemex and Hario V60 pour over are also available.

Kokako’s Fairtrade and Organic coffee is handled in the care of Head Roaster Chris Unkovich, who roasts on a 15-kilogram Toper roaster, with a newly installed electronic probe to enable further roasting control. “We’re all about innovation and ability. Auckland is abuzz with coffee innovation, driven by small artisan roasters. It’s exciting that we can deliver something exceptional and challenge the norms,” says Mike. “If we’re not being innovative I get bored. I’m not prepared to rest on our laurels.”

Mike makes reference to the word kaizen, which in Japan means continuous improvement. “It’s how we do business. We see how we can continue to improve and upgrade as a café and roaster,” he says.
As to the origin of the café name – Kokako is a native bird of New Zealand, which inhabits the North Island. Unlike the endangered bird, Kokako is strong and here to stay.

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