The NZSCA recognises two industry pioneers who paved the path for New Zealand’s coffee industry and the sustainable future it now leads.
An autumnal gathering in a 10-metre teepee twinkling with fairy lights and ephemeral flickering of a disco ball created the ideal setting for the auspicious Sucafina NZSCA Recognition Awards 2023 at Sherwood in Queenstown.
There was a palpable celebration in the air, and we’re not just talking the aromas from the natural pinots. With the firepit glowing, it was time to meander through history with the introduction of the newly created Historical Recognition Award.
The first recipients were Frances Hollis and Lance Wyatt, absolute pioneers of our coffee history.
Our Masters of Ceremony was David Burton of Jack’s Coffee, a past NZSCA President, and Megan Wyper of Acme Cupco, our current NZSCA President. They took us back to the early ‘80s where the Hollis/Wyatt partnership formed in Mansion House, an office coffee supply company in Auckland. In those early days, they purchased Robert Harris coffee to on-sell to their customer base.
In the late ‘80s, Frances and Lance purchased a three-kilogram roaster, but it didn’t take long to outgrow. The decision was made to build their own 50 kilogram coffee roaster, and Bertha was born.
David recounts meeting Frances and Lance in 1989 “when my brother John asked if I would help them out with their new NZ- built roaster”.
“They were having a few problems. The cooling fan was blowing rather than sucking and there was insufficient heat generated in the roaster,” David told guests.
The rookie roaster reckonings that were soon rectified.
“We managed to overcome these problems and after discussions, the seed of Burton Hollis started,” says David, who together with his brother John from John Burton Ltd, created Burton Hollis.
In 1995, the foursome team of Frances and Lance, and the Burton brothers, launched Columbus Coffee.
“They truly believe in the NZ specialty coffee industry,” says Roz Cattell, NZSCA immediate past president.
“They believe that we should all be drinking fresh coffee. They have watched the industry grow and evolve over the past 40 years and embraced change. Even though Mansion House was sold to Sara Lee Corporation in 2000 (under the Douwe Egberts umbrella), they remain involved in our industry.”
Shamsi Power of Bean Alliance Group was part of Roasters Coffee in the mid-2000s, a franchise chain acquired by Burton Hollis. Shamsi says Frances was immediately approachable, inspiring, and supportive to her as a young sales rep.
“She impressed upon me the importance of remembering the small details of her customers; the names of their kids, what kind of dog they had, to remain curious and interested in the many different people you come across in this industry. You can be firm and decisive while remaining warm and down to earth. In those days, there were not as many women in the coffee industry, and she stood out to me, as a mentor and leader,” Shamsi says.
It’s an ethos that resonates with many.
Both Frances and Lance are still connected to Columbus Coffee. Frances is on the Columbus Board and Lance can be found helping son Aaron at service and distribution company Beverage Services, thinking about the next idea or venture opportunity.
In her elegant nature, Frances accepted the Award and regaled us of moments in time that many of us wouldn’t even have realised or have been born to recall. Isn’t this what the industry is about? Recognising the past on which we build a solid sustainable future.
Congratulations Frances and Lance. It’s a pleasure to belong to an industry that recognises its pioneers and honours their contributions.
For more information on the New Zealand Specialty Coffee Association, or to join, visit www.nzsca.org
This article appears in the August 2023 edition of BeanScene. Subscribe HERE.