After spending 10 years in San Francisco and working for multinational advertising agencies, Lindesay Smith, co-founder of Matakana Coffee Roasters was feeling a little disenchanted and was looking for a vocation that he could feel passionate about.
He found it on the North Shore of Oahu, Hawaii. He went for the surf, but fell in love with the coffee, learning his craft as an understudy to a master roaster at the renowned Coffee Gallery in the historic beachside town of Haleiwa.
“It was the environment and that idea of creating an experience for customers from roasting right on the premises that drew me to it,” explained Smith.
Back home in New Zealand in 1989, Lindesay was one of the pioneers of the New Zealand coffee scene, inviting Kiwis to put down that cup-of-instant and embrace the espresso, long black and flat white. He founded the Sierra chain of cafés with the first branch on Jervois Road, in Ponsonby, Auckland, introducing customers to the fine art of coffee roasting.
“We had the roaster right there on the pavement. It was exciting to be a part of evolving Kiwis from a nation of tea-drinkers to coffee lovers.”
Smith’s award-winning velvety smooth signature roast went on to win numerous awards and inspired the Village Market Blend which they still produce today: a medium-dark roast with flavours of rich dark chocolate, stone fruit, and hazelnut.
It is the very core of hospitality - customer satisfaction - that Smith has embraced, noting that developing and maintaining long-standing relationships is the best aspect of the job.
At the Matakana Farmers Market, Smith and the team serve about 1000 coffees every Saturday morning from their market stall, plus another 300-400 from their espresso stand at The Roastery in the heart of Matakana village.
“Most of these are regulars and repeat customers,” noted Smith.
“Coffee fuels connection, it’s amazing to be providing what is such an important aspect of our society.”
From its award-winning blends to its single origin and Fair-Trade Organic varieties, Matakana Coffee Roasters has a cup for every palate.
“We select our high-grade Arabica beans from the world’s finest coffee estates across Africa, the Americas and the Pacific. Each batch is lovingly roasted in our Matakana roastery to the precise moment when the beans attain their optimum flavour and aroma.”
Smith’s personal favourite origin is Guatemala with its smooth, sweet, and consistent caramel flavour. The country he’d love to visit to learn more about roasting, however, may surprise people.
“I’d love to go back to the United States. People don’t think of it as being a place for quality coffee, but it is. They’re incredibly progressive in their coffee-making technology, which isn’t surprising considering that there are still Italian coffee houses that have been running for 100 years.”
It’s hard not to talk about the COVID pandemic and its effect on the coffee industry as a whole, both within the hospitality and retail sectors.
“During the first lockdown we took our horse float down to John Burton (coffee bean importers) and filled it with sacks of green beans because we didn’t know how COVID was going to affect the supply chain.”
It was a wise move to be prepared. While cafés and restaurants may have been locked down, the pandemic gave rise to the home barista – something Smith and the team at Matakana Coffee Roasters quickly embraced.
“At the beginning of 2020 we were in 11 supermarkets, now we’re in 150. I hate to use the word because it’s been so over-repeated, but success during this time has been all about the pivot. It’s about working with the puck wherever it lands, and COVID gave that puck a fair whack!”
Ice Hockey analogies aside, embracing the retail customer has meant rapid growth for Matakana Coffee Roasters over the last two years. So much so that they switched from a traditional roasting process to hot air roasting – a greener way to roast with lower emissions and is sustainable at scale.
For Smith though, the ethos of sustainability goes back to developing long-term relationships, from the farmers and coffee growers all the way through, making sure there is a better share of benefits for all those involved in the coffee’s lifecycle.
This is also connected to customer education about where their beloved coffee comes from. Luckily, Kiwi consumers are becoming far savvier and more willing to put quality over price.
“The at-home barista space is incredibly satisfying because of how increasingly discerning Kiwis are becoming about their coffee choices,” concluded Smith.
“Our customers are so excited to talk to us about different blends and becoming their own barista, its so gratifying to pass on this knowledge and spread our love for coffee with Kiwis around the country.”
This article and many more can be found in the April Supermarket News magazine HERE.