Havana Coffee Works

Huge coffee consumption at Midnight and Deluxe combined with frustration over bean quality prompted the shift into the roasting market.

Rather than buy a traditional drum roaster, which tend to 'over-bake' the beans, Rose and Marsland engaged the services of ex-art director and inventor Russell Collins to configure New Zealand's first ever fluid-bed hot air roaster. The machine was inspired by the new European roasting methods. By tumbling in a stream of air, the coffee is cooked more evenly and maintains moisture.

Beans were soon tumbling on the roof above Midnight in the first prototype, a bizarre-looking contraption that delivered the goods but sometimes became a tad too hot. (A fire one Friday evening gridlocked Wellington's evening motorway traffic.)

The coffee was wonderful and the blend of flavour, zap and fast-building company legend created an instant following. What was originally intended as a solution to providing coffee for Midnight and Deluxe progressed into a national business. Rapid demand saw Havana on-selling to other cafes and within a year they had a following from Bluff to Cape Reinga, plus the reputation that became the company slogan - Coffee-U-Feel.

In 1992, Collins worked with Havana to create a type-two roaster, this time producing up to 60 kilos of coffee per hour, and in ‘94 they progressed to type three. The same year they bought their premises at 34 Wigan Street, one of three old working-men's cottages. They subsequently bought the neighbouring cottage and created Havana Bar, open six nights a week and run by Roger and Potti from Fidels café.

Meanwhile, the official founders of the Hot Air Roasters Association(!), Rose and Marsland have invested in a new factory on Tory Street, where coffee is sold green and roasted, includes retail machinery and a Barista training area.

Now 20 years into the roasting business, their inquisitiveness about the coffees and particularly its origins continues to grow. Beans are roasted by country, with 16 origins available. This keeps the taste true and enables consumers to consider the flavour and culture of the drink in a fuller sense. Havana also offers their famous blended coffee, mixing the diverse tastes into a melting pot of coffee experience.

Rose and Marsland instilled their ethics into Havana Coffee Works from inception. From using bio-degradable packaging wherever possible, to ensuring social inequalities and environmental issues are addressed through the business practices of Fairtrade and REALTRADE, they produce quality coffee with love.

Since Havana Coffee Works began, new roasteries have opened all over New Zealand; there are now over 150. However, courtesy of a standout reputation for quality combined with originality, style and sense of humour, sustainability, and being recognised as a solid voice for fair and ‘real’ trade, Havana's customer base continues to grow with coffee being poured thick and fast..

Midnight and Deluxe

Havana Coffee Works was launched 1989. Owners Tim Rose and Geoff Marsland first met in the ‘70s at an alternative primary school in Wellington called Matauranga. Both were teenage entrepreneurs, conceiving of, and putting into action numerous schemes. Many ventures later, they met again in Canada 1988, where they discovered Joe's café, a basic place and overflowing with locals of every age in conversation, drinking good coffee, eating unpretentious food. The joint was alcohol-free; open all hours and an honest to goodness piece of vital community enterprise. There was nothing like it in Wellington.

No wasting precious time for these boys, Rose and Marsland bought a decent espresso machine (a 1970s Faema two-group) while still in Canada, flew home and found premises in Cuba Street. Taking Joe's theme, they made it their own, and turned the place into Midnight Espresso.

With great coffee, fresh, delicious, affordable food, and being open nearly 24/7, everyone from the local sex workers to the 'suits' made their way to Midnight Espresso. Wellington loved it. In 2000, they sold to one of their mates from Matauranga - Hamish McIntyre, and Midnight remains an icon on the-now crammed café circuit.

Within three months of Midnight's opening, Rose and Marsland opened Deluxe café in Kent Terrace. The tiny space was originally created to service the Wellington Film Festival, held annually at the Embassy Theatre next door. It was such a hit, they kept it on until the enterprising current owner Matt Wilson, then just 18 years old, bought it and partnered up with one of Midnight's original cooks, Katie Richardson. Deluxe, like Midnight, remains one of Wellington's most established and loved cafés.

Jazz and Frankly Stan

After constructing Deluxe, Rose and Marsland put together a one-night stage café for Jazz at the St James. The event brought together inspired musicians such as Bruno Lawrence, Jonathan Crayford, and international star bassist, the late, great Larry Gales for an all-night extravaganza at the then demolition-threatened historic St James Theatre.

The show was part of the successful campaign to have the theatre saved and renovated; the CD of Jazz at the St James is still in demand.

Wellington couldn't help but notice ‘the boys’ by this point, and in honour of their fresh and boundary-pushing style, friend and artist - now film director - Josh Frizzell, created Frankly & Stan, a regular cartoon strip that followed and mimicked the antics of Rose and Marsland.

Wellington City Council was also noticing the boys as they pushed outdated regulations to the limit. The media particularly loved the Midnight "car" that skirted rules forbidding tables on the street. The Hillman Superminx was always legally parked with money in the meter, but just happened to double as outside seats and tables.