Coffee u Feel: Havana Coffee Works
Meat, wool, dairy – all classic products New Zealand was known for in the 60s’ and 70s’ – a time when there were milk bars and restaurants, and the time when it was BC: Before Coffee, before cafes. Thankfully, the rise and rise of coffee and our cafe culture began in the next decade, fostered by a fervent few. One of those coffee champions was, and still is, Geoff Marsland. Havana Coffee Works – the book of the likely soon- to- follow film – is the colourful story of this pioneering Wellington “Coffee Baron”, a real yet larger-than life character who became a cafe king and roasting entrepreneur. This is a no holds barred biography of Geoff, and of a home- grown business success with national and international connections. Across the pages of what is a ‘visual symphony’ of cars, cigars, cafes and coffee roasters, Geoff recounts and shows the rollicking rise of Havana Coffee Works, from its beginnings in Cuba Street, Wellington to importing Cuban coffee, setting up plantations in the Pacific through to its current coffee empire status, bringing “Coffee U Feel” – the brand’s strapline – to the people. The book tells the often astonishing story of Geoff’s life.
After a challenging childhood and some tricky teen years, he spent time at sea on fishing boats and then in the fashion trade until, on a visit to Vancouver he was ‘hooked by the aroma of strong coffee’ and an alternative style of cafe. Marsland bought his newfound passion back to New Zealand and the start- up of Havana’s heady coffee-powered ride from the backstreets of Wellington into the heart of Communist Cuba then began. In 1989, when Midnight Espresso Cafe opened on Cuba Street, it launched real coffee into the bloodstream of the capital, setting the scene for what would later become Havana Coffee Works. Overnight, a bohemian cafe society was born, one that would soon revitalize the city’s heart, creating a ‘cool’ identity for the capital with espresso and flat whites at its core. This was the kick starter of a nationwide cultural change based around hissing espresso machines and growing coffee consumption. Like a runaway train, the Havana revolution took off. It hasn’t slowed for over a quarter of a century.
2 | Page Not long after the doors opened on Midnight Espresso, Marsland and his then business partner decided to expand their fledgling operation by buying in and roasting coffee beans themselves. They chose Cuba, once a powerhouse exporter of coffee, as a likely and interesting source. After receiving a favourable reply to their exploratory fax, they set off for Havana, armed with a letter from their bank and high hopes of success. The officials they met with told them it was the first contact Cuba had had from New Zealand about coffee. The youthful, ‘ambassadors of coffee’ and were very well received, had the best coffee they had ever tasted, were taken with the special atmosphere of Havana, and came home with a deal to import Cuban coffee beans. The full story of that trip is a riveting one, and comes full circle when many years later, the son of Fidel Castro, also called Fidel, visits Marsland in Wellington at the HQ of Havana Coffee Works. Cartoonist and author Tom Scott says in his introduction that when he read the first draft of Marsland’s book, he thought it was “terrific, full of amazing yarns, tall and true, mad and moving.”
While he agreed to edit it, he notes that “all I’ve done is to assist Geoff to tell it in his own unique voice.” Marsland ends his book by saying “the more I work with coffee the more addicted I am to its presence; the unpredictable energy and spontaneity that coffee can bring.” The energetic swashbuckling story of Geoff and Havana Coffee Works is far from over.
|Dimensions||260 × 230 mm|