“We started in the coffee business in 1989 and the Havana train was off, whirling on the tracks. People say you don’t just taste our coffee you feel it” - Geoff Marsland, Coffee Baron
Back in 1990 there were just four coffee companies roasting in New Zealand. The industry has since grown substantially and now there’s more than 400, but from the beginning, we’ve stayed true to our vibe and vision. Roasting the COFFEEUFEEL, having fun, being connected to community and celebrating the origins of coffee, plus drinking a heap of epic espresso!
The Havana Coffee Works HQ is housed in a 1959 Art deco building in Wellington. Its avocado green exterior houses a frenetic, fantastic, lunatic and lovely interior run by an awesome crew. We are affectionately known as the coffee of the people and we enjoy working for customers who share that belief and they are of the utmost importance to us.
At Havana we believe in sourcing beautiful rebel and organic coffees that are ethically traded. The cups we use are ecoware and where possible we always use hand-stamped compostable brown paper bags like the first day we did a roast in 1990. We say there is no mystery - but there is definitely a cool mystique about Havana. We have always had an open-door policy roasting in public and our HQ is creative and gratifying. People come in and touch the coffee, smell the coffee and drink it. They get energized and uplifted in our Havana Coffee lounge. What they see, hear, taste and feel is what they get – the COFFEEUFEEL.
“They overthrew the old order and started nothing less than a coffee uprising in New Zealand”
– Tom Scott, Havana Coffee Works Book.
The Havana Story
Geoff Marsland and Tim Rose first met in the ‘70s at an alternative primary school called Matauranga in Wellington. Both were keen on conceiving and putting into action numerous (boisterous) schemes.
Many years and adventures later they fortuitously met up in Vancouver late in 1988. It was here they discovered “Joe’s Café” – Geoff recalls a dismal night outside revealing a nondescript building, where the air was filled with the delicious aroma of strong coffee. Great music filled the room overflowing with locals. There were grease stained sailors, business men, film makers, artists, women breastfeeding babies, punks and all sorts, all talking loudly and enjoying themselves without an alcoholic drink in sight. They went back a few more times, Geoff realising it was a feeling he had been seeking all his life.
There was nothing like it in Wellington, so without wasting precious time they sought out and bought their first espresso machine while still in Vancouver. The pair flew home and after waiting months for the precious machine to arrive in Wellington they eventually found a possible premises. “The Hob” an old greasy spoon in the down-heel quarter of the Nation’s capital - Cuba Street. The landlord said the lease was month to month, they agreed and shook hands - with shaking hands.
Having little to no money in the first place meant the transformation of the place was daunting. Ten days of frenzied renovation began, they went gang busters with friends and ripped the place apart. They wanted a place where you could wear jeans and not have to worry about having to wear fancy shoes. They wanted to establish a tone and set a style so firmly and unapologetically that no one would dare ‘tut tut’. They also needed a name, Tim wanted Havana Coffee Lounge, it had the echoes of their address on Cuba St. Geoff wanted Midnight Espresso because it said what it was, late night coffee. They compromised and on March 14th 1989, Havana Midnight Espresso opened its doors for the very first time. It soon became known as “Midnight Espresso” and brought something different and bohemian to the Capital when it wasn’t the norm.
“Midnight was an unruly mix of drop-in centre, depot, creche,
catholic church confessional, community hall, nightclub and
bank” – Havana Coffee Works Book
Not long after, Geoff and Tim were offered a street-front cafe site in a theatre that was operating as a temporary cafe during Wellington Film Festivals. On learning that the Embassy Theatre had previously been called The Deluxe, Deluxe Cafe was born.
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 their antics.
– Havana Coffee Works Book
Huge coffee consumption at Midnight Espresso and Deluxe combined with frustration over bean quality and flavour prompted a shift into the roasting market. In 1990, driven by a desire to roast coffee better and cleaner than what was then available, Havana Coffee Works was born.
Rather than buy a traditional drum coffee roaster, which tend to 'over-bake' the beans, the pair engaged the services of ex-art director and inventor Russell Collins to configure New Zealand's first ever fluid-bed hot air roaster that ran on electricity. Beans were soon tumbling on the roof above Midnight Espresso in the first prototype, a bizarre-looking contraption that delivered the goods.
“The ambition was to roast coffee that tastes as good as it smells. COFFEEUFEEL is, was and always will be our mantra”
– Geoff Marsland, Coffee Baron
The coffee was marvellous, it had flavour and ooh la la!! Rapidly they got a following of loyal caffeine addicts. What was originally intended as a solution to provide coffee for Midnight and Deluxe progressed into a national business. Before long demand saw Havana on-selling to other cafes and very quickly they had a following from Bluff to Cape Reinga, plus the reputation that became the company slogan – “COFFEEUFEEL”.
Feeling more addicted? Read the whole delectable story! check out the Havana Coffee Works book “COFFEEUFEEL”
By Geoff Marsland and Tom Scott.
Roasting with Love
Havana Coffee Works is not just another roasting company. In 1990, we designed and built our own fluid-bed, hot air roaster that ran on electricity. Some years later as our pursuit of creating more delicious coffee grew, along with an increase of caffeine addicts around the country we purchased a larger, hot-air roaster, and modified it to run with electricity. This hybrid roaster was a stalwart and has since been retired but it will forever be a part of Havana’s history and started our phrase “Roasted with LOVE”
“Feel the bean, know the bean, understand the bean, be the bean”
– Joe Master Roaster.
Love & Cleaner Roasting
Being the first company in New Zealand to create and use an electricity-powered hot-air coffee roaster, we have an intimate knowledge of the processes involved in creating world class delicious coffee with the hot air method. So after much dreaming and planning, in 2017 we took the next intuitive step and we installed the best - a Loring s70 Peregrine, Havana’s green machine. While roasting magnificent coffee and feels, we have reduced our carbon footprint.
The Loring roasting process produces lower emissions than that of other coffee roasters helping Havana Coffee to be cleaner and more sustainable as well as consistently delicious, releasing 70% less emissions and using 70% less energy consumption.
“The Peregrine Falcon is a powerful creature and choosing to fly with a Loring means that Havana can be nimble and efficient. We respect the past and what we have learnt, while stepping dynamically into the future. There is no limit to our imagination.”
– Joe Master Roaster
At Havana HQ we strive to lead the way when it comes to sustainability. We always use and supply biodegradable and compostable packaging where possible and we practice our own green values by operating a comprehensive in-house recycling process and composting scheme. Havana Coffee Works has been a runaway train on the tracks, growing and evolving, but in a natural, conscientious and sustainable way.
We work alongside leaders in the packaging industry who create products that are environmentally friendly and made from renewable resources, whom also off-set their carbon emissions by investing in renewable energy projects both nationally and internationally.
Our People Culture
Havana Coffee Works is unique, that it has never reinvented itself from the inside or outside to chase a new fad or growth. We focus on creating delicious coffee but none of that would be possible without the super-natural environment our crew work in.
The good vibes are incredibly important and our people comment on this. It’s something we put a lot of energy into because to us it’s a core value of Havana. With growers, café customers and suppliers we do the same and have trusting, long-standing relationships which is also a fundamental part of bringing the COFFEEUFEEL to you, our people.
Since the beginning there’s always been strong support from Havana Coffee for the arts in Wellington. The Havana culture supports music festivals, gig’s, street art and creative “on the fringe” realness. We support local schools and charities and our diplomatic community. Its super common to see our good people clutching Havana cups at school fairs or dancing the night away fuelled by caffeine under the stars!