Flight Coffee has had a big impact on the coffee drinking scene in Hawke’s Bay in recent months, both educating and entertaining while equipping a number of new establishments with their beans, and perhaps more importantly their ethos. We talk with Richard Corney at their Onekawa hub to hear the latest both here and abroad.
“The big news there is we have created a partnership with a coffee farmer in Columbia and we are working with them directly. The project is called the Flight of Santa Helena. This project is a long term one for us where we work with the farmers to increase the quality of their coffee ready for the specialty coffee market rather than the commodity Columbian Excelso market where they make do with a base price of $2.50 USD… per pound. Our goal is to get them to enter the Colombian Cup of Excellence, and for them to realise and obtain the true value of what quality coffee really is.”
Richard’s partner in caffeine is Matt Graylee and gets the envious job of travelling to far off exotic locations, find cool people and source great beans. ”Matt has moved on now from Colombia to Ethiopia and is connecting with the newly formed Ethiopian Commodities Exchange (ECX) to greater understand the process of buying specialty coffee and engaging with producers in Ethiopia. Being the fabled birthplace of coffee, it’s a truly unique micro climate and culture – nothing like it in the world. They are directly trading with producers through the ECX and this is something that really aligns with our ethos of supporting producers at origin.”
I ask is all this hoopla really necessary? Surely there’s people that do this already in New Zealand. “There are,” says Richard, “Coffee companies usually go to an importer and the quality is restricted by the importer. In contrast, we can learn from the producer and their real life challenges directly the compare that with what we know at our end, and that’s exactly what we’re doing” says Richard.
“Jade from Santa Helena is coming over from Colombia with samples of this years harvest. This will be our first platform of understanding where the farm is at with quality. She will be visiting both Hawke’s Bay and Wellington.” says Richard. So is this really a two way street?
“Yes, Matt will be at the bean harvest over there and we intend to have one of our staff on the ground there for 6 months as a form of internship and learn coffee from a production point of view and further share that knowledge with the rest of the company, but we go further….with Flight Coffee profits we want to eventually provide soft loans, because loaning them money helps them improve. We are all about how we can help and improve people’s lives. That’s the true meaning of a social enterprise”. says Richard.
The Wellington Story
Hawke’s Bay is home to the inception of Flight Coffee and always will be, but like when kids grow up and their home town becomes
too small, Flight Coffee need greater access to the specialty coffee market. “We need to engage with those people on a scale that is provided by the Wellington market” says Richard.
“Within the next month or two we will be creating the Flight Coffee Hangar. We’ll have the roastery, a brew bar, a full cafe. It will be the ultimate hub of specialty coffee. We don’t know the scale of it yet, we’re just passionate about what we do. The Slayer 2.0 the most advanced pressure profiling expresso profiling machine in the world which completely breaks the rules of espresso making as you know it.”
According to Richard, the specialty coffee market is the equivalent to paying for a premium quality wine. The quality, the standard and the delivery. “When compared to wine, the process it’s passed through for coffee is so much more, why should you not be paying for the privilege that it provides?” says Richard.
So I wonder where does that leave our flat white coffee drinking nation. “I honestly believe where the market is heading, sure there will always be the flat white 2 sugar crowd, but within that there are people who really care about coffee or those that are learning about coffee about how a particular process influences the flavour, and begin to understand that this is viable. The market is at the back end of it’s infancy, as companies like us get frustrated with the lack of availability of specialty coffee through standard importing means, we’re forced to do it ourselves. There’s a cost to doing that, but going to origin and helping the farmers and learning direct form them, they deserve the price for that, it’s true fair priced coffee.” explains Richard.
The Hawke’s Bay Coffee Hub
On our first review to Flight Coffee in Onekawa we wondered why there was only a couple of seats in this roastery. Today there’s a
whole lot more so I ask where things are heading here. “We’re creating a coffee hub here. The bar is being pushed back and we’re transforming our Onekawa operation into a specialty coffee hub. Danny’s heading up the new operation and is part of what makes this significant for us. We’ll be offering a full range of brewing methods of single origin coffee along with our gold medal award winning espresso. All over the counter.” says Richard.
Co-caffinator Nick Clark has recently become the Chairman of the newly formed NZ Barista Guild, which exists to be a body for baristas and a place where baristas can get internationally recognised qualifications and be a ‘go to’ to help them. “Being a barista can be a career. Coffee is a career, cafe is a lifestyle.” believes Richard.
I haven’t met someone more passionate about coffee and transforming how kiwi’s appreciate it and if you have even an inkling of curiosity, this is a place that should be top of your list to visit. “We want people to come here and be at home, be part of what is truly unique about coffee.” says Richard.