Inside Kokako's coffee roastery with Mike Murphy

by Kate Richards / 26 August, 2018
ArticleGalleryModule - Kokako

Inside Kokako coffee, the ethically-minded coffee company.

Just as owners sometimes look like their pets, Kōkako Coffee managing director Mike Murphy looks a little like his roastery: slight, minimalist and just a bit geeky. “I literally wrote in my diary last night, ‘Nice clothes for photoshoot,’” he says. But despite that note-to-self, he’s dressed in the same denim shirt he always wears, with a thermos-shaped lapel pin worn like a barista badge of honour.

Murphy lives round the corner from this converted 1970s engineering warehouse in the central Auckland suburb of Mt Eden, where Kōkako’s close-knit team roast the beans they supply across the country, so he walks to work when he can. He walks a lot, in fact, for inspiration as well as exercise. “It allows me to be inquisitive.”

Some of the ideas he’s had – most of which centre on caring for other people and the environment – have come to life at the organic roastery: there are bike racks fixed to the wall to encourage staff to cycle to work (plus showers out the back), several doors were lifted from a house being demolished, and the walls are clad in fast-growing, locally milled New Zealand poplar.

Among the initiatives the company supports is the Rotoehu Ecological Trust, a conservation group dedicated to protecting the North Island kōkako population in Rotoehu Forest, in the Bay of Plenty. So the eco-friendly ethos is evident, but it’s not all about being green. Murphy thinks working this way is simply “better business”.

A source of real pride are the images dotted around the walls, shot by Auckland-based photographer Josh Griggs during a trip to Papua New Guinea. Every 18 months, a few members of the Kōkako team make a pilgrimage to the developing nation, where the bulk of the beans used in their popular Aotea blend are grown. The aim, says Murphy, is to ensure workers at the Fairtrade co-operative are getting a fair deal, and to help teach them about optimum bean processing – all the way from coffee plant to coffee cup. 

Gallery - Kokako in Papua New Guinea:

ArticleGalleryModule - Kokako PNG

This was published in the June 2018 issue of North & South.

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