This October Kōkako is our guest Roaster in Residence and we’ve joined up with their roasting dream team, Sam McTavish and Sammy Bright.

Sammy’s been in the coffee industry for 16 years now, and she started out at Kōkako taking care of customer orders and Auckland deliveries. Since then, she’s been training with head roaster, Sam, and she’s now spread her wings to roasting solo.

Sam and Sammy recommended that we try the Aotea which is their flagship blend combining the origins, Papua New Guinea, Honduras , Limu and Sumatra. It’s also certified  Biogro Organic and Fairtrade coffee.



What flavour notes can we expect from the Aotea?
Bright juicy stone fruit acidity with a medium body.

What’s the roasting style?
It is a medium light roast.

What’s the recommended recipe?
18 grams in – 32-36 grams out. 25-30 seconds extraction



Sam, how long have you been roasting with Kōkako?
I just had my 4 year anniversary. I thought when I started I would only be packing coffee and learning the theory of roasting but I was given a great opportunity to learn hands on pretty much right from when I started.

and Sammy, when did you get started?
I started training with Sam in December for 2 hours a week to start, slowly progressing as time went on and then COVID hit.



What was it like for you to join the roasting team as we were headed into a global pandemic?
(Sammy) It was actually pretty great (considering the circumstances). I spent the Level 4 lockdown at home while Sam was roasting by himself. It was a pretty stressful time for the team who were working during Level 4. It was awesome to be able to come in during Level 3 and help relieve some of that pressure.


Kokako PNG Trip


Sam, you’ve travelled to Papua New Guinea to be part of Farmer Training programmes with Fairtrade. What was that experience like?
Incredible and humbling. PNG is also such a beautiful country. To meet the people was pretty special. They were so generous and kind and really have an amazing outlook on life. It was really eye-opening to find out what coffee farming really looks like. To get an opportunity to see the challenges farmers must overcome has affected the way I see coffee here in New Zealand in a positive way.



Although you were there in an educational capacity to support the PNG Farmers, what is the most significant thing that the farmers taught you during your stay?
That despite the massive challenges they face they have an amazing outlook on life – that was one of the biggest things I learned. To be happy with what you have, embrace the challenges you face, and celebrate the things that are important like family and culture.


Kokako - Commercial Bay KB90


Kōkako recently opened up its first specialty coffee bar in Commercial Bay this past June. What was the inspiration and vision for this new space?(Sam) We wanted to create a space where we could showcase the Kōkako experience. Somewhere where you would be captivated by the aesthetics of the bar and then have an exceptional beverage that matched that space. A lot of inspiration was pulled from experiences overseas that our team has had. We really wanted our space to be something new for Auckland to experience.


West Supply Kokako
photo by: Emma Orchard



You guys also have a pretty cool new joint venture out west. Can you shed some light on this new spot?
(Sammy) We’ve been friends with Feldon Shelter, the team behind the West Supply space, for a few years now – we first met them back in 2016 when we joined forces to giveaway a bespoke Kōkako x Feldon Shelter rooftop tent. We’re stoked to be working with them again at West Supply.

We’re in charge of West Supply Coffee, a little espresso shop at the front of the space and there’s surfboard shaper out back (by Marsden) too. It’s a pretty rad little space to grab a coffee in and check out some pretty nifty camping gear. There’s a two group PB, mythos, EK & Kony + batch brew through a moccamaster and plenty of beans up for grabs for home.


West Supply Linea PB


What will the future hold for the coffee program you offer and who do you see yourselves partnering with in the future
(Sam) We work pretty closely with John Burtons and Trade Aid to source the best Fairtrade Organic coffee we can find. This year has been really cool as we have been able to release two natural coffees and three washed African coffees. Over the next 6 months we are looking to release one washed and one honeyed FTO from the same farm (as a dual pack), a FTO Geisha and an Ethiopia Guji. We are seeing a lot more variety in FTO coffee which is exciting for us.



Why is being an organic coffee roaster important to you?
It benefits the farmers health by not having to use chemicals and it benefits the land. The overuse of some chemicals can lead to infertile land which isn’t sustainable at all. Without healthy farmers and fertile soils our industry doesn’t have a future. Coffee farming can be very invasive and depleting but organic growing methods help preserve and regenerate the environment where the coffee is grown.

The logistics of offsetting carbon emissions can be a complex topic to wrap your head around. What is Kōkako doing to help demystify this?
(Sammy) As a coffee company we are extremely conscious of climate change and our responsibility to mitigate its effects. The impact climate change has had, and will have, on coffee growers has been driven home on in our trips to Papua New Guinea.

(Sam) We report on our efforts to reduce our carbon footprint, and how are carbon offsetting program works for the emissions we cannot avoid, in our biannual sustainability reports. You can find the 2016 report and 2018 report here and with each report release we try to demystify what we are doing by using plain language and really clearly setting out what it means. Our 2020 report, with an update on how we are going, is due out in early November.



Kōkako is well known for being an ethical business with mindful sourcing and supplier relationships, but what else would you like to be known for? (Sam) Something we don’t promote but I am very proud of is the way we look after our staff. Investing in upskilling our team, regular well-being check-ins, strong social connections and flexibility to accommodate life outside of work.

(Sammy) Innovation. Sam really hunts out unique Single Origins to add to our offering. Fairtrade, organic singles that he thinks people will not only love but that also measure up against other speciality coffee companies – raising the bar and profile for fairtrade organic coffee, it’s pretty spesh.

The best of the best for employment. Kōkako really looks after their staff, I really don’t know many Managing Directors who would have gone to the extent Mike did to retain every single employee during this ongoing pandemic, pretty exceptional.



The name Kōkako is also the name of a New Zealand native bird. What work do you do to help protect this endangered species?
(Sammy) We have a long standing relationship with the Rotoehu Ecological Trust who are guardians of the kōkako population in the Pongakawa Forest in the Bay of Plenty. We make an annual financial contribution to their work and our customers can help up that amount by using the code ROTOEHU at the checkout on our website – it means we give the takings of the sale to the trust too, on top of our yearly donation.



(Sam) Our team also makes an annual trip down to the forest for a day in the bush – helping set traps, clear traps, clear the trap pathways, whatever they need help with, and we supply coffee and drinking chocolate for all their other workdays throughout the rest of the year.