Kokako turns 15

This is a little shout out to Gather & Hunt’s oldest pals, Kokako, who are celebrating a significant birthday this week. This Auckland coffee roaster have been by our sides since we launched in 2011, but they’ve been a presence in the city since 2001. The story of Kokako is a fascinating one and I encourage you to read about it over here – they were pioneers of organic, fairtrade, and “cool” vegetarian in Auckland – but the story I want to tell is more personal. It’s about good people making good things together.

One of the earliest pieces I wrote for the site was about Kokako’s collaboration with Hungry Bin at the HP Wintergarden in 2011, back when Silo Park was still a concrete pad and there was no such thing as North Wharf. I was 26, with no media experience and a lot of dreams floating around my head. I remember Kokako’s owner Mike Murphy inviting me down to look around the space. I hadn’t been invited anywhere in a G&H capacity before, and I was terrified. Mike spent an hour with me, talking about the things that mattered to him most: collaboration, quality, good design, and sustainability. I’d never met a person who lived and breathed his values so wholeheartedly, and looking back, I know the conversation we had that day helped shape my own ideas about how to run Gather & Hunt. These days, Kokako is much bigger than Mike, but his considered leadership shows through in everything the company does.

I was there the day Kokako’s Grey Lynn flag ship cafe opened, and I’ve been a regular ever since. The concept of ArtDego came to life at that round table just inside the door over countless plates of buckwheat pancakes with Dom, Bex and Alice. When they were eventually taken off the menu we had to steal the recipe.

Kokako was the location of our first Tasting Club, a three course breakfast degustation that the crew served to 50 people over one beautiful, frantic hour one winter Tuesday. It was Mike’s idea to cover the floor with autumn leaves, and I feel that’s set the tone for every Tasting Club we’ve held since.

When we took over the Civic Wintergarden for The Ballet Banquet, a mega collab between Gather & Hunt, Antipodes Water, Nautilus Estate, chefs Ed Verner and Brian Campbell and artist Laura Forest, as well as Claire Cowan and the Blackbird Ensemble, Kokako was there too, naturally, paired with the most spectacular dessert I’ve ever seen and probably ever will see.

Gather & Hunt’s relationship with Kokako can be explained in many ways – I could say that our “brands align”, or that Kokako are our “supporters”, occasionally our “sponsors”, and at other times our “partners”. None of these words quite capture the truth of it though. Gather & Hunt and Kokako are friends, and before I realised this I didn’t believe two businesses could achieve that kind of relationship.

We support each other, we look out for each other, we give feedback and honest advice, we grow together. My small company’s relationship with Kokako has informed all of my G&H relationships, I much prefer to form bonds with like-minded people and companies than engage in emotionless financial transactions, where possible (it’s not always possible!).

As a friend of Kokako, I can’t help viewing the milestone of this 15th birthday with a sense of pride. It feels like watching a good friend graduate with honours. In business, and in Auckland, you don’t turn 15 without a clear vision and a lot of hard work, failures, successes, and calculated risks, so congratulations to Mike and and the entire crew at Kokako. I hope we’re still friends when you turn 30.