The Or­monds from Have­lock North are com­bin­ing caf­feine, com­merce and cul­ture



TOM OR­MOND RE­MEM­BERS plung­ing a lot of cof­fee for film crews when he worked as a pro­duc­tion as­sis­tant. He didn’t re­al­ize then that he would one day also take the plunge, roast­ing and de­liv­er­ing a brand of cof­fee from bean to brew.

Tom and his wife Benita look back on their early days of run­ning Hawthorne Cof­fee and laugh at their naivety. Hawke’s Bay’s first cof­fee roast­ing and es­presso bar had a solid lo­cal rep­u­ta­tion when they took it over. Tom and Benita felt the pres­sure.

“We were very green at the start, and there’s no deny­ing that. We threw our­selves in and had to swim pretty darned quick, but we man­aged to keep the busi­ness afloat and have proved some­thing to our­selves and those around us,” says Tom.

Skip for­ward 12 years and this lively cof­fee hub is col­lect­ing in­dus­try medals al­most as fast as its own­ers can churn out the flat whites. Since open­ing in 1999, Hawthorne has picked up more medals at the an­nual New Zealand Cof­fee Awards than any other roast­ery – a lit­tle-known fact with the lo­cals, and just how Tom and Benita like it. They have no in­ter­est in boast­ing. But with 26 medals to their name and Hawthorne named Hawke’s Bay’s best cof­fee house for three years run­ning, the busi­ness is rid­ing the crest of its own crema.

En­ter­ing the highly com­pet­i­tive cof­fee in­dus­try was a de­vi­a­tion for both of them – Tom a unit man­ager and pro­duc­tion as­sis­tant and Benita an artist and café worker. The op­por­tu­nity to break into cof­fee came on their re­turn from a work­ing hol­i­day in Scot­land. Hawthorne was up for sale and Benita’s fa­ther Ben saw its po­ten­tial. Not only that, he had the per­fect can­di­dates in mind to run it.

Then in their mid-20s, the pair had en­ergy and drive so set to work learn­ing about small­busi­ness own­er­ship and the spe­cial­ized craft of roast­ing and mak­ing cof­fee. “We worked damned hard at the start get­ting up to speed on the me­chan­ics of the busi­ness. With a small team of five, we had to be ev­ery­where and across ev­ery­thing. Benita was on ac­counts and man­aged the es­presso bar while I tin­kered away like a lab­o­ra­tory tech­ni­cian per­fect­ing the brand’s blends,” says Tom.

“It was in­tense, and there were times when I won­dered what the hell we had got our­selves into, but cus­tomer feed­back was pos­i­tive which gave us the con­fi­dence to keep go­ing.”

Hawthorne gave Tom the chance to com­bine his hos­pi­tal­ity skills and affin­ity for ma­chin­ery with an es­tab­lished fond­ness for bev­er­ages. Add in Benita’s vi­va­cious­ness and love of host­ing a party and the cou­ple’s com­bined strengths added up to suc­cess.

“The essence of our busi­ness is hav­ing an awe­some team, great cof­fee, hard work, con­sis­tency, ex­cel­lent ser­vice and in­no­va­tion. Our cof­fee makes peo­ple happy and I think hap­pi­ness is suc­cess,” says Benita.

Tom is adamant a to­tal re­brand early on helped stamp the cou­ple’s mark on the op­er­a­tion. But they also adopted the adage “why fix what isn’t bro­ken?”

“We took over a busi­ness and a brand and worked hard to make them re­flect Hawke’s Bay, the vil­lage of Have­lock North and the so­cial as­pect of Hawthorne.

“The key is that we’ve been able to keep im­prov­ing as bet­ter green cof­fee has be­come avail­able. Also, the way in which we roast the cof­fee has changed dra­mat­i­cally with the help of tech­nol­ogy and ed­u­ca­tion.

“It’s a bit like wine­mak­ing. We’re tak­ing the best pos­si­ble in­gre­di­ents and striv­ing to ex­tract max­i­mum flavour from every bean. We do this by manag­ing the heat and du­ra­tion of our roasts us­ing roast­ing-pro­file soft­ware and our Ger­man Pro­bat cof­fee roaster,” says Tom.

“Each bean has a dis­tinct taste de­pend­ing on its ori­gin, va­ri­ety, pro­cess­ing and roast de­vel­op­ment. This is why roast pro­files, cup­ping, brew­ing and pre­cise ex­trac­tion are im­per­a­tive to achiev­ing the most de­li­cious, well-rounded, well-bal­anced cup of cof­fee.”

They might not be old enough to drink it, but Tom and Benita’s three chil­dren — Raf, Olympia and Far­rah — have also in­her­ited their par­ents’ nose for cof­fee. “When the cof­fee beans are be­ing roasted, half of Have­lock North is en­veloped in a thick, toasty aroma. Even the kids on their way to school shriek, ‘mmmm, Mum, we can smell Daddy this morn­ing’ from the back­seat,” laughs Benita.

With per­sis­tence comes pay-off. Many of Hawke’s Bay’s award-win­ning winer­ies, cafés and restau­rants, lo­cal gro­cers and of­fices now serve Hawthorne cof­fee while, na­tion­ally, the brand is also mak­ing in­roads.

And re­mem­ber Tom’s par­tial­ity for a tasty bev­er­age? Well, he has the drinks menu covered with a foray into craft beer with his brother Chris and “brew­mance” mate Ge­orge Macken­zie. Con­vert­ing a dun­geon­like garage into a bright, wel­com­ing space for beer afi­cionado Chris to brew his Gi­ant beer and host tast­ings has been ac­com­plished on a tight bud­get.

“The three of us have al­ways en­joyed drink­ing good beer. It be­came a bit of a rit­ual to home-brew be­fore a band ses­sion, and it just grew from there,” says recre­ational mu­si­cian Tom. He’s even in­fil­trated a beer in­fused with, yep, Hawthorne cof­fee beans — the Gi­ant White Stout.

An Amer­i­can pale ale, New Zealand PA and lo­cal favourite Hawke’s Bay PA join the Gi­ant line-up, with Tom re­veal­ing the lo­cal sea­sonal brew is dis­tinct be­cause its hops are all grown in Hawke’s Bay.

As the name sug­gests, it’s hoped Gi­ant can stand out from the crowd in a fast-grow­ing niche mar­ket. But if not, fly­ing un­der the radar is just fine for this brew crew.

“Hawke’s Bay sun­shine, big views and a healthy, cre­ative and sim­ple life spent with fam­ily, friends and com­mu­nity is what we hold close. This is what we work for,” says Benita.

Hawthorne’s com­postable take­away cups have been ex­hib­ited in a “cof­fee cups of the world” show at a gallery in Los An­ge­les and the in­tri­cate cof­fee bag art­work was a fi­nal­ist in the De­sign­ers In­sti­tute Best De­sign Awards.

(Left) The Or­monds have gone from be­ing “green” at the start of their busi­ness to serv­ing up a green prod­uct; roaster Kelvyn Collins (below) lis­tens to Tom’s prized Ger­man Pro­bat, wait­ing for the all-im­por­tant “first crack” and his cue to start re­duc­ing the heat.

(Left) Benita in one of her happy places — the lively Hawthorne roast­ery where cof­fee is bagged and de­liv­ered daily; (below) Raf, Olympia and Far­rah sam­ple their Hawthorne fluffies. hawthornecof­ / gi­ant­brew­

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