Perched in the Kauaeranga Valley up a steep gravel driveway is Mangotahi Lodge, where the sound of coffee roasting has coexisted with the sound of native birds for the past three years.
This is where owners Stephen Cox and Karyn Russell formed Pinnacle Coffee after Stephen drew inspiration from coffee farms he saw on his motorbike trips to Vietnam and Borneo.
“I really enjoyed the Vietnamese coffee and a chance meeting through a mutual friend saw us racing up to Auckland Airport for a brief meeting and then before we knew it, we were bringing in samples of coffee from Vietnam,” he said.
Stephen and Karyn went with Vietnamese beans because they wanted that point of difference – Vietnamese coffee is not very well known in New Zealand even though Vietnam is the second largest producer of coffee in the world after Brazil.
They then purchased a coffee roaster and espresso machine and took a few coffee roasting courses, read a lot and sought direction from a few contacts before being invited for a tour of the company that now supplies their beans from Vietnam.
“We visited some of the small coffee farms where they are all taught to grow organically and we also took a coffee roasting course in Thailand with a master coffee roaster,” Karyn said.
Karyn then designed the Pinnacle Coffee logo, which was based on Mangotahi Lodge’s logo representing the nearby Pinnacles and Kauaeranga river.
The name Pinnacle Coffee was suggested to Stephen by a guest staying at their lodge at the time.
“We had lots of different ideas for our brand name but Pinnacle Coffee made sense, it was right in front of us and we didn’t even think about it,” Karyn laughs.
Since Pinnacle Coffee first started roasting, they’ve been slowly gaining momentum.
“During lockdown last year, we had people phoning us asking for our coffee and ordering our coffee online so we started delivering to letterboxes. It’s just got bigger and bigger with more and more customers every week – we have amazing local support,” Karyn said.
“We’ve already gone through a huge amount of beans we ordered in May so the growth is definitely there,” Stephen said.
Pinnacle Coffee can be found in the following local stores – Lotus Realm and The Backroom Café, Savour & Spice, Re-store Eco Market in Thames, and Aspire Refillery & Eco Store in Whangamata.
“Keeping our business local allows us to connect more with locals,” Karyn said. “We wanted to sell direct to consumers so they can make and enjoy good fresh coffee at home.”
Stephen, who is also a contract engineer in Thames, looks after the roasting while Karyn, who’s also a business manager in Hamilton, manages the orders, packaging, deliveries, and marketing – it’s a team effort.
Pinnacle Coffee also has a strong focus on sustainability.
The couple have started making re-suable tote bags from their coffee bean sacks, their coffee grinds go into worm warms, gardens or fire starters and their packaging, which is locally sourced, is home compostable.
- GORDON PREECE