Stephen and Ali have been roasting coffee in Cairns 2010. Before that, Steve was builder and I worked in local government. When we starting, we were the first specialty coffee roaster in Far North Queensland and our concept was inspired by the micro-roasting movement happening in New Zealand. We just saw a gap in the market and hoped that the 35 degree temperatures meant people still wanting to drink hot coffee! Luckily they did and the business we very successful. We were also the first business in Cairns to have a La Marzocco, which seems outrageous now. The industry has really developed since our inception.
When Ali was pregnant with Lewis (2013), she really wanted to be home in NZ, so they put the business in Cairns under management and went back to Nelson. Originally they set up a shipping container in her parents paddock, serving coffee and gourmet milkshakes for the summer months. This was very popular with the locals and some days we would have a line up from open to close.
That lasted 3 seasons (in the winter we would go back to Cairns). Then they were offered a gorgeous little space on Mapua Wharf that was just perfect for roasting (they couldn’t say no) so they moved to NZ full time to start Rabbit Island Coffee Co. the roasting company. They used the same name as the container, it just morphed from container café into roasting (with no café).
The years roasting in Australia had exposed them to some wonderful mentors and coffee education. Ali also competed in Barista competitions and gained her Q Grader qualification. As much as the coffee market in NZ is rather saturated, they really felt that their roasting style was a little different and unique and that Nelson-Tasman was missing smaller boutique roaster that focused on quality.
All of Ali's family (brother, sister, mum & dad) have worked or currently work in business. Her brother and sister both played a vital role during Uni holidays and now Mum & Dad run the roastery (under Steve’s strict instructions). It is really lovely having something all the family are interested and involved in.