‘Garden Club’ coffee venture sprouts up on town outskirts

Rata Miller reckons his high-tech Cimbali espresso machine probably has “more bells and whistles” than he needs but, hey, it  makes a really mean coffee – and locals have begun trickling in to his shipping container-turned-coffee bar at Raglan’s industrial park for their daily fix.

Despite the still sparse nature of the surrounds at Nau Mai, just off SH23, it felt a little like a friendly neighbourhood scene when the Chronicle called by Raglan’s newest coffee outlet – the Garden Club – first thing Monday morning.

Rata – both a coffee roaster and barista around town for a couple of years now – was in his element. “I am able to reconnect with some of my old customers,” he told the Chronicle, adding he saw the new business as not just a job but also an opportunity to contribute to the community and give people a place to hang out.

Sure it was a work in progress, his wife Alicia conceded, coffee in hand while supervising their three young girls at the outside table as they sipped their own mini hot chocolates made by Dad.

However she revealed Rata was a bit of a gardener, too, so their plants growing on a wall of the container and in the adjacent garden would ultimately flourish. Customer parking would never be a problem and there was space too to develop a “kid-oriented” area.

“Yes there’s a lot to like about (being) here,” Rata agreed, citing for one thing their not having to pay “unaffordable” rent d-owntown.

The industrial park was only going to grow, he also pointed out, with both Raglan Coconut Yoghurt and Direct Tech Automotive soon to move on site. Building and landscape supply  yards were already established, and tradies coming and going.

Rata has a pie-warmer on order and is now looking to buy in a few foodie favourites like Kai’s pies, usually sold at Raglan’s monthly creative market.

Keeping things local is important to the couple, who relied on Raglan businesses and friends to help them get started early this month. The biggest job was to outfit the container which was shifted on site mid-November.

But it’s all about the coffee really, said Rata, whose father Craig established the Miller’s brand off Auckland’s Karangahape Rd back in 1984 and is still roasting today.

Rata’s inherited from him the gleaming Italian-made espresso machine, which has individual touch screens to control temperature and pressure for best flavour outcome, he says. “It’s not about the brand or the blend.”

Even so, like his father he uses a high-quality Kenya/Colombia blend from John Burton Ltd, the largest green bean importer in the country.

Rata has previously run his own Ponsonby espresso bar, ‘too Good’, which received runner-up in  the people’s choice award for best brew in Auckland by The Urban List New Zealand a few years ago.

Now he’s focused on building up his reputation here on the outskirts of Raglan. And so far he’s had a ”great” response.

Edith Symes