Home Coffee making Dark Horse moved from Kāpiti to the greater Wellington region and beyond

Dark Horse moved from Kāpiti to the greater Wellington region and beyond

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Beans straight out of the Loring hot air roaster. Photo / Rosalie Willis

From the scientific molecular structure of the beans to the chemical reaction that takes place upon heating, combined with the soil and altitude where the beans are grown and the temperature of the milk you have chosen … coffee is a form of art and science.

Born from a desire for consistency and flavor, Dark Horse has established itself as one of the best roasters in Kāpiti.

Their two main blends, Colt and Bronco, along with their one-off Pegasus line and Decaffeinated Gelding can now be found in 20 cafes around the Lower North Island after humble beginnings in 2016.

Dark Horse co-founder Matthew Payne.  Photo / Rosalie Willis
Dark Horse co-founder Matthew Payne. Photo / Rosalie Willis

The coffee roasting business was started by Matthew Payne and his wife Rachael when they owned the Raumati Social Club. of beans he received from his supplier.

“I started Dark Horse because I wasn’t getting the flavor I was looking for in coffee and I wasn’t getting the full experience I was looking for as a cafe owner.

“The roasters we were with had great customer service, but I found their roast very inconsistent.

“It’s all well and good to make the best coffee in the world, but if you can’t make it again next week, what’s the point?”

Matthew wanted to aim higher.

The Colt House Blend.  Photo / Rosalie Willis
The Colt House Blend. Photo / Rosalie Willis

An opportunity presented itself for Matthew and Rachael to start roasting their own beans in 2016 and when they presented them to their customers at the Raumati Social Club, the comments were exactly what they wanted – consistent.

As they started serving it at the Raumati Social Club, they opened a take-out store in Sheffield St, in the heart of the industrial area of ​​Paraparaumu.

Spending five days on take-out, five nights at the social club, and weekends at the social club, Matthew also helped open Tom Thumb to Kena Kena, working 80 to 100 hours a week.

“Originally we just wanted to roast the coffee for ourselves, but the feedback was so good that we started to respond to demand from people saying ‘hey can you do that? “

Dark Horse Coffee Roasters.  Photo / Rosalie Willis
Dark Horse Coffee Roasters. Photo / Rosalie Willis

“These were the first three places.”

Matthew also began delivering to coffee shops in Foxton, and the business continued to grow, no longer just serving himself.

“It was very scary going up against these huge coffee companies that have a whole team behind them – but ultimately I knew how to get the flavor I wanted.

“It was absolutely terrifying and it was one of those moves where you know you can do it, but all the time asking yourself, ‘Am I really stupid right now?’

“The hardest part of having a coffee business is the machinery.

“Anyone can roast coffee, but not everyone can reliably roast it to the profile you want, and then provide training, equipment and service to all the cafes and their staff. “

Investing in a state-of-the-art Loring hot air roaster in 2018, Matthew said this roaster has unmatched consistency, with the ability to reproduce the same roast over and over again.

With a flame that heats the air inside the drum rather than just heating the outside of the drum like most other roasters do, the beans are heated steadily.

Dark Horse, Sheffield Street Photo / Rosalie Willis
Dark Horse, Sheffield Street Photo / Rosalie Willis

“Compared to any other roaster on the market, Loring is also 80% more environmentally friendly. “

Now, with the machines to create the mixes they want, Dark Horse is focused on refining their systems so that as they grow they are able to deliver what they promise to a high standard.

Part of their recent growth has been the opening of Coffee and Flowers on Maclean St and Egmont Espresso, a flagship store in Wellington.

With plenty of options for exceptional coffee in Wellington, the challenge of breaking into the city’s market has been met head-on by Dark Horse.

“Everyone is responding well to our original blend of roasted and full-bodied Colt.

“We welcome the same people every day because they love it.”

With Matthew moving away from espresso machine work to focus on expanding the scope of the business in the lower North Island, quality assurance, training, research and development of new products are its co-directors Blair Harley and Simone Vasta with a team of coffee enthusiasts who can be found at the helm of Dark Horse Coffee on Sheffield St, Coffee and Flowers on Maclean St and Egmont Espresso in Wellington.

“I am now able to focus on coffee, trying to push products forward and create new products.

“The current one is a cold brew that I’m so happy about – coffee is a world without an end in itself.”

It is a mixture of art and science.

-This article first appeared in Celebrating Kāpiti Spring / Summer 2021 magazine


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