November 2018. Our Coffee History. “At Suzy’s Coffee Lounge” 1967 by Rita Angus, held by D. & C. Mace; copyright is with the Estate of Rita Angus. The perspective in the painting is from where Angus often sat. Rita called the set-up of the painting a ‘Ready-made’ referencing the Fritz Eisenhoffer interior design. The painting retains the aspect ratio of the window through which can be seen a mid-sixties urban-scape. People are close but apart, shaded, the scene carries a hint of Wellington noir. On the tables are salt and pepper shakers, along with a small menu and an ash tray, something that Rita would be needing.
Rita Angus had a relationship with coffee houses, exhibiting at the Coffee Pot in Christchurch’s Regent Street during the mid to late 30s, then in 1951 at the French Maid Coffee House in Lambton Quay
November 2018 – A tragic day. On the 9th of November two legends of coffee passed away. Sisto Malaspina of Pellagrinis, Australia’s oldest espresso bar and Suzy van de Kwast of Suzy's Coffee Lounge, which ran from the 1960s to the mid 80s. Sisto was murdered, Suzy died of natural causes.
We made a tribute to our two friends at Miller's.
Suzy van de Kwast, the Queen of Cona.
Suzy van de Kwast. (nee Bekhuis) 1938 – 2018.
From 1964 to 1987, 7.00 am to 9pm, if a good coffee was what you needed, there was always Suzy’s Coffee Lounge in Willis Street. More often than not standing at the cash register serving the coffee was owner Suzy van de Kwast, tall, upright and always perfectly coiffured. Along with the freshly brewed Cona Coffee she made a range of fresh salads for New Zealand’s first chilled salad bar. Also on offer, wonderful cakes and her famous apple flaps along with her husband Tom’s Uitsmijters.
New Zealand’s coffee industry today is top tier internationally. It all started with a small group of people from 1940s to the 1970s, they transitioned us from tearooms to coffee houses. They showed what constituted a good coffee house and what food complements coffee.
A number of these people were post-war immigrants from the Netherlands. Worthy of mentioning is Eelco Boswick in Nelson, and Suzy who finally settled in Wellington. They brought with them the best of Continental casual dining and contributed to laying a foundation, the influence of which can still be seen.
Suzy’s early childhood was spent
in Albergen in the rural province of Overijssel, east Holland. Life was hard after the Second World War as the country had been ravaged by the Nazi occupation. There was also family tragedy when her mother died from illness, leaving her father to bring up a large family.
Suzy left school at 16 to manage the family farm’s produce stall. She also started a vegetable distribution business driving house to house in a small three wheeled truck. Suzy liked serving people and wanted a business of her own. To do this she felt it was necessary to leave Holland. In 1960 she arrived in New Zealand, with two brother's already here. She became one of the countries first barista’s working the espresso machine at the Bamboo Restaurant in Invercargill.
In 1962, with a partner, she opened the Windmill Coffee Bar in Wakefeild Street, Wellington, then in 1964 she realised her dream. Her own business, Suzy’s Coffee Lounge. Suzy’s was designed by Fritz Eisenhofer. She worked with Fagg’s Coffee to create her own signature coffee blend, using the all-glass Cona Coffee system, often pouring 700 to 800 cups a day.
Suzy’s quickly became an institution. It was a safe gathering place for a woman to go in the evening, something we take for granted now. She was always beautifully dressed and supportive towards the New Zealand fashion scene.
In 1967, Rita Angus, her regular customer, immortalised the coffee lounge with her painting ‘At Suzy’s Coffee Lounge”. In 2010 Suzette Goldsmith wrote the book “Suzy’s a Coffee House history”.
In recent years there has been too much emphasis on technical detail. The level of hospitality people like Suzy brought to our society is rare. Suzy’s skill as a hostess and her willingness to serve others paved the way for what has become a world class industry.
It is with great sadness we mourn the loss of a Suzy van de Kwast. She brought the humble cup of coffee to our attention by placing it in a classy environment and emphasising hospitality; setting a standard for us all to follow.
Thank you Sisto, my friend, for setting the bar. You have been the most dedicated barista I know, I have done my best to follow. You will be missed by the coffee world. Your dedication to the Italian way is unsurpassed.
Most of the coffee consumed today in a hospitality environment is made on the espresso machine.
In 1986 Patrick Reynolds brought me a paper napkin with Pellegrinis Melbourne printed on it and suggested when visiting, to check out the oldest espresso bar in Australasia. When I began roasting 2 years later I looked through the ‘Letraset’ samples for a similar script to that used by Pellegrinis, there was no match available. I then decided to photocopy the napkin and preceded to cut and paste the letters for what became the Millers logo.
In 1992 I visited Pellegrinis and explained to Sisto my plagiarism. He took it in good humour and we became friends. On my visits I made a point of stopping by, now when visiting Melbourne it will never seem complete.
November 2018 – Pretty in pink. Our espresso workshop doors continue to be used as a backdrop for photography.
Pretty in pink, fellas.
November 2018 – Mint. Corsican mint soaking in a red wine marc that we had distilled earlier.
To make crème-de-menth, which we use in our chocolates.
November 2018 - Learning about N.Z. coffee. Craig Miller explains coffee roasting to international visitors. Part of The Big Foody morning tour package.
November 2018 - Armistice Day. One of the more tranquil areas in the neighbourhood is the Auckland Domain which contains the Auckland War Memorial Museum. The Museum and the Domain held Armistice Day memorials.
November 2018 – Deck vegetables’. The vegetables on the studio deck are doing well. Nothing like fresh greens for lunch.
November 2018 - Miller’s Takeaway Cups. By Rena Pearson.
November 2018 – Green Ume. Green ume grown, picked, washed, dried and taken to Cocoro.
November 2018 – Hovoli. A Greek coffee machine called a Hovoli. This machine keeps the copper briki and coffee dispensers hot. The briki sit in heated sand. This machine is at Oios Restaurant. Taking Hellenic Cuisine to the next level. Highly recommended.
November 2018 – Cool logo. Lady Luck, a coffee and sandwich bar in Caledonia Street, Miramar. Serving Havana Coffee.
November 2018 - Travelling Coffee. From the sea to the mountains, Phillip and Anna from Germany, enjoy Miller’s Coffee.