Nothing could replace Good One. For those of you that aren’t well versed in the Auckland cafe scene, it was a landmark coffee spot nestled deep down a side street. Closed just five months ago, Good One was Coffee Supreme’s offering of hospitality in the largest city New Zealand’s got. Good One was a place to meet and drink unlimited delicious filter coffee in a country of long blacks and flat whites; it was my happy place in Auckland as a newly landed American coffee drinker.
Needless to say, I was pissed when it closed. But, just as quickly as Good One left, Popped Culture appeared. Popped Culture is a series of breakfast events held in various locations around Auckland, centered on the ritual of toast and coffee. I’m a former San Francisco resident (Divisadero and Hayes) and weekend frequenter of The Mill, so I couldn’t have been more excited about an event dedicated to toast. And I’m not ashamed about it.
The formula for Popped Culture is: bring together a chef, a bread baker, an interesting location, beautiful furniture (from the punny people at Arkade Hire), and coffee. But each time certain variables change. The chef, baker, location, ambiance, toppings, bread, and even the coffee roaster are all recast for each presentation of the event.
I attended the final day of the second Popped Culture on a Saturday morning. It was staged at at IMO, a residential and commercial furniture showroom in Auckland’s Parnell suburb. Located down an unsuspecting side street, an illuminated cube denoted that we were in the right place.
In a both industrial yet comforting showroom, we sat at a table full of guests, all meeting and chatting with new people. As we queued for our breakfast, we were handed a paper-lined cafeteria tray, which literally outlined what was to come: three circles for coffee and two squares for toast.
Toast came first. Two slices of deliciously dense almond oat bread from The Midnight Baker were our bases. The toppings, provided by Welcome Eatery, made me want to go directly to their establishment for lunch following the event. For our savoury option, an asparagus egg salad was covered with scorched provolone and topped with beetroot salt. Our sweet toast was an adult-friendly PB&J. Peanut butter mousse was decorated with cubes of cold-pressed strawberry jelly and doused in a peanut crunch.
Next were those three circles. Instead of merely serving their own coffee, Coffee Supreme decided to put on a friendly coffee battle. UK’s Square Mile Coffee Roasters started the trio with a coffee from Aida Batlle’s Finca Kilimanjaro. Notes of red grape and clementine provided a clean cup to start the series of tastings. Blue Bottle followed with a coffee from Alfonso Vasquez in Santa Elena, Honduras. Blue Bottle’s offering gave us spice and lime, distinctly different from the first Central American coffee. Finally, and not to be outdone, Coffee Supreme presented the fruitiest of the bunch with notes of apricot, raspberry, and honey from Mugaya Coffee Factory in Kenya. After several rounds of coffees and at least one bottle of sparkling water, we were quite satisfied.
Breakfast events are my new preferred event. You get up; within two hours on a weekend you’ve already crossed off a social activity and had wondrous food and coffee in a location that trumps any sunny corner in your apartment.
One might say Popped Culture is a bridge for Coffee Supreme between Good One and their next Auckland home, with daily service at Supreme Seafarers manning the bow in the meantime This may be true, but it would seem more apt to say that Popped Culture provides an arena for Auckland to experience something new and playful. They are celebrating and giving a stage to new players in the hospitality scene and, with the second installment, exposing the Auckland public to hospitality excellence from around the world. Popped Culture is a collaboration between friends that creates a product greater than simply the sum of its parts.
At the risk of never being let back into my former SF local, Popped Culture gives The Mill a serious run for its toast money. If you happen to find yourself in Auckland in the next five months or so, try to coordinate your visit with a Popped Culture. And if you’re lucky enough to live here, don’t miss the next one.
Abigail Granbery is a writer based in Auckland, New Zealand. This is her first feature for Sprudge.
Photos courtesy of Simon Moore.