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Cook & Nelson Conversations 04: Mike Murphy, Kōkako Managing Director - Cook & Nelson

Cook & Nelson Conversations 04: Mike Murphy, Kōkako Managing Director

Mike Murphy is owner and Managing Director of Fairtrade Organic Coffee Roasting business, Kōkako. Founded by Helen Olivier and Christian Lamdin in 2001, Kōkako was always committed to organic coffee. Becoming certified, however, was something Mike brought in after purchasing Kōkako in 2007, with the business becoming Biogro and Fairtrade certified in 2009. He is a big sustainability advocate with a penchant for anchovies and pizza puttanesca. 

What gets you out of bed each morning?
My team at Kōkako – they’re a great bunch! Knowing that I’ll arrive at our roastery or Commercial Bay Coffee Bar and the team are super excited to talk coffee and keep pushing the boundaries of excellence makes me super proud.

Favourite out of Auckland hospitality establishment?
Gather and Roam in Whangamata. We worked with owners Simon and Creghan when they owned The French Café in Auckland, and we were fortunate that they chose to work with Kōkako again when they opened Gather and Roam in Whangamata. It’s in an unassuming location in the industrial part of Whangamata. It’s worth seeking out as the service, food and coffee is absolutely incredible.

Favourite Cook & Nelson product and why?
I stumbled across the Noble Handcrafted Maple Syrup years ago, probably because I’m a sucker for great packaging. Since then I have been a fan of lots of the Cook and Nelson products including Tony’s Chocolonely and the Seedlip range.

What are you reading right now?
My brother Tim always gives me great books on entrepreneurs to read. He started with Shoe Dog, the story of Nike founder Phil Knight (which I couldn’t put down) and then gave me That will never work; the birth of Netflix and the Amazing Life of an Idea, by co-founder Marc Randolph.

And watching?
We Crashed, the story of the founders of We Work, on Apple TV. It’s a fascinating insight into the back story to the co-working business and its rapid scaling across the world. It’s amazing to see how the passion of a founder can influence smart investors into helping grow a business without validating all the numbers. Binge-worthy for sure.

Listening to (podcast / music or both)?
My go to podcast is always Business is Boring, I’ve known and respected presenter Simon Pound for quite a while and he was kind enough to invite me on a few years back to talk about Kōkako Organic Coffee (podcast here). It’s reassuring to hear other business owners tell their stories of how growing a business can be like a rollercoaster ride, which is what I’ve found.

Favourite destination in NZ and why?
For some reason my compass always points south, it’s pretty awesome to hang out around Dunedin and Central Otago. In 2021 we partnered with an amazing new Hotel in Dunedin called EBB – it’s already won awards for its stunning architecture and design, and the fact that they have Kōkako coffee pour-over’s in every room and in the on-site cafe just makes it even better. We like working with progressive owners like this who push the boundaries. 

Favourite holiday destination – anywhere in the world?
Detroit, Michigan – I went there in 2018 and am so keen to go back (it also happens to be where McClures Pickles come from). I liked it so much I wrote a blog about it (which you can read here).

My ideal weekend is ...
Home is Pahi, in the Kaipara and I head there after a busy week in Auckland every Friday. It’s perfect for an introvert like me – quiet, rural and unassuming, but with a heap of character and charm, with lots of native bush. I know all the vendors at the local Paparoa Farmers Market and I’m very loyal to them every Saturday morning as I know how important it is to support locals. 

What's your guilty foodie pleasure?
Probably snacks – how did Proper make those stone ground White Corn Cheeza-Pino Tortilla Chips so addictive?

If you weren't running Kokako, what would you do / be?
Probably something in conservation or architecture. The Kōkako team has volunteered with the Rotoehu Ecological Trust in the Pongakawa Forest, which is in the Bay of Plenty, for quite a few years. We try to take a bunch of our crew down every year, normally for track clearing or pest control operations. Being in nature and doing your bit to help conserve and grow the population of native birds like the kōkako is very rewarding. Doing that and some sort of building project or architecture on the side would be a bit of me.

Your go-to cocktail/drink?
A classic G&T. Typically I’d roll with Scapegrace Gin and East Imperial Yuzu Tonic water, heaps of ice and a big wedge of organic lemon. But I also like to try different NZ gin producers, and there are lots of great ones. 

One ingredient that you can't live without?
Anchovies – my first job was at Dial-A-Dino’s Pizza in Howick. I discovered anchovies when I worked there and used to eat them straight out of the tin. Now they are a staple – try white anchovies on your poached eggs, you won’t look back!

Where do you draw inspiration from (personally & professionally)?
Simple things that keep you humble and grounded; whānau, nature, community, the arts and just generally being open-minded and inquisitive about life. With some of our Kōkako team I’m also learning Te Reo Māori and although I’m a slow learner just being able to connect to and better understand our indigenous language is super rewarding.

Favourite dish (anywhere in the world)
Pizza puttanesca – a simple sourdough pizza topped with anchovies, olives and capers. 

Favourite website or social handle for foodie inspo
Probably Broadsheet Melbourne; I lived in Melbourne for a few years and kept a notebook of ideas and inspiration, many of which have morphed into things we’ve done at Kōkako in the last 15 years. I don’t need a notebook any more as I can just be inspired by the relentless amount of new hospitality openings in Melbourne on Broadsheet.

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