Airport coffee gains high-flying customers

TALIA CARLISLE
Last updated 05:00 12/04/2014
Mojo airport
TALIA CARLISLE/FAIRFAX NZ

Coffee hit: Customers travel the globe to visit Mojo airport cafe, owner Jason Neilson says. 

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The Wellingtonian

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Quality and consistency is the secret to a perfect coffee, Mojo airport cafe owner Jason Neilson says.

He should know. His cafe has been rated the world's second-best airport coffee shop by travel website thrillist.com.

The manager, owner, barista and chef said it was "amazing" to be recognised by the popular website.

He said the cafe's freshly roasted coffee beans and food ensured a following among travellers, who made sure to visit between journeys.

Being acknowledged on the New York- based website was extra encouragement to keep pushing for the highest standard, he said.

The Lyall Bay resident often works 16-hour days, from 4am till 8pm, to serve passengers at Wellington International Airport.

Working in an airport cafe was more demanding than working in other Mojo cafes, he said.

"It's a totally different environment. People have got somewhere to go and only 20 minutes here, so not much time for coffee and meals," he said.

"There are times that you get a delay and you get anywhere between 100 and 140 people wanting a coffee at once, especially in the morning.

"It is quite tough for the staff to be ready for that at any moment."

It was important to retain a calm and friendly atmosphere despite the stress, he said.

"We like to have a bit of fun, too - that's key. You need some down time to take your mind off things."

The Christchurch-born chef said he had always been interested in food.

"I like to cook at home. Thai food is a big favourite of mine. Then I got a kitchen hand job and it stemmed from there."

Seven years ago, the former head chef of Floriditas began working at Mojo's Molesworth St Summit cafe, where he learned to make coffee.

He said a good coffee started with the bean selection and the roasting, done by Mojo's head office in Wellington.

Consistency and quality were key.

"There's a lot that can go wrong in a coffee," he said. "The time and effort that the head office puts into growing the right beans and the cupping and roasting [makes sure] the quality is always 100 per cent."

Extensive training was also provided for staff at Mojo headquarters and at each cafe.

The airport cafe was also different because it made all the cafe's meals, dressings and cabinet food on site to keep up with the high-speed demands.

The website described Mojo airport's two-level cafe as a "well-loved boutique roastery in Wellington".

"Mojo puts an emphasis on crop to cup and brews a variety of single-origin Guatemalan, Ethiopian, and Peruvian blends," it said.

"Their signature house java, though, is Dr. Mojo's Medicine, which rocks hints of nut and chocolate, and a spicy toffee finish."

Neilson said the winning airport coffee shop, Joe and the Juice at Copenhagen Airport, served a similarly roasted and blended coffee to New Zealand cafes.

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- The Wellingtonian

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