Cafe is outstanding in its field

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 11/12/2013
Ali Slotemaker
ALDEN WILLIAMS/Fairfax NZ

DESTINY: Coffee in a Paddock co-owner Ali Slotemaker is glad to be back home in Nelson.

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Once upon a time coffee in a paddock was a thermos of instant brew and a stale cheese sandwich.

Now there's the option of specialty affogato, a flat white over ice or a gourmet shake from Nelson's newest espresso bar Coffee in a Paddock, in revamped shipping container in a paddock on the way to Rabbit Island.

The business, which opened last Saturday, is a family affair and a way for founders Ali Slotemaker and her husband Stephen Lee to forge a living after deciding on the move to Nelson from Australia. For Ms Slotemaker, it was a return home, and for Mr Lee it has meant a new home for them and their five-month-old son Lewis.

They have formed the Rabbit Island Coffee Company and have set up the espresso cafe to operate from the front paddock of Ms Slotemaker's parents' home and B&B business, Appleby House, in Redwood Rd. The menu offers espresso to specialty cold brewed coffees and gourmet shakes in flavours like salted caramel to cookies and cream.

The business is right beside the new Great Taste cycle trail, and while that was not a factor in the decision to open, it is an added bonus. Ms Slotemaker said the idea has been percolating for several years, after she and her husband set up Industry One Coffee in their former home in Cairns, Australia.

The coffee trade was Ms Slotemaker's destiny, even after earning a science degree majoring in geography. She made her first coffee at age 14 at Seifrieds "just down the road", and trained as a barista to help pay her way through university.

She then left for Australia in 2003, where her parents were based at the time, and where work opportunities were more abundant, and worked in local government as an environmental protection officer which included regulating small businesses in the industrial sector.

"It opened my eyes but I felt very disconnected from the community working for council and I felt I had more to contribute."

Ms Slotemaker and Mr Lee, a carpenter, had also been renovating houses for sale, and needed a change. While Cairns had coffee, it lacked specialty varieties that used high-end coffee beans from traditional coffee growing regions of the world.

"Micro roasting was also the ‘hot' word at the time, and small batch roasting which has brought coffee into the realm of boutique wineries."

The pair saw the Cairns business take off, which they are now trying to sell.

Rabbit Island Coffee uses its own blend roasted in Auckland, but they aim to install their own roasting facilities.

It has created the "Tic Toc blend", named after a nearby road, and "Old Domain".

"We are still working out the Nelson palate which I think prefers a stronger, darker coffee than in Australia, which trends towards a brighter, lighter roast."

Ms Slotemaker's own preference is a "true flat white" with silky milk.

The business has created a holiday job for her younger brother Fox, and sister Jimi is employed as the nanny before she takes up nursing training next year.

Their mother Jane Cunliffe is a co-owner at Hothouse design firm, which created the website, and their father John Slotemaker is home from a soccer coaching contract in Australia, and will help out in the business over summer.

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Coffee in a Paddock is open seven days from 8am to 3pm.

- The Nelson Mail

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