Former All Black behind new coffee start-up

28 June, 2016 by
Hospitality Business

Former All Black and Crusader star Reuben Thorne has recently entered the coffee industry with investments in 2 innovative Christchurch businesses. Thorne’s first venture into the industry is as co-owner of Black and White Coffee Cartell, a new Christchurch café that has become one of the leading café destinations in the city. Its success has been largely due to in-house micro roasting on a 1kg batch roaster. The roaster is imported and distributed by another Christchurch company, The Coffee Workshop. Thorne was so impressed with that business that he recently bought into The Coffee Workshop.

The Coffee Workshop was founded in 2014 by John Robson, who recognised that cafés throughout the country could achieve major financial and marketing benefits if they could roast their own coffee onsite. The problem was that existing equipment was typically bulky, costly and difficult to import. It was also challenging to operate without prior knowledge and experience.

The Coffee Workshop investigated a number of options and – thanks to the fact that technology is finally progressing in an industry where roasting equipment has seen little advancement in 100 years – has identified new technology that goes a long way to addressing existing problems. The Coffee Workshop has secured exclusive distribution rights to new generation equipment from Europe, America and Asia.

The Coffee Workshop offers several different roasting equipment options, from traditional drum to the latest fully automated fluid bed roasters – all designed for cafés, mobile coffee businesses, specialist food stores and even supermarkets.


The company also provides roaster and barista training, supply of green coffee beans and coffee machine and grinder equipment.  Equipment can be rented or purchased outright. “Cafes can get themselves set up for under $9000 or rent under $80 per week,” Robson says, and adds that “most of our clients save in excess of 50% on their current coffee supply costs and can grow additional revenue by selling prepacked coffee across the counter to regular customers. Our nationwide customer base is growing every week as new cafés come on board.”

The Coffee Workshop is releasing new technology roasters this year, with some of these making their first appearance in New Zealand at Fine Food 2016. Attributes such as software controlled automated roasting, new technology induction heating methods, and even a roaster that talks to its operator, are some of the new features that will make coffee roasting accessible to even the smallest cafés and mobile coffee businesses.

The Coffee Workshop

Ph. John Robson 021 334 332
John and Reuben

John Robson (left) with Reuben Thorne