How an unlikely businessman transformed New Zealand's cafe culture.

New Zealand’s much loved ‘coffee baron’ Geoff Marsland owes much of his success to his passion for adventure. After dropping out of high school he landed a gig working in deep-sea fishing. But bobbing around in the ocean of life wasn’t enough for Marsland, who was drawn to fashion, rock music and creative characters.

By 19, the spirited New Zealander had started a tye-dye fashion label and followed iconic rock band The Grateful Dead around the US with countless fellow ‘Deadhead’ disciples, who’d buy his t-shirts and wear them to the shows. ‘It was a rite of passage for Americans,’ Geoff recalls. 

But it was a trip to Vancouver to see friend Tim Rose afterwards that would change the course of his professional path. It was here that he stumbled across Joe’s Cafe, a spot that drew all walks of life and served espresso at all hours. ‘It was for everyone, all sorts of people, the common thread was coffee. We didn’t have a cafe society in New Zealand,’ he says. On a whim, Geoff, who’s now 50, sourced a second hand espresso machine and had it shipped home.

He worked with Rose to replicate what they’d experienced in Canada, opening Midnight Espresso on Cuba Street in Wellington, which is still open until 3am seven days a week. ‘We did a number on it, put the coffee machine in and opened the door. It was off-the-hook busy. We opened a second one six months later,’ he says.

Driven by the passion for what he’d created - and spurred on through long hours with the help of caffeine - Geoff soon gained a reputation as a coffee roaster, soon after he decided the coffee he was buying wasn’t up to scratch. His customers saw what he was doing and now, 28 years later, Havana Coffee is a huge success, supplying many of New Zealand cafes with their beans, which means transporting supplies to a range of locations.

Geoff has always believed in using quality products in order to achieve business success, so purchasing Mercedes-Benz Vans for deliveries made perfect sense. Each day, one vehicle goes to the city, the other goes to the coast. Among the best features, is the little coffee symbol that reminds Geoff or a member of his team to take a break. ‘I love the V6 diesel. I love the power and the quality, it’s like driving a car,’ Geoff adds. The drives can be long sometimes, so knowing that his team is comfortable is a bonus.

For those aspiring to an entrepreneurial career, Geoff say’s no matter what your product or service is, your business is people. ‘That’s what rocks my socks. I love the people I meet through business,’ he concludes.