The day I arranged to meet a friend for coffee at the Kauri Gum Store and Cafe in Riverhead, I was running late and with only a vague sense of where I was headed, I was sure that I was going to have to apologise profusely for being late. As it happened, the road was quiet and quick and I was right on time.
Judging from the number of cars parked outside, the Kauri Gum Store and Cafe is a popular spot. The cafe used to be a museum and it is still filled with an eclectic mix of items from days gone by. There’s a lot to look at and the atmosphere is comfy with cosy corners for chatting or reading and tables dotted about for groups of all sizes.
People were coming and going with take-out coffees and others were settled in for brunch. The plates I saw coming from the kitchen looked as if they would satisfy the biggest of appetites and I will have to go back with an empty tummy to try something from the menu, or some of the homemade baking.
If you were wondering about the name of the cafe… kauri gum is formed when resin leaked out of the bark of kauri trees and hardened with exposure to air. The gum had many uses: it can be chewed just like Mr Wrigley’s, or used to start fires (because it is highly flammable), used as a pigment for tattooing by burning it and mixing with animal fat and it was a big commercial success as a varnish. Digging for gum was the main source of income for settlers in the North Island in the late 1800s although by all accounts, gum-digging was a hard way to earn a living.
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Riverhead, as its name suggests, sits at the head of the river which flows into the Waitemata Harbour. From Auckland city, it’s possible to reach Riverhead by boat. A 1.5 hours cruise meanders slowly under the Harbour Bridge and into the waterways of the upper harbour past houses perched on clifftops, the Hobsonville Airbase, Herald Island and eventually Riverhead and The Riverhead Tavern (the second oldest licensed premises in New Zealand). After a couple of hours the ferry will take you back to the city (www.riverheadferry.co.nz).
Categories: New Zealand