Story and words by Yana Papaya
Edited by Rina Patel
Photo by Katherine Brook, Olga Franco
For many Aucklanders the Harbour Bridge to the North Shore is seen as an obstacle. People are more likely to stay on the city side of the bridge and would rather chill out in Ponsonby in order to avoid the laboursome trek back over. If walking down the famous Takapuna beach or taking your dog for a wild walk to St.Leonards isn’t enough for you to make that daunting crossing over the bridge – then we have found an additional incentive.
Mimosa Café located at 460 Lake Road is a curious place where lots of interesting things can be found. It is inspired by awesome flavours, organic gluten-free recipes, sugar-free desserts and delicious smoothies. Its pleasant atmosphere is surrounded with the friendly smiles and laughs of their amazing staff. Its simple and cozy interior comes with quirky details and souvenirs that have been collected and collated from international markets abroad.
Today we present to you the highlights of our conversation with Sarah Immel – a key barista of the house and a super driven, hard-working soul. Sarah is a very interesting person to talk to, naturally she likes to challenge every subject and question herself on this or that matter. She calls herself a realist.
Coming from a Canadian family that didn’t travel much, she wasn’t afraid to venture out and explore the world. In keeping with her passion her travels took her to Mexico. She traversed many miles finally reaching the border that led her towards a chance encounter with famous Mexican actor – Gael Garcia Bernal. But this Mexican land prepared her for a different outcome. Sarah fell in love with Tona who became her personal Gabriel Garcia Bernal, a very special limited edition fellow that was able to make her laugh out loud like no one else on a cold rainy day. To bond with someone special through moments of laughter is a very rare quality to find. Keeping her Mexican man close to her heart they started their new journey together. Travel bound, they reached the shores of New Zealand where we met.
Please meet Sarah who believes in simple things and pure love, not the type that are created through the lens of reality shows and virtual reality TV. As long as technology might be beneficial, there are some personal and professional angles of it that scares our barista girl. She hopes that no matter how perfect a cup of coffee can be made by robots it would never replace the coffee that was made by a human. Nothing can recreate that authentic human-to-human, face-to-face, eyes-to-eyes interaction and connection.
Finding a barista job at Mimosa Café was a kind of serendipitous moment. On my second day here we happened to come to the Tax Refund office to get an IRD number which was very close to Mimosa café. As we lived in Ponsonby at that time I thought: “Oh my God, we need to go all this way and it’s such a hassle, I don’t want to bother…” As we got off the bus and passed by Mimosa, I said to Tona that this is the place I would love to work at, so cute and beautiful. I dropped my resumé to one of the girls and thought to myself that I probably wouldn’t get the job. And Mayumi (the owner of the cafe) just called me and offered me a job. It’s probably the best place I have ever worked at.
It’s interesting to working for two Japanese bosses, it’s my first experience working with people from that culture. And the thing is, is that we are all working hard, it’s not only you who gives this job everything you have, you dedicate lots of time and energy but also our bosses work extremely hard too. It’s really cool to have Mayumi as my boss, she’s awesome.
It took me about 2 years of making coffee full-time before I felt myself super confident at making it. It’s interesting there is this whole world of coffee, the whole industry that has a lot of pretension, there are a lot of talented people in this industry who truly understand the science behind the espresso, which I didn’t. I could only simply say: “That’s yummy, that’s not yummy.”
It’s important to work with people whom you are inspired by as well as with those whom you would like to aspire to. And if you are surrounded by people who are not passionate about what they are doing, you would just stay on the same level and would fail to grow.
I quit jobs because I didn’t enjoy those people who were around me. Not having the right people around you just ruins everything. Every day is grey, work is grey and you are grey too. But if you work with people who bring the colours to the day, their spirit flits around you making you feel supported and worthy.
In Canada baristas receive minimum wage. I always felt underpaid as a barista back in Canada. When I came here it was shocking to me when I realised how much baristas were receiving here. I have never thought I could get as much as I do now previously. It feels good to be valued and have that feedback that what you’re doing is not everyone else can do at this level.
It’s not about the money, it’s all about the passion. Even if I am going to open my own café I won’t be rich and make lots of money out of coffee as I would need to pay for beans, the equipment, the labour.
Kokako is my favourite coffee bean roastery. And in terms of my favourite coffee drink it would be a cortado which you can find in Canada. It is smaller than a flat white and contains about 10% of the cream. Although it’s a strong coffee it’s very rich, creamy and yummy. No sugar, just like that.
Sometimes I wonder ‘What if a robot created and came up with the perfect extract of coffee espresso? What would I do to keep my job as a barista if that happened???’ But then I shift back into the consumer’s mind and think ‘would I want to go to a café where a robot is making coffee for me, instead of a human being?’ And I think that firstly, people might start to enjoy it as novelty, saying something like: “That’s so cool, fascinating! I don’t have to deal with anybody.” But after that excitement passes, I think people will come back to their roots and would much rather enjoy a coffee from a real human being with whom you can connect, talk too and make eye-contact with. I just don’t think you can develop such an intimate and truthful connection with a robot.
The progression in technology really scares me, how advanced it is and how fast it is penetrating into our lives. Just imagine when you are in relations with a close person and you are going through a hard time and instead of solving the conflict, talking to each other, finding an understanding, you are going to turn on your virtual reality, meet your virtual boyfriend, who treats you better, looks better and is techinically super romantic! This possibility as an alternative future really scares me. If you are teenager and you are not challenged to meet girls or boys in real life or to overcome things and learn about each other differences and similarities, you can go to your virtual girlfriend and have that sort of relation. It really scares me. How are we going to survive in the future?
I think it’s quite naîve to think that everyone is happy or you can be happy all the time. And I feel comfortable when I am not happy. I think I feel worse when I force myself to be happy or to be content. But I do have one trick that makes me feel happier, I just think of what I am grateful for. When I am arrive to work and feel grumpy, or have just had a mean customer, I tell myself just look at all good things that you have in life, the things you take for granted or have: my job, my great partner, this beautiful country, my beautiful family and friends, even little things like the warm shower at home and so much more…I have so much to be grateful for and I always forget. And when I just do that little exercise it totally cheers me up and all bad feelings just fall away.
My mum is very good at giving gifts though. She gave me a giant Easter Bunny, I was probably 6 and I came downstairs and saw that massive Easter Bunny, it was bigger than me and I was happy.
I really love a Mexican movie called “Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN” (“And Your Mother Too.”) which was very popular in Mexico and beautifully done. One my favourite actors took part in that movie, his name is Gael García Bernal. He is soooo good-looking and amazing, I fell in love with him.
What would I serve to Gael García Bernal? I would freak out if he stepped into our café!
One of the reasons I went to Mexico is possibly to meet someone like Gael García Bernal. I just liked the vibe and thought, whatever, I will just go. I haven’t met Gael García Bernal in real life, but I have found my own little Mexican.
When you fall in love with somebody you are not blind to everything else, but it loses its power. It might not be for everyone, but I don’t fall into that pattern of infatuation as I used to before Tona, because now I think if it would be destructive and it’s not worth it, so I just don’t let myself go down that road as it’s damaging.
Tona is so much fun and hilarious, especially when we are together he just lets out all his bizarre and funny jokes and we can’t stop laughing. He is busy doing an internship now as well as working, so I don’t see much of him. One cold evening I was wrapped up in a blanket, feeling very cozy. I was just in my zone. He came home and walked in and I looked up at him. We didn’t say anything to each other, we just made eye contact and he came over to my bed and looked at me and pulled his pants down halfway then gave me a little look. It made me laugh. And I thought to myself: “that you are such a funny weirdo.” I laughed so hard, it was hysterical.