Trade School Kitchen
Fill your heart and tum tum - try Trade School Kitchen today!
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I fell in love…
This post started as a coffee tour of Lower Hutt. The intention was to hop on my bike, tour the city, take in the sights of the mighty Te Awa Kairangi Hutt River and spend some final precious moments in the place I’ve called home for a decade.
That was the plan.
But something even better happened. I fell in love. I went to Trade School Kitchen.
A social enterprise
Trade School Kitchen is a cafe in the Lower Hutt suburb of Naenae, about 20km from central Wellington. It’s off the beaten track, even by Hutt standards, but it’s worth the mission to get there - because it’s one of the best cafes in the Wellington region.
Trade School Kitchen is the cafe arm of Trade School Industries - a social enterprise, working with a range of people, including the Department of Corrections, to provide barista training to women in Arohata Women’s Prison. After the training, many of the women end up in this sweet corner of Naenae, honing their skills in real life. It’s a such a massive win-win.
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A changing community
Like other businesses in Naenae, Trade School Kitchen has had a rough few years. Between COVID-19 and then demolition of Naenae Pool (it’s being rebuilt, don’t worry), people haven’t had much of a reason to travel to Naenae. This is on top of the tough times over the last decade that saw the loss of the local super market (earthquake prone issues) the postshop (due to falling customers), and other business that brought the community together.
Things are starting to change for Naenae, however. The pool is being rebuilt, the Hutt Council is investing in the old town center and the sun is starting to shine again on this suburb. The community is coming back together - and it’s amazing to watch it unfold. It could have been a very different story for Naenae.
A place worth visiting
If Trade School Kitchen’s feel good factor is the thing that piques your interest, it’s their coffee that will reward your curiosity.
The baristas at Trade School Kitchen make amazing coffee, supplied by Common Good Coffee (another amazing social enterprise - check out this podcast with Common Good’s Paul Fletcher, on the Home Barista Podcast).
During my ‘research’ (aka an excuse to drink all the coffee), I’ve been blown away. Silky smooth and sweet flat whites, incredible oat milk lattes, killer filter coffee and the best decafe coffee I have ever had in my life.
The baristas are skilled, knowledgeable and will happily geek out about coffee to you all day. The chats and the bants are all part of the warm embrace you get when you walk in.
If coffee alone won’t get you through your day, their incredible menu and cabinet food selection will. The food is so good, they’ll trick you into eating food you think you hate.
Beetroot - I cant stand the smell of it, since the vomiting incident at a friend’s house in Napier in 1996. Despite my incredible hatred of beetroot, I ate the beetroot and haloumi focaccia that I accidently ordered (I thought it was red cabbage…), and I loved it. It was beautiful. It was wholesome.
There’s a Māori whakatauki that says Kāore te kumara e kōrero ana mo tōna ake reka - the kumara doesn’t speak of its own sweetness.
In that case I’ll speak of the metaphorical sweetness of Trade School, and the litteral sweetness of the kumara cake they make.It was soft, moist, sweet, tender - an absolute heavenly treat that capped off the most delectable 45 minutes I have had in a cafe.
“The living room of the community”
I walked in with two friends, and I walked out with dozens more. Trade School Kitchen lives up to it’s billing as “the living room of the community.”
There’s lots of good cafes in the Hutt that a good if you’re in the area. There’s only one that’s worth travelling for - Trade School Kitchen.
If you’re in Wellington, make the most of half price public transport and jump on a train to Naenae and check out Trade School Kitchen. If the sun’s out bring your bicycle and after your amazing time at Trade School Kitchen jump on the Hutt River Trail and bike down to Petone, get yourself a brew from the Sprig and Fern, then train back to town. You will not have a more perfect day.
And if you’re Hutt side, get over yourself and get down to Naenae. Check out the Naenae Village Market on Saturday mornings, get a cuppa and soak in the vibe.
You won’t regret it.