Thursday, 24 May 2007

DKD - the truth behind the name

The meaning of the DKD was always a secret. Really it meant nothing, an esoteric reference to creeping corporatisation of society. Companies like NGK sparkplugs stuck in my mind when thinking about a name. The name of a place is really important in my opinion, it should convey a feeling that you build on.

I was asked once by a journalist what it stood for. Off the cuff is said Decadence Kills Depression .I was watching a music TV channel years later and they were sitting down random people in the street and asking “Does decadence really kill depression?”

Another rumour we started was that it stood for Deutsche Kommunistische Departmente and we were raising money to buy arms. I must admit we didn’t allow that one to gain too much traction.

We did find some 1.5 metre high polystyrene letters in the ceiling, amongst them were 2 Ds and a K.

My partner at the time was the lovely Karen my best friend was Darryl, and of course I roped them in for my dream of opening a café. All 3 of us put in unbelievable hours to “build” the café. Hence – DKD.

The early 80s was the forefront of the coffee revolution. Remember Starbucks started in Seattle around 1979. These were a couple of enthusiasts who were into coffee (they sold to a corporate type in 1995, who developed Starbucks into what it is today. The original owners weren’t really interested in being part of this).

In Auckland/NZ at the time burnt filter coffee was king. I remember talking to someone who owned a well-known café, who subsequently went on to become an expert in espresso, he said espresso, cappuccino will never catch on in NZ. I of course believed that it would. I believed within 2 years it would be on every corner. Naivety of youth but within 20 years the prediction proved correct.

Coffee wise the palette has changed significantly. There is a parallel with wine, 30 years ago the wine offering was very limited and being of very dubious quality. Cold Duck I remember being a favourite which was sparkling very very sweet and generally horrible. Now I think it would be fair to say that the average NZer has a reasonably sophisticated palette.

In the early 80s the only roasters around were Robert Harris and Old Mill. Initially we sourced from Robert Harris. We didn’t have a grinder (couldn’t afford one) so received the coffee pre ground. Now we know that coffee loses its character about 3-4 hours after grinding. We loaded the coffee into the handle and tamped it with a soup spoon. After a while we purchased a 2nd hand grinder which improved quality hugely.

Most of the coffee in NZ was from New Guinea and just roasted to certain colour level and then labelled Colombian, French, Italian etc etc.

We were approached by a German guy Norbett Eichblatt who had arrived in NZ after a spell in South Africa, and set up the first boutique roastery in New Zealand

He suggested a pure Kenyan, it was another leap forward. Kenyan is very beautiful tasting coffee, now it would be considered to bitter. It is very high in acidity and flavour. We still use it in our blend but at 10% or less. The impact to the blend is almost the same if you use 45% or 10% (characteristic of this origin) but at 10% the acidity is greatly reduced. Some acidity is essential too much is unpleasant.

We also thought we were very clever at the time and put all the fresh coffee into the freezer to keep it at absolutely Primo condition.

We know now that that’s one of the worst things you can do as it flattens out all the flavours. Maybe this helped reduce the sharpness oft he Kenyan.

Coffee should be kept in cool dry dark conditions, airtight. The enemies are extreme temperature (cold or hot) and oxygen.

So put your coffee at the back of the cupboard in an air tight tin.


conan said...

I remember that John Reynolds had an early cafe (called Diner?) on cnr of Albert and Swanson St in '81 but could have been a bit earlier. It was quite a hit at the time with fellow students.

Pretty sure that was one of the first good coffees I had locally.

DKD was also great. I rememeber climbing up the stairs as a bit of an adventure and you were clearly going to a parallel universe

Anonymous said...

Fascinating stuff! Although a 'consumer' at the DKD during the Civic years I really only knew it as owned by Andrew Mills. Which was much later presumably. Got any info on that transition? He moved it to O'Connell Street when the lease terminated.

Did you sell? Go to prison? Flee the country? Flee to the country? Spill it!


darian zam said...

I remember Andrew Mills owning it, a lovely guy and very generous of spirit. Harold - not such a nice guy, kind of a moody bastard with an attitude.

Anonymous said...

dkd was NOT a mystery.
Derek, Karen, Darrel(l): those were the given names of the principals.
Tucked away behind the magnificent Civic Theatre, DKD opened in the mid 1980's almost in counterpoint to the post industrial wasteland proposed by incumbent mayor Kath Tizzard in anticipation (some say)of the arrival of Ms Ng lately then of Singapore, under whose iron thumb Auckland's ethnic cleansing and general sanitation was partially completed.

King Harold was no mere grumpy bastard, incidentally.

Yours Faithfully,

A Certain Unmentionable Busker, aka

Nigel said...

Going to DKD was a treat in the early 80's, but Auckland did have a blooming cafe culture that foreshadowed the larger trend in Wellington. Just Desserts, Town House Cafe, Simple Cottage, to name but a few of the haunts that tried harder than the Robert Harris shops. Town House cafe specialized in Cappuccino with a ready supply of extra marshmallows!

rohan said...

Hi Derek. In spite of being a total self-absorbed narcissistic shit in those days, I have very fond memories of you, Karen and Daryl too. Also of Anna, your tiny Norfolk Island baking elf with a purple cabbage-leaf on for a cap,King Harold, and Lily too. If you'd be willing to correspond, I'd like to hear from you some day. Regards, Rohan

Dylan Horrocks said...

John Reynolds' cafe was called 'John's Diner.'

I met my wife at DKD in 1987, and included a little tribute to it in my comic Hicksville several years later. A big part of the landscape of that era... Thanks, Derek et al!

Jill Mallinson said...

Joe's Diner. Great cappuccino's and jukebox