Ulala Nakama, Director of ARK COFFEE COMPANY, Roaster/Barista

金曜日 01st, 5月 2015 / 14:07 Written by
Ulala Nakama, Director of ARK COFFEE COMPANY, Roaster/Barista

Interview vol.3

Miss Ulala, Director of ARK COFFEE COMPANY  Roaster/Barista

Teenage years

Ulala and her family immigrated to New Zealand from Kagoshima, Japan, when she was 7 years old. At 15 years old, she dreamed to be a pro contemporary dancer and the passion took her into entering a performing arts school in England. However she started to feel homesick as she lived apart from her family and friends, and she didn’t really suit England. After graduation she decided to go to Tokyo to start new life. In the meantime, an accident happened. Unluckily her neck was damaged and the condition got worse day by day.  Despite all of her success that she got accpeted in Shiki Theatre Company, which is the most famous musical organisation in Japan, she had to leave the way of life and went back to the place where her family lived. It took two years to recover physically and also mentally.

One day her phone rang from Kagoshima. It was a request from her close friend for her to help in a new company as a sport instructor. She started to think it was time to step forward. He convinced her finally, and then she went back to Kagoshima, her hometown.


Introduction to the world of coffee

In 2007, while she was working at the sports gym, her friend led to a  coffee roastery shop to drink the best espresso in Japan. A barista in the shop won Japan Barista Championship that year. Entering the shop, At first she was drawn by the lively enthusiasm and enjoyment that came across from the staff.

Ulala hadn’t really known much about coffee until this time. Drinking the espresso made by the barista champion, the outstanding rich taste fascinated her. It had a lovely harmony and balance of bitter, sweet and refreshing flavour. It was absolutely the best espresso ever. After this encounter, she often visited to the shop as a customer, and the owner occasionally talked her about coffee. His passion for coffee moved her.

Thus it was natural for her to start working at the coffee shop and get into the coffee world. Everything was new and exciting. Ulala finally found new world where she can get into. Back then one of the owner’s objectives were to introduce espresso based coffee made by proper baristas, since it was still not a common and unknown drinking style especially in Kagoshima. She was taught the essence of coffee beans as the shop is not a café but roastery/retail, which gave her further interests and deeper understandings of coffee. During the six and half years working, she experienced the whole process from producers to consumers including going to coffee producing countries and buying coffee beans. She gradually gained her experience and in 2010 won second place in the Japan Barista Championship.



Wall Art created by her friend, an artist

Wall Art created by her friend, an artist

As she developed her skills and knowledge of coffee, she often wondered it’s about time to start her own coffee shop. Her sister, an artist Naomi and Ulala had a dream talk years before that they hope to do something fun together in the future. They remembered the talk and started to plan to let the dream come true. In 2012, Ulala came back to NZ again to establish ARK COFFEE COMPANY. She realized the importance to a have well-balance between work and private life, which made her and her family run the business in NZ.



There were some difficult steps till the ARK COFFEE opened. The main things were to find a location and a roaster machine.

Initially the NAKAMA family hoped to open the coffee shop in Ponsonby or Herne Bay areas, but they couldn’t find a good place considering the budget. After viewing many times, they came across to the Takapuna property which was cleaned up already for someone else which luckily for them did not go through.The white colour walls suited their image and the location was not only ideal for what they wanted to do but also it was situated along a famous fashion shop, THE DEPARTMENT STORE which potentially gave foot traffic to their location.

Ulala's PROBAT

Ulala’s PROBAT

PROBAT, the world famous roaster machine made in Germany is so popular that roasters in the world seek and wait for second hand machines. Ulala also struggled as it’s thought there were even less opportunity to find the machine in NZ, and if she ordered one now she had to wait for half a year.

However, chance always comes to her. An agency of PROBAT in NZ rang her saying there was a second hand PROBAT in Dunedin. She flew to Dunedin straight away to check the condition and purchased it. Also to place the machine into the shop was another problem. The size of the machine was just about the size of the door, spending half a day and help of 5 men to place it.

These are only some of the hurdles but the family overcame each step with luck.


Ulala always tries to think with the future in mind, as she has experienced  and understood at her previous job the importance to prepare for the time when it gets busy. And it can make motivation to keep.

She wants to share the specialty coffee to people in NZ. Here we love drinking coffee at café not really caring of its variety of beans, but if the essence of coffee beans spread, we can enjoy grinding and brewing better fresh coffee at home. At ARK COFFEE , they carefully choose high quality beans from the world. It is just like Wine, such as last year that wine was gorgeous, but this year not. Coffee beans are same. It depends on the micro climate, terroir, process amongst the many variables that can change the quality

Specialty Coffee at ARK COFFEE

Specialty Coffee at ARK COFFEE

Ulala just made a lovely Flat white

Ulala just made a lovely Flat white

Beautiful Flat white!!

Beautiful Flat white!!


Favourite Coffee Beans

Coffee beans made in Kenya are Ulala’s favourite. It has beautifully fruity and refreshed flavour which cannot be found in other places.


Favourite Place

Ulala loves Sakurajima in Kagoshima as she had grown up and encountered Coffee viewing the active volcano. The Sakurajima erupts many times so it’s daily scenery for the local people. The big sound of eruption and rumblings doesn’t scare her. Where to look the volcano from is another way to enjoy Sakurajima.


Shop Information


Address: 6/461-467 Lake Rd, Takapuna, Auckland 0622

Phone: 09-489 8488

URL: http://arkcoffee.co.nz/

Opening hours: 7:00am – 3:30pm (Mon-Fri) / 8:00am -3:30pm (Sun)

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