Kai Caff Aye is a Rotorua eatery with a purpose – to normalise the Maori language and share their culture through food. The café, run by husband and wife Charlene Whakatau and Hikurangi Tahau, is in keeping with Rotorua being named the country’s first bilingual city.

“With our name, the ‘Kai’ represents us as Maori, we love our food. The ‘Caff’ is our love of coffee in the morning to get us going and the ‘Aye’ represents us as Kiwis – it’s a slang we often use,” Tahau said.

All menu items are written in Maori, and the couple want the food to reflect what they enjoy.

“You had to go to different places to get cream paua and another place to get fried bread or a burger and we wanted that under the one roof,” Tahau said. “Here there’s kina, oysters, fresh crayfish and sometimes we know our people just want to have mince and egg on toast for breakfast before they go to work.”

The couple were keen to help the local economy and hire Rotorua residents. The response was overwhelming, with over 100 people applying for the four positions advertised.

“We hired our locals because for years we’ve seen our own people with so much skill and talent who have had limited opportunities to showcase that.”