Slice of Heaven at Maua Café

By Elizabeth Ah-Hi ,

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MAUA CAFE FAMILY:  Owner, Denise Heaven with her staff Jez  (chef) and Rosa ( cafe staff) and cafe mascot/dog, Poppy.

MAUA CAFE FAMILY: Owner, Denise Heaven with her staff Jez  (chef) and Rosa ( cafe staff) and cafe mascot/dog, Poppy. (Photo: Elizabeth Ah-Hi)

Under the shade of a sweeping talie tree, the sounds of a jazz band and sights of punters enjoying their sangrias may make you feel like you have been transported to a quaint café in a middle class suburb of New Zealand. 

But here in Samoa, it’s called just another Tuesday evening at Maua café.

As one of their most popular days, Maua café started their Tapas and Sangrias Tuesdays last year in October and it has been growing since. 

Owner Denise Heaven from New Zealand said the café hasn’t been open long but enticing patrons with antipasto boards and providing sangrias with a B.Y.O. wine policy so customers could then add to their punch - was a concept that the locals couldn’t resist. 

“Tuesday nights we get a whole mix of people which is great,” Ms. Heaven said. 

“The jazz band was sourced through friends of friends and they would like to see people come in with their own instruments and jam a long and I think it’s a great concept. It’s really growing since we first started our sangria and tapas night October 31st last year.” 

“It was about four weeks ago when I realized how busy it was getting when we ran out of glasses and the food was run down to the last bits so that was scary but good.”

From the outside, Maua Café looks like an ordinary house with a delightful open patio but take a step inside and you’ll be taken by surprise by the retro vintage outfitting of the café that will immediately charm you. 

“I do get a lot of comments that the way I’ve put the café together is not reflective enough out on the street,” said Ms. Heaven.

“So when people actually come in they are so surprised and they say things like ‘ this is just like walking into a café back home’ whether it be New Zealand or Australia. A lot of the decorations are my own personal stuff I’ve brought over and I’ve made a few things.”

To add to the kiwi-like ambience of the café, its main menu is reminiscent of good old New Zealand café food with a focus on providing espresso coffees, gourmet sandwiches, scones, cakes, afghans and melting moments to the absolute enjoyment of the expats in the area.

Ms. Heaven has been in Samoa since 2016 and since last year, took over the ownership and operating of the café as well as the air bnb accommodation which is an extension to the café area. 

According to Ms. Heaven the transition of moving from the Waikato area has not been hard.

“I came here for a change of lifestyle, warm temperatures. We came here in September 2016 and I just really loved and enjoyed everything,” she said. 

“There’s a lot to learn – there’s been some changes. It hasn’t been challenging, it’s just been more challenges with staffing, maintaining consistency but as far as transitioning, it hasn’t been hard because I was ready for change anyway. If I wasn’t ready for the change then maybe it would have been different.”

Eventually, Ms. Heaven did think of one difficulty and that was deciding what to do with her dog when she decided to move to Samoa permanently. However, she eventually remedied that when she brought her Pomeranian dog, Poppy over to Samoa. 

Poppy has adjusted to Samoa like a fish to water and has been a healthier canine since discovering the miracles of the ocean seawater and coconut oil.

“Poppy loves it here and the interaction with people around the café. She was actually quite sick when she got here. Since she has been here she’s had sea salt ocean baths and she had a bit of a skin condition so we’ve been massaging her with the local coconut oil and her hair has grown back. I’ve been told to even put it in her food which can actually help with her skin too.”

The café is open six days a week and Denise plans to grow her café and maintain the balance she has created of the kiwi/Samoan infusion food and atmosphere, 

“It’s been a challenge working out what it is that I want to put it out. I still want it to be kiwi and Samoa so sticking to cakes and gourmet sandwiches and healthy food but not being extreme.”

“But in saying that we also have to figure out what people want so I have to find a balance so surprisingly – we have soup. Samoans love their soups and yet it’s so hot here.”

“My goal is just to grow this place, I’d love to eventually open on Sundays. We have had nothing but good feedback from everyone. I enjoy being here, I’ve met some amazing people here and I’ve made some really good friends here, so much so that even my kids say to me that I suit being over here.”

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