... "With the amount of time I spend on planes, I should have been a pilot, not a restaurateur," jokes Alun Evans.
The 50-year-old isn't kidding: the week of our interview, Evans flew from Jakarta to Kuala Lumpur and back, then on to Manila and finally to Hong Kong, visiting some of the 17 cafes and 300-plus staff in his Antipodean cafe empire.
For Hong Kong-based Evans, it's always been about bringing a taste of Aotearoa to Asia.
"We showcase mostly New Zealand products, including salmon, Cloudy Bay clams, cheese and fish. We're famous for our lamingtons, afghans and juices which have a Kiwi twist and Kiwi names – from the Jeremy Coney to the Slice of Heaven. And, of course, coffee is a huge part of what we do."
Coffee, in fact, is where it all started. Evans, from Upper Hutt, had been in love with the hospitality industry since he was a 14-year-old and lied about his age to get a job in a local pizza restaurant.
After graduating from Victoria University with a geography and politics degree, he was working for a company supplying coffee to Wellington cafes. But his life changed at a party in Karori in 1997, when a couple he met convinced him to follow his passion for coffee.
A year later, Evans was living in Indonesia, learning the Bahasa language and working with local coffee farmers.
It was all going well until one day in 2006 he was shoulder-tapped to open a cafe inside a bookshop. That was the start of Antipodean, and when Evans isn't flitting about Asia scouting new locations (next stop, China) and checking on his existing cafes, he still sources and roasts his own coffee.
"Locals, expats and tourists from all the world know they're going to get a decent coffee and great service at a Kiwi cafe." ...