Photography by Alex Blackwood.
Chelsea Sugar Factory reopens its doors for tours and introduces new cafe Sugar, a Carson-Mazza collaboration.
Inside the visitor centre, where the tour begins, there’s an interactive education room with digital cooking lessons by Annabel White, Edmonds and Chelsea memorabilia, and a commercial kitchen used for school cooking classes – roughly 60 kids have used it every day since it opened. Amongst the sites to marvel at on your train ride around the grounds is an impressive 30,000 tonne sugar mountain (the factory can store up to 40,000 tonnes of sugar at any one time).
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Then there’s Sugar cafe, with its candy-coloured cushions, polished concrete floor and exploding cabinet – an ever-present feature of Carson-Mazza collaborations. Sugar’s manicured lawn, play area, and breezy conservatory all overlook the Waitematā Harbour onto central Auckland. And happily, that view will be forever preserved. As Sugar is just a stone’s throw away from the sea, there’s no chance their vista will be spoilt by neighbouring builds – almost unheard of in Auckland.
The focus, really, is on high tea which costs $48 per person with tea, or $55 with champagne, and must be pre-booked online. The 13-strong tea selection by Harney and Sons has been chosen to complement the dainty treats that adorn each three-tiered cake stand, but there is Coffee Supreme coffee too, and a nanna-appropriate à la carte menu of breakfast and lunch favourites.
As summer rolls in, the lawn outside the cafe – large enough for a marquee – can be booked for functions. It strikes me that Chelsea Bay would be a very sweet place to get married (sorry). It’s an equally nice place just for coffee and cake; restful, and enough of a trek from central Auckland to feel like an activity. And, while you may leave with sore teeth following one of Mazza’s signature bakes, isn’t that the point when you visit a sugar factory?