Alexia Santamaria discovers an exciting newcomer to the Waiheke olive community.

It’s hard to imagine what comes next for someone who has built a highly successful coffee business over the course of three decades then sold it to the international giant Asahi Beverages. When you’ve created an iconic brand that holds a special place in the hearts of not only New Zealanders but people in five other countries, too, where do you go from there?

For Michael Allpress, a long-time Waiheke resident, the next step has been extra virgin olive oil, but not rows of green and brown bottles quietly produced in a closed factory and shipped out to retail outlets. Allpress Olive Groves on Auckland’s Waiheke Island is the whole shebang, from grove to bottle to consumption. It’s an open, immersive experience, complete with the option to stay in comfortable accommodation set among the trees themselves. It’s fast becoming a must-visit for any food-lover and there’s even more to come.

Olive trees have formed part of the Waiheke landscape since the 90s, part of the nationwide planting trend at the time. According to a report released in 2019 by Olives New Zealand more than 200,000 trees were planted across the country in the 90s and these days the number of trees sits around double that. While Hawke’s Bay has the largest number of trees, it’s followed by Auckland, Northland and Wairarapa, and it’s clear that the same unique microclimate that makes Waiheke perfect for wine production also makes it ideal for olives.

When Michael bought his property on Waiheke Island seven years ago it came with 200 olive trees, so it’s not hard to see where the inspiration for this business came from. Having spent time in olive-growing countries, especially Spain, he could see what might be possible and, having worked as a chef de partie in an earlier stage of his life, he’s always appreciated the culinary value of olive oil. “I’d helped the previous owners harvest and prune for four or five years and we produced some excellent oil just for friends and family, so I knew what it was all about. When we moved into the second lockdown I guess it might have been a case of idle hands, but I could see how there was a group of people who had planted olives here 20 or 30 years ago and were now in their fifties and sixties and it was all getting a bit much to manage.” Michael could see how he could relieve them of the burden and create a business that could be of value to the Waiheke community.

number29 accommodation

While looking at the possibility of purchasing these groves, Michael realised the houses on the properties could become part of the business, too, providing beautiful accommodation as part of the Allpress Olive Groves experience. Staying on a working olive grove is the perfect way to truly connect people to the product and immerse them in the story of how it’s made. A hint of Italy, France or Spain with an undeniably Kiwi feel – a bit like the oil itself.

There are currently three properties available to rent, each very different but all with classic Waiheke water views: there’s a stunning modern bach-kit home by award-winning architect André Hodgskin, a large farmhouse, and the Tuscan-style Rangihoua Villa. While these properties have been transformed from residences to visitor accommodation, there is still a sense of homeliness about all of them, a cosy style that honours their past as part of the Waiheke olive story. “We really want people to feel comfortable when they stay there, like when you’re visiting someone’s home, rather than a sterile hotel environment,” says Michael.

So, in a crowded olive-oil market, what makes Waiheke’s version so special? (Michael has thoughts of even creating an appellation to define and protect its unique characteristics.) It all starts in the groves managed by the effervescent Anne Stanimiroff who, as the previous owner of Rangihoua Estate, is part of the Waiheke olive oil story herself. She learned to make oil by trial and error in the mid-90s and, while she and her husband Colin have now sold to Allpress Olive Groves, she is delighted to still be involved. “It’s great I can still be part of the journey, and see someone take it to the next level that we never could,” she says. At harvest time, Anne supervises crews armed with clever vibrating electric rakes that shake kilos of bright green and brown olives from the trees. A milky residue or a little redness inside (depending on the varietal) when squeezed, shows the olives are ready. “Waiheke has 40 per cent less rainfall and is two degrees warmer than Auckland,” she explains. “The Waitakere and Hunua ranges and the Coromandel peninsula create a rain shadow which gives us those long, hot, dry summers – well most years! So it’s like a mini drought and olives and grapes love that.”

She references the olive trees you see in classic images of Greece, gnarly and hanging off cliffs, seemingly unfazed by their precarious positions. “They are hardy and can handle our salt-laden winds and I think the free-draining high-mineral soils are just perfect for them to thrive.” Anne takes care of all the varieties popular on the island. “We have frantoio, verdale, ascolano, picual and koroneiki – all these varieties from all over the world that develop a unique taste when planted here. Waiheke oil has a grassy, verdant aroma and taste.”

Visitors who are on the island in the harvest months of April and May can see what happens when the olives get to the mill. While the process might look mechanical, there’s incredible craftsmanship involved and a good dose of magic, too. It’s impossible not to be mesmerised as you watch plump, shiny fruit enter the system, where the leaves are removed, it is washed and then enters the crusher and subsequently the malaxer (a mixing tank in which the olive paste undergoes a slow continuous churning at a constant temperature to help separate the oil from the pulp). Finally it’s into the centrifuge to separate out the water, paste and that glorious, glorious oil.

There’s constant measuring and weighing and a geeky obsession with the statistics that is hard not to get caught up in. The team in the mill is fascinated by the effect of slight variations: how warm the olives were when they came in; how long it took to transport them from the grove; how long they sat around before being transported – all the tiny things that can affect yield and quality. They speak of how early-harvest olives are higher in polyphenols which are said to help counter inflammation, ageing, high blood pressure and more. And there’s definitely interest in this aspect with ‘early harvest’ chasers all around the world who are obsessed with this potent, highly flavoured, unfiltered oil straight out of the machine and will pursue harvests in their own country, or even others, to get their hands on it.

There is also continual lab testing to ensure the chemical and sensory criteria for Olives New Zealand certification are met. It’s a fascinating mix of science, culinary knowledge and something that feels not far from art. It’s captivating in a way only food can be, such as a perfect pomegranate or watching golden-hued honey being scraped from a frame.

Seeing it happen definitely helps you understand the oil’s culinary application and the variances in taste. Allpress Olive Groves has a beautiful tasting room where their own brand, plus the ones they’ve acquired – Rangihoua Estate and number29 – are displayed for purchase. There’s something respectful about the fact that Rangihoua Estate and number29 haven’t just been packaged up into Allpress Olive Groves bottles – once again this retains the history of the industry on the island and the passion of people who created it. Our tasting – led by store manager Crystal Asher, a former restaurateur and food stylist – was a joyous experience. She describes the Waiheke flavour profile as “grassy and herbaceous, more like what you’d get in northern Italy versus the south”. She says the olives are spray-free, too, which is a huge bonus. The Allpress Olive Groves koroneiki is light and the texture of melted butter, “a great one to use not only on the table but in a cake, muffins or granola – it’s like a well-lit stage, welcoming rather than overpowering”. The Rangihoua Estate Waiheke blend is, she says, very “of the moment”. “It has a creamy, nutty finish – think Ottolenghi, Middle Eastern flavours – it’s a great dipper on its own or in a babaganoush.” (Rangihoua has been recognised multiple times in the Flos Olei, a prestigious international competition based in Italy.) Crystal describes the number29 blend as a big, bold entertainer, like a huge handful of fresh herbs, bright and lively and pleases everyone. “It wouldn’t be out of place on every table of the second series of The White Lotus.” Tasting here is fun and practical, and very much tailored to who has walked in the door, be it someone with a deep culinary knowledge and an understanding of flavour descriptors, or someone who just wants to know what to put on their salad.

Tasting will soon be taken one step further with the addition of a bistro. “It will be casual dining almost with a working-class Italian feel. Fast service and a simple menu will let the fresh produce do the talking,” says Michael. He also sees it as an opportunity to expose visitors to the other artisan joys of the island. “We’ll definitely be serving local Te Matuku oysters and other ingredients produced here.”

That idea of creating something that will benefit the whole island and its economy seemingly runs through everything the Allpress Olive Groves team – including Dean Liggins, ex-Allpress Espresso, who is on board as General Manager – has planned. “On the island it’s about cultivating, growing and harvesting,” says Michael. “We want to create an environment with secure jobs in every part of the business. And the amphitheatre here at the mill will continue to be used for everything from larger international acts to community events run by locals. There’s a lot going on: the new marina development, the whisky distillery – people have invested and more jobs will be created.”

It’s not hard to see that Waiheke Island is about to become even more attractive than it already is, and that the Allpress Olive Groves experience will be a wonderful part of that story.


You can imagine that a lot of New Zealand’s finest olive oil comes across our Cuisine editorial desk. And you will never find a product endorsed by Cuisine that has not been tried, tested and loved. We are blessed with a growing olive-grove and olive-oil industry, widely respected by our top chefs and which packs a punch when compared to many overseas producers. But, as with all commercial products, there are many competing for your support. And so, at a time when your dollars have never been more important, we thought it might be useful to highlight some of our current favourites for you. Just a little taste to shine a spotlight on how lucky we are.

Allpress Early Harvest Unfiltered Limited Release
Bright green and slightly cloudy, we love the raw, fresh punchiness of this limited-release EVOO with its flavourful peppery bite. Early results from this new Waiheke venture from Michael Allpress are kicking off with a deliciously slick tick. /

Bracu Estate First Press Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Croatian-born Ivan Simunovich planted New Zealand’s largest privately owned olive grove in 1999 in Bombay. The result is a very versatile EVOO. We love this simply drizzled on a baked potato or brushed over a slice of good bread before popping under the grill – no need for garlic, the vibrant, grassy flavour shines through. /

Juno Olives Picual Single Variety Extra Virgin Olive Oil
From boutique producers Andy and Helen Liley in the beautiful Wairarapa, this classic-style EVOO has a fresh, green, grassy feel with a whiff of artichoke. The light, peppery finish is warm and lingering. Perfect swirled through mashed potato with its mildly spicy-bitter bite or drizzled over grilled fish. /

Kākāriki Extra Virgin Blend
A single-estate premium oil from the Moutere Hills produced by the Gregory family who have a penchant for Tuscan varietals: frantoio, leccino, pendalione, picual and piccoline. This is an oil that feels good for almost any party. In particular, a perfect partner to dance with your salad.

RRP $65 for 500ml
Stockists Pickup available at Rangihoua Mill, Waiheke or order online at

RRP $34 for 500ml
Stockists Moore Wilson’s and Welly Collective on Courtney.

RRP $39.99 for 500ml
Stockists Bracu Restaurant, Huckleberry, Farro, selected New World supermarkets.

RRP $29.99 for 500ml
Stockists Selected nationwide – see info at

Leafyridge Extra Virgin Olive Oil Medium Peppery
This family-owned and operated Carterton olive grove produces oils with uniquely fresh flavours and their Medium Peppery EVOO delivers what it says on the label. Not too intense but with just enough oomph to be fantastic whirled through pesto or dips or drizzled over crispy roast veg. Versatile and delicious. /

Lot Eight Reserve
An award-winning extra virgin olive oil from talented Martinborough oil maker Nalini Baruch who blends two varieties of olives – koroneiki and frantoio – to deliver an oil that is polished and pure with a definite nod to soft herbs and tropical fruits. Our absolute favourite for using raw and dipping with the best bread you can get your hands on. Perfect. /

Olivo Estate Blend Extra Virgin
At the oldest commercial olive grove in the Wairarapa, Helen and John Meehan create artisanal olive oils that are beautiful to look at, on the nose and to taste. In particular, this oil is medium in intensity with a fruity finish. Perfect with salmon, chicken, lentils, avocado, quinoa and rice dishes. /

Terra Sancta Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Small batch and handcrafted in Bannockburn, this luscious oil reminded us of spring flowers and almonds with a splash of bitterness, but with such a smooth mouthfeel we would happily dip in with some crusty bread straight from the oven. Equally, a drizzle over pizza or pasta would make either sing. /

RRP $47.75 for 750ml
Stockists Selected stockists nationwide and online at

RRP $37.50 for 1 litre
Stockists Information online at

RRP $24.95 for 500ml
Stockists Available direct from

RRP $25 for 250ml
Stockists In fine food stores across the country.

The Olive Press Pressed Gold Oil Makers Blend
This premium EVOO from our largest independent olive-oil producer delivers beautiful sparks of peach and spice on the nose that carry through to its delicious taste. The Olive Press makes an outstanding contribution to the production of premium olive oils in New Zealand from their press in Greytown. Kudos to Katrina Bach, Rod Lingard and master oil blender Rachel Priestly.
/ / RRP $29.75 for 500ml / Stockists: Purchase online at

X-Cell Gourmet Olive Oil
This oil from a boutique, family-owned and operated olive grower in Kerikeri in the Bay of Islands is cold pressed, extra virgin and a little bit special. Peppery and bold, with some sun-ripened tomatoes, a slice of toasted sourdough and a slug of this you are in heaven.
/ / RRP $21.90 for 500ml / Stockists: Visit the grove by appointment or buy online at