Swimsuit: a trio of cafés run by an award-winning barista
Tait Burge, the owner of three Swimsuit coffee shops, has made a splash in the Wellington café scene
Wellingtonian and hospitality star Tait Burge is a busy person. Within three and half years he opened three cafés, and is showing no signs of slowing down.
All called "Swimsuit", Tait's coffee shop trio includes cafés on Dixon Street in Wellington's CBD, and Park Road in "Wellywood" aka Miramar. The third sibling – with a back-alley-chic vibe – is on a service lane on Lombard Street, a stone's throw from bustling Cuba Street.
The lead-up to the opening of the third location was a whirlwind of decisions, staff hirings, and redecorating to get the site ready. Tait and his business partner William Bridewell-Roberts were wielding paint brushes with pale mint paint one minute and grinding coffee the next.
Swimsuit on Lombard Street is nestled in an out-of-the-way alcove of one of Wellington’s rejuvenated laneways. The neighbouring shops and cafés have grown in number and the area is now a buzzing destination. It ticked the main box for the young businessmen – a space to create and serve a community.
All three Swimsuits are light and have a simple, modern aesthetic softened with some personal touches. “I collect LEGO models and like to bring in a different one every few weeks – it’s good to provide new things for customers to experience," says Tait.
I’m not interested in just servicing an office block, I want to help create communities
Tait Burge, owner
It’s the experience that motivates Tait – achieving the right vibe so the punters want to come back. But it’s not just the buzz that created such a loyal customer base. Swimsuit is famous for its cheese scones – no mean feat in the Wellington café scene where scones abound. “We’re moving 60 scones a day in Te Aro, and Miramar isn’t far behind.”
Tait got his start in coffee thanks to the Gateway programme (a Tertiary Education Commission initiative to help students transition into the workforce). “I only just managed to get NCEA level one. Gateway got me work experience at Mojo Café and I loved it.” Mojo saw his talent as a barista and encouraged him to enter competitions.
With several nominations and wins behind him – including the coveted 'Outstanding Barista' title at 2021's Felix Awards – he knew the coffee world was for him. And now with his "three cafes by 30" goal already achieved, what’s next? “We’ve got a business mentor now – there are things brewing”.