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Let’s Go Local: Grace Chai Calls Fiji Home

The ROC Café manager says the business sources its coffee beans from the South Pacific Coffee Company in Nadi, which buys the product directly from villages in the area. 

Fiji attracts so many visitors from all over the world each year, some of whom decide to stay a lot longer than they originally planned.

Grace Chai was one of them.

She is the Manager of The Republic of Cappuccino or the ROC Café on Loftus Street in Suva.

She is also the Director’s Assistant at Byron Investment Limited, whose office is a few floors above the café.

Originally from Heilongjiang Province in China, Ms Chai first came to Fiji in 2016 to visit a cousin who is a resident here, and a few months later decided to call Fiji home after falling in love with the country.

When she is not at the café, the 35-year-old oversees Byron Investment’s exporting and importing business.

The firm is the sole distributor in the Chinese market of Fiji-made products such as Fiji Bitter and Vonu Pure Lager.

At the ROC Café, Ms Chai manages three baristas, two chefs and one cashier. She makes it a priority to hire and train local young people during the school holidays.

The ROC Café manager says the business sources its coffee beans from the South Pacific Coffee Company in Nadi, which buys the product directly from villages in the area.

These locally made beans make the café’s coffee drinks, including its signature coffee, Italian Cappuccino.

SunBiz spoke to Ms Chai to learn about her best travel and food experiences in Fiji so far.

What Are Your Favourite Items On The Menu At The ROC Café? 

Our lasagna, cassava cake, and Italian Cappuccino. It’s a good combo.

From left: The ROC Cafe italian cappucino and cassava cake. Photos: Jernese Macanawai

Mangos available during its season amd The ROC Cafe lasagna.

What’s Another Local Restaurant Or Café That You Enjoyed Visiting? 

I’ve been to Coffee Hub.

Their shop is fancy and I like the atmosphere there.

Coffee hub

What’s Been A Memorable Travel Experience In Fiji For You? 

I don’t have much time to travel far, but I’ve been to Nadi on a road trip.

I drive there have a look buy mangoes during the mango season and drive back.

I’ve also been to Wakaya Island for our film-shooting trip for our beers. It’s a very peaceful place.

They only accommodate a few guests so they can best serve customers. You can walk along the seaside especially at night.

What’s Your Dream Holiday Experience In Fiji? 

I want to see the dolphins on the back road on the way to Fiji Water.

From there you have to take a boat and go to the sea and see dolphins.

Dolphins at Takalana Beach in Dawasamu, Tailevu. Photo: Setavana Saumatua

What’s One Thing You Love About Living In Fiji? 

I’m from northeast China. Winters are cold. I don’t like to be in the cold. When I came to Fiji, it was a paradise to me.

Why Is There So Much Interest From The Chinese Market For Fiji-made Products? 

In recent years, Fiji and China have developed a close relationship.

A lot of Chinese people began to know about Fiji; that it’s a paradise.

They want to try something from Fiji because they know it is natural and pure, so our drinks are promoted as such.

People also want to try something that’s handmade and original.

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