I drive through a crisp, Friday morning. A haze from the early sun, and also from my dirty windscreen, sits neatly on the sea ahead. A right turn and I’ve arrived at Concha Bakery, with customers already spilling outside its walls, sipping on cappuccinos and basking in the smell of freshly-baked bread. I walk in and dodge a man with his surfboard to find Tia. Different to what I expected, she is short and tanned, and with a Portuguese accent, promptly tells me to follow her to her new bakery. Along the way she stops and checks up on her customers as if they were old friends. She is bold and direct, and I like that in people.
Tia leads me into a newly-built space tucked away below the main restaurant, soon to become a fully stocked Portuguese deli and a much-needed addition to the busy main floor. But behind the counter is where the real magic happens: The bakery, with its fresh coat of white paint and fully equipped appliances, has already been at it for a few hours. Lynette, Timmon and Carol, Tia’s team of bakers, have been rolling dough and baking delectable delights since 5:30am. They spread them out proudly over the counter for me to photograph, and as I watch the steam rise from the powdered Portuguese rolls through my lens, my stomach rumbles and begs me for a second breakfast.
A baker herself, Tia now only manages her team, having taught them how to bake all her recipes from scratch. After a hot, busy morning inside the bakery each day, the bakers get to go home at 2pm. I ask them if they go surfing once their crazy shift is over, and they laugh as they admit to loving their unusual schedule. Lynette says it’s the perfect schedule for a student like herself who attends afternoon lectures, adding that she loves to bake too. Just then, Tia takes out the cinnamon buns from the oven and I squeal with delight as they let me pour the icing over my favourite confectionery. I mean, I could do this all day too…
Then Tia wants to have a little fun. In no time she mixes flour and sugar and water like it’s the easiest thing in the world, and blends it in this futuristic-looking blender. A starched, gooey blob is handed to me and Tia instructs me to roll it in a ball on the counter, without touching it, as if I’m holding a bubble. It’s surprisingly really hard to do, and as Tia grows jokingly frustrated at my incompetence, I decide that perhaps I should stick to journalism after all.
Tia is funny. She wants to get the job done – and well. On top of my vision for the types of photos I want to get of her and the bakery, she adds in her own artistic ideas and allows me to really be the baker for the day; and she, the photographer. She tells me to flip the dough up, adjusts the lighting on my camera and snaps away like a natural. I comment on her creative direction and she mentions to me that she also likes to take photos, amongst a variety of other things including playing basketball, back when she lived in Portugal! Clearly, there’s not much Tia can’t do.
This Portuguese powerbomb offers me a cappuccino on my way out and gets it to me quick, proving she’s the perfect supervisor for such a popular North Coast gem. I make my way back to the office, reflecting on how much I enjoyed my morning with Tia and her team. They work so hard to get the people their beloved baked goods. It inspires me to work hard to get my readers their material as well! But maybe a dip in the ocean first won’t hurt… After all, Concha’s croissant emblem resembles a shell, too: a perfect blend of warm bread and sea spray, a perfect mix of work and play.