web Talking to Tora Collective – Honest Wolf

Talking to Tora Collective

Tora interview featured image

Meet Claire and Troy, the faces of our recent campaign and founders of Tora Collective, a sustainable fishing business bringing you kaimoana straight from sea to plate.

Based on the Tora Coast, their story is familiar to ours, with the origin and journey of their catch a big part of their business. Similar to how the Honest Wolf farm, which is where our bags start, is the heart of our business.

We loved learning more about them and their business, and hope you enjoy reading our chat below.

Can you tell us about your background, where you both grew up and how this led you to start Tora Collective? Have you both always loved to fish?

Growing up, both of us had the coast as our playground – Claire in the nature-filled Takaka, Golden Bay, and Troy in the untamed, secluded Ngapotiki, just a stone's throw from Tora. Fishing was part of our childhood, our memories are jam-packed with adventures in the great outdoors. We both had parents who were deeply connected with the land, rivers and sea, and thus our food - whether it was hunting, growing, or fishing. So that love for the natural world was instilled in us from a young age. Troy's family had fishing in their blood, so he naturally gravitated towards it too. But for us, Tora Collective is much more than just catching fish; it's about embracing the lifestyle we’ve always loved, advocating for positive change in the seafood industry, and ensuring Kiwis get to experience seafood the way it should be – fresh, sustainable, and direct from the ocean to their doorstep.

The Tora Coast looks incredible, what makes it such a special part of Aotearoa?

The Tora Coast could only be described as wild. Facing directly southeast, we wear the brunt of southerly swells and winds, making our coast a masterpiece of rock - rising dramatically from the sea. It's rugged, raw, and real; blanketed in native bush and teeming with kaimoana and forests of seaweed underwater. Living here is living on the edge – literally. We're a solid 50-minute drive from what you'd call civilization – just like the team at Honest Wolf. There’s no quick dashes to the store for milk here! Although Tora is dramatic and wild - it has moments of calm that completely steal your breath away. When the sea and skies lay still, the world seems to pause, wrapped in an almost surreal beauty. And when you’re lucky enough to get these moments, without another soul in sight, you feel like you've stumbled upon a secret - an untouched and untamed world. That's the magic of Tora; it's our slice of paradise, and a place we're committed to protecting.

Tora interview -farm shoot

Could you explain why the coast to table framework is so important, in terms of sustainability and supply?

Our 'coast to table' approach is all about bridging the gap between you and your kai, ensuring you know exactly where your seafood comes from, who caught it, and how. This direct line from us to you means there's no ambiguity – no middlemen muddying the waters. It's transparency in action, giving our customers confidence in the sustainability and quality of their kaimoana. We’re also catching to order, which means our fish are not retrieved from a tank, they’re swimming freely until they’re needed - then we’ll catch them.

This model also empowers us to go above and beyond the minimum sustainability standards set by law. We're not just ticking boxes; we're setting new benchmarks. We fish seasonally, stepping back during spawning seasons to let populations flourish, a practice not as common here in Aotearoa. And those female crayfish? Every single one is returned to the ocean to ensure populations for future generations.

Our packaging mirrors this ethos. It's not just about the catch; it's how we present it. By utilizing natural materials like wool and seaweed and crafting our own home-compostable ice packs, we're ensuring our environmental footprint is as light as possible. Every step of our process is designed with sustainability at its core, providing our customers with the freshest taste of Aotearoa without compromise.

Not only do you supply fresh kaimoana to many Kiwi’s through your online store, but your catch can be found in eateries up and down the country. Could you mention a few restaurants that have Tora Collective on the menu?

Absolutely, it’s not just the home kitchens of Aotearoa that get to taste the freshness of our kaimoana; it’s also the plates of some top-notch eateries across the country. We’re stoked to have our catch featured in places where the chefs share our passion for quality and sustainability. A few spots where you might find Tora Collective on the menu include the likes of Spiga, The Grove, Lillius, Kingi for starters. Then there’s the likes of Central Fire Station Bistro, Craggy Range, Black Barn in the bay. Graze, and Hiakai, plus Logan Brown, Floriditas, Rita in Wellington and a number down south. Each place brings something unique to the table, literally, crafting dishes that truly do justice to the quality of our kaimoana. They’re relationships we’re mighty proud of – they get the best of our waters, and we get to enjoy it by NZ’s best chefs.

Could you share your biggest advice for those who are looking to eat more sustainably, but might not know where to start?

Here’s the compass you need: connect and question. Dive deep into where your kaimoana or produce is coming from. If you hit a wall of unknowns about who caught it, where, or when, you’re likely not swimming in the most sustainable waters. Beware the murky depths of greenwashing - it’s not just on land but in the deep blue too. The majority of fish caught in Aotearoa is by bottom trawling, so knowing your fisher and their harvesting methods is key. Embrace local, embrace small. Support your local fishers and farmers who respect Papatūānuku. It’s these small, conscious choices that can create big waves of change. It's about supporting those who are doing right by our land and oceans.

Tora interview - farm shoot

Where our Honest Wolf collection comes from, the hills of Papanui Estate, is an important part of our story, similar to how the Tora Coast plays such a big part in your business. Do you think it’s important for customers to understand the origin of where products (or kaimoana in your case) they purchase originate from?

Absolutely, understanding the origin of what you're purchasing is crucial – it's like reading the first page of a book; it sets the scene for everything prior and that follows! For us, the wild, windswept Tora Coast isn't just a backdrop; it's the soul of our business - our love for it and desire to protect it is infused in everything we do, and how we do it. Just like the unique character of Papanui Estate shapes the Honest Wolf collection with unparalleled quality. Connections to place often provide a business with another level of care, ethics, passion and commitment that go into producing or providing something.

We loved having you both on the farm for our recent photoshoot. We’re keen to hear what your favourite part of the day was, or any memorable moments you’d like to share?

We had an awesome time on the farm for the photoshoot! Meeting Sophie and Sam, and seeing the genuine, down-to-earth vibe behind Honest Wolf, was refreshing. It's rare to find folks who are so authentic and grounded, running a business that's deeply connected to the land and community.

The unexpected star of the day? Their pig, who was determined to hog the spotlight! The kai was another highlight, we love connecting through food - especially the scones made by their beautiful staff member (please insert name!), along with the antics of her adorable puppy. And then there was the horse-riding adventure, which was both thrilling and a bit nerve-wracking, especially for Troy who's not exactly a horse whisperer. Let's just say it was an eventful ride, especially with our wedding just around the corner!

Overall, it was a day filled with laughter, great company, and the beauty of Papanui Estate. It's amazing to see such a vibrant, authentic Kiwi business thriving, led by such passionate people. Sophie, Sam, and their team are not just running a business; they're enriching their rural community and setting a stellar example for the industry. Big ups to them for creating something truly special.

What does Tora Collective look like to you in the next 5 years?

Looking ahead, Tora Collective is set on a path of growth, keeping our core mission of sustainability and community at the heart of everything we do. Over the next five years, we're excited to delve deeper into the tourism aspect of our business, offering a select series of events that highlight the beauty and bounty of the Tora coast. From foodie charters to unique events right here by the coast, our aim is to bring people closer to the source of their food, fostering a deeper connection with our environment, while having loads of fun of course!

We're also on the brink of launching a charitable trust, a project close to our hearts, designed to give back to the coast, moana, and community that nurtures us. This trust will focus on protecting our beautiful backyard for future generations, ensuring that the principles of kaitiakitanga guide us forward.

Lastly, we’ve got to know what’s your favourite way to enjoy seafood ? (this could be a recipe, or how you love to share meals with friends and whānau etc)

There's nothing quite like a gathering with friends and whanau! We’re believers in keeping the meal simple and letting the produce shine. Freshly caught seafood, a touch of garlic butter, great company, and a backdrop of good local wine and tunes – it’s the essence of the ideal Kiwi gathering. It's a reminder of how fortunate we are to live in such a special part of the world, Aotearoa.

Claire’s favourite Honest Wolf product: The Handbag in Taupe
Troy’s favourite Honest Wolf product: The Overnighter in Navy

Visit https://www.toracollective.co.nz/

Find them on social @tora_collective