Sticking with the “quality is more the norm than the exception” theme from my Savvie posting, Sue asked me to blog about the coffee in New Zealand.
Shortly after arriving in Auckland, I let AJ and our newly introduced sister-in-law Jules know that I was partial to good coffee. Turns out they are too. This gave AJ and Jules every opportunity to show off their local stomping grounds, starting with the coffee shop in their local Warehouse outlet.
AJ cringed with embarrassment. His sister and brother-in-law arrive from the US — home of Starbucks, Peets and Seattle’s Best — and the first coffee shop we frequent in Auckland is at the Warehouse! Later that afternoon AJ demonstrated his own perfected latte-making skills. Their coffee of choice is Gravity because, as the ad goes …
Tiny Mairangi Bay Village, where AJ and Jules live, has about 30 shops ranging from a FoodTown to a yoga studio to upscale dress shops and everything in between. Coffee can be ordered in at least six restaurants and cafes in the village, such is the love affair locals have with their Joe. Much as in the US/Canada Pacific Northwest, coffee is intricately woven into the Kiwi lifestyle. Coffee shops are filled with folks reading the paper or magazines, working on laptops, coffee-moms meeting girlfriends for a morning latte after walking the kids to school, toddler and dog in tow, business folks brokering deals in suits and the occasional tourist contentedly taking it all, trying desperately to learn the local coffee lingo:
Skinny latte = Latte made with skim milk
Long black = What we call an Americano, served without milk or cream
Long black with milk on the side = Americano with milk on the side (the closest to what we drink here in the US)
Short black = Espresso
Some shops we visited, like The Red Beret in Motueka and Zest in Nelson, are so busy that customers find themselves cleaning their own tables in order to be seated. Once seated, the patron can then sit back with their long-black-with-milk-on-the-side and pastry, only to politely have to stand a few seconds later to let a new mom pass with her pram. An aside: the prams in NZ are generally larger than most Kiwi cars, which makes for a tight squeeze in coffee shops.
We found the Kiwi roast of choice to be medium-dark and espresso shots were always extremely flavourful. None of the “this espresso’s so weak I can see my mother-in-law through it” shots that our friends at Starbucks have become really famous for. The kind where the espresso shots are no longer “pulled” by hand but triggered into action by the cash register/computer and then shot off by an automated espresso machine.
Sign at Mariposa Palms Nursery and Cafe
Two really unique coffee destinations that AJ and Jules took us to were Morris and James Pottery & Tileworks & Mariposa Palms — both in Matakana, an hour north of Auckland. The Morris and James cafe sits in the courtyard outside the sales center for their very unique and beautiful pottery. And Mariposa Palms cafe is nestled under the palms sold at their plant nursery. In addition to pairing a serene setting with superb coffee, Mariposa also offers free puppies and espresso to unruly children.
Even though we were fortunate enough to frequent some very memorable coffee shops throughout our time in NZ, it is this story that I like to tell to highlight just how good Kiwi coffee is. When we were staying up in Paihia, Sue, Tau and I drove out to Matauri Bay for a morning on the beach. After leaving the main road, the rural drive passes more livestock than homes and finally makes it way up and past the Matauri General Store before the steep road down into the bay.
Being low on supplies, we decided to stop and pick up something for lunch. We then realized that while one half of the very humble looking general store was exactly that, the other half was the local bar. On the counter of the bar sat a very high-end espresso maker. I was floored. Beer, wine and coffee – the Kiwis know a thing or two. After ordering lunch at the bar, we sat out back in the sunshine and drank our long-black-with-milk-on-the-side and ate our meat pies (Kiwi meat pies really ought to be the subject of an entirely separate post). Here in the middle of very rural New Zealand, miles from the nearest town, the owner knocked out a couple coffees so smooth and rich that they rivalled any other cup we tasted in urban NZ or the US for that matter.
Aerial View of Matauri Bay