Wednesday, 4 June 2008

C = Coffee

New Zealand used to be a land of tea drinkers. Coffee appeared in the 60s and 70s, but your options were usually instant, Greggs instant, or Nestle instant. We then almost skipped straight to espresso, which started appearing in the late 80s. Now, everywhere you go, there are little coffee shops serving great coffee. You can get a good latte or long black almost anywhere in New Zealand now, even small towns such as Whakatane where I went for the first time a couple of weeks ago.

The New Zealand coffee revolution was essentially home grown. We developed a more European approach to coffee, with small intimate coffee shops, coffee served in glasses or good cups. A good barista is worth their weight in gold, and annual national competitions are held to find the best.

I probably became addicted to coffee at Brios, where I used to drink regularly with friends from work. During work, in fact. But sadly a Starbucks opened up over the street, their landlord got scared, and to their shock their lease was cancelled. (Fortunately they opened up successfully elsewhere, and they’re still going strong). So I led a one-woman boycott of Starbucks. Colleagues used to tease me by leaving empty Starbuck’s coffee cups (cups? buckets more like!) on my desk. It’s been at least 8 years, and I am proud to say I have never had a coffee there yet. New Zealand developed its own coffee culture, one with good food and small owner-operated caf├ęs. Only when it was obvious that this was wildly successful did Starbucks, the big bullying chain, enter the market. I won’t drink there. I have my principles. Stamping of foot!

I adore the smell of coffee, maybe more than its taste. My husband however detests it, so I don’t have a fancy espresso machine at home. I like good coffee, and only good coffee. I get my coffee made by professionals. I’d rather have nothing at all if I have to make it myself! Not because I’m lazy. I just make terrible coffee, and can’t figure out how to do it better.

So when I go out for my coffee, I have some choices to make. I look for atmosphere, service, something to read, somewhere as child-free as possible, and of course, great coffee. Being self-employed, I often drink alone. That has its pleasures too.

Inevitably, I have my favourites. Mojo on Willis St has the best coffee, feels like a little piece of Paris, and is the venue for my regular chats with Adrienne, discussing world politics, office politics, books or the latest fashions.

Wholly Bagels in Thorndon always has a newspaper and a variety of magazines that often send me away filled with inspiration. Only this morning I found reference to a short story competition in a new magazine there. Or maybe it’s the caffeine! It also has free parking, but is to be avoided at all costs during the school holidays.

The Organic Grocer at the bottom of the gorge in Kaiwharawhara is a new discovery, and has more good magazines and some peace and quiet. I also feel very wholesome there.

I always have good intentions to walk to Rosa in Khandallah, but usually end up popping in when I’ve been driving by to get a takeaway fix. It pays not to go around 10.30 am on a Tuesday or Thursday, when the yoga mums are there though.

Rise on The Terrace does the best 5-grain toast with my coffee before a meeting in the morning, and I enjoy lingering over my coffee, or even having a second cup, when all the suits are running off to their offices at 8.30.

And when I have time to kill, and it is a fine day, I sit at the bay, looking out at the harbour, with a coffee from Kaffee Eis, breathing deeply and enjoying the good, simple things in life.


  1. I wouldn't bother learning to make good coffee when you have all those fabulous places to go to. (But how on earth can anyone hate the smell of coffee?)

    Laughed at the fact that you feel wholesome while drinking coffee at the organic grocers!

  2. Ah, I'm envious of your coffee life. If I lived in a city, I might be able to enjoy coffee that way. As it is, I drink French-pressed coffee most days to get me going. It's as much addiction as enjoyment. Today I had a little too much...

  3. I will go to starbucks. I am a big fan of going through their drive-through for a gigantic anything on my way to my inlaws (land of folgers crystals). If Cape Girardeau had a local place, I'd stop there instead.

    Here, I do prefer a GOOD local spot, although I vote with my feet pretty fast. But I think I already talked about this...

  4. Helen: I was very wholesome this morning. Even the chocolate chip muffin was made with organic bran!

    IB: I suspect if I got into the habit of making my own coffee, I'd end up drinking too much too ... maybe I'd finally clean my office if that happened?

    Bridgett: I forgive you the Starbucks on the way to the in-laws! Actually, my beef is with Starbucks in New Zealand mainly. I have had Starbucks in the US - after all it kind of defines your coffee culture, doesn't it? And the only place to get coffee in some countries (ie Philippines or Thailand) is to drink at an international chain.

  5. I have to say, I do still drink Starbucks, but it's Sewa Yoleme's fault. Back in the very early 90s, when they were small, he went to Seattle and brought some back. I ended up subscribing to their coffee service. Once they got big, though, they eventually stopped with all that. I still like their Italian and French roasts, being a dark-roast gal. But frankly, the closest Starbucks to me is about an hour away...


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