The story of New Zealand’s buzzing coffee culture starts in the early 1990s. Foodies are likely to credit Wellington’s Caffe L’Affare, Havana Coffee and Coffee Supreme as the first café-cum-roasters in the country to elevate New Zealand as a brew-capital of the world, now famous for its hard-hitting espressos and the iconic flat white. Your standard coffee here is good — very good. And the Kiwis know it. With a surplus of new coffee shops dotting both the North and South Islands, you’re never far from a decent cup. Let these standout five coffee shops simply be your points of reference. Just beware the fluffy.
Auckland: Craig Miller runs a tight ship at his small Auckland joint, specializing in one thing: espresso. He and his team have been serving up the same “green” blend since 1988, sourcing beans from New Guinea, Colombia and Kenya, then roasting them on location. It’s a damn fine shot, perhaps Auckland’s best, and an enduring testament that when you’ve got things right, don’t ever change.
31 Cross Street. 7:30 a.m. – 1:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Havana Coffee Works
Wellington: Dissatisfied with the quality of roasts they were getting on conventional drum roasters, Geoff Marsland and Tim Rose, the founders of Wellington’s Havana Coffee, enlisted the help of friend and inventor Russell Collins to design and build New Zealand’s first fluid-bed, hot-air roaster. The result is a roast that preserves both the integrity of the beans’ natural flavors and their high caffeine content. Though not for the faint of heart, Havana Coffee is good and strong, carrying chef Al Brown’s stamp of approval: their beans are a mainstay at his string of restaurants in Auckland.
163 Tory Street. 7:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Glossary: How to Say “Coffee” in Kiwi
Short Black — single or double espresso served in a demitasse
Long Black — double espresso served with equal parts water (similar to an americano)
Flat White — double shot espresso served with two parts lightly textured milk
Drip — drip brew, usually extracted from Chemex, V60 or SwissGold
Fluffy — a demitasse filled with steamed milk, topped with sprinkles, and served with marshmallows (yes, they’re for real, and kids love them)
Red Rabbit Coffee Co.
Wellington: Though the baristas working at Red Rabbit take their craft seriously, their mission is to translate that passion into a really great cup of coffee, not to make patrons feel ashamed for asking questions about the finer details of craft coffee culture. In a small space next door to the Wellington Chocolate Factory, they roast in the back of the shop, serving up fresh, expertly pulled espressos and aero press-filtered coffee. If you carry a smile, they’ll even show you how to do it yourself and walk you through the tasting notes of their variety of blends and single origins.
Unit 6G, 14 Leeds Street. 7:30 a.m. – 3:30 p.m., Monday through Friday; 8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Saturday.
The Flight Coffee Hangar
Wellington: Helmed by a handful of self-proclaimed “coffee nerds,” Flight Coffee is among New Zealand’s largest wholesale distributors of roasted coffee around the country. They also serve up their proprietary blends and single origins via their Wellington café and bar, The Flight Coffee Hangar, specializing in a variety of extraction methods and drinks. “The goal was never to be the biggest,” says Nick Clark, the head of wholesale operations and an award-winning barista. “Just the best.” He and the rest of his crew are certainly up there, and they have the goods the prove it. Their flat white sampler, served on a wooden tray that mimics a flight of craft beer, is an excellent place to start.
119 Dixon Street. 7:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday; 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.
Christchurch: The opening of Supreme Supreme in April of 2015 marks the second coming of Coffee Supreme to the South Island. The company, like much of Christchurch, was heavily affected by the catastrophic earthquake of 2011, and they were forced to rebuild the operation from the ground up. In addition to knockout coffee and espresso drinks from Coffee Supreme’s proprietary roasts, the new facility houses a very respectable café, serving up quality breakfast and lunch dishes worth checking out.
10 Welles Street. 7:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday; 8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., Saturday and Sunday.