The “Middle Earth” of coffee: Café-hopping in New Zealand
AUCKLAND, Aug 9 — Most of us associate New Zealand with the All Blacks rugby team, the kiwi fruit (and bird), and yes, The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit film trilogies. Yet “Middle Earth” is also home to some of the best coffee in the world. Diehard Kiwi coffee lovers even say the flat white was invented here (though their Aussie neighbours may well dispute this).
No surprise then this island nation has some of the best cafés in the world, from havens for artists, musicians, and hippies, to a Tennessee-inspired enclave in its capital (some say the coffee capital of the world). How about a café-roastery that gives back to the community, or a coffee shop that also doubles as an archive of thousands of National Geographic magazines?
Maybe the hobbits weren’t just smoking pipe-weed; they were probably enjoying their short blacks and flat whites too.
Espresso Workshop, Auckland
Begin your Kiwi coffee journey in Auckland, the largest city in New Zealand. Espresso Workshop in the city’s revived Britomart neighbourhood isn’t the original (that honour belongs to their Parnell Roastery and headquarters in Falcon Street) but that hardly matters when the coffee here is exceptional.
How exceptional? Well, they’ve trained and produced Auckland’s top-ranked baristas annually since 2009. That’s a record that speaks for itself.
Founded in 2007 by Erica and Andrew Smart, Espresso Workshop offers more than its namesake; besides espresso-based beverages, single origin drip coffee is also available. Relax in a cool wood-and-steel ambience while baristas dance around behind the bar, joking and laughing, brewing good coffee, one cup after another.
Memphis Belle, Wellington
Next head to Memphis Belle in the Kiwi capital. Blues, jazz and rock ‘n’ roll spill out from this corner coffee shop along Dixon Street. Whether it’s Etta James or Johnny Cash, the music feels right. You half expect the Mississippi River to flow by but this is Wellington, not Tennessee.
Memphis Belle may not actually be in Memphis, but it’s definitely the belle of the Te Aro neighbourhood, serving awesome blends and single origin beans from local roaster Flight Coffee. Cheerful and award-winning baristas will suggest the best brewing method for each coffee — be it espresso, Chemex, V60, siphon, Swiss Gold, or cold drip.
The café subscribes to a charming and eclectic cool décor (and somehow pulls it off without feeling pretentious or hipster-ish): well-worn and mismatched furniture, retro music, vintage-cool posters and postcards on scarlet-hued walls, and even an enormous globe tottering precariously on a high shelf.
Addington Coffee Co-op, Christchurch
The city centre of Christchurch still bears scars from the earthquake that wrecked buildings and lives four years ago. This makes it all the more meaningful to get your morning cuppa at a café that is part of a larger organisation that gives back to the community — Addington Coffee Co-op.
Located on Lincoln Road, Addington Coffee Co-op is a former mechanic’s workshop turned into a café and roastery. Much of the architectural features now rare in post-earthquake Christchurch are carefully preserved here.
The natural light-filled café serves Fair Trade coffee roasted in their in-house roaster — wittily named Jailbreaker Roastery — and offers a strong brunch menu. The Buttermilk Waffles (with Kohu Rd ice-cream and berry compote), in particular, is delicious. As part of the co-op, there is even a self-service laundry for café-goers to wash and dry their clothes.
Addington Coffee Co-op redistributes 70 per cent of the profits back to the Christchurch community and to some of the overseas producers and communities that create the products they carry. Here is a space where the locals feel like they belong.
Dog With Two Tails, Dunedin
It’s hard not to love Dunedin. The natural beauty of the Otago Peninsula, the dynamic life of this university town, and the unexpected profusion of great coffee shops make this one of the coolest coffee stops in New Zealand.
One of these cafés will have you beaming like a dog wagging with two tails. That’s right; the coffee shop is called Dog With Two Tails. A cosy and eclectic café by day and a popular music venue and bar in the evenings, there’s awesome brunch fare (try the Bangers and Beans, served with sourdough bread) and even Kiwi craft beer.
Dog with Two Tails is a family-run business, and it shows in the homey feel of the space. But not stuffy, suburban homey but rather a place where artists, musicians, and yes, even hippies, can feel at home. The chalkboard on the wall announces upcoming gigs; a miniature train track winds its way around the ceiling; there are books and there is poetry in the air somehow.
Good One, Auckland
First opened in 2008, Good One is coffee roaster Coffee Supreme’s flagship café in Auckland. Unlike most cafés which would prefer locations facing the main street, Good One is hidden in a tiny back lane in Ponsonby. The choice is inspired: its former life as a manufacturing building can be seen in the high ceilings and ample natural light coming in through the large windows.
The main feature of the café has to be an incredible collection of National Geographic magazines — over 4,500 of them! — apparently bought during an auction. Hence the white space is accentuated here and there by spots of yellow that is the trademark spines of the magazine as well as hand painted signage.
Enjoy the casual ambience and factory cool décor, not to mention peace and quiet away from the bustle of the main street. Drop by for a free coffee tasting in its Brewing Room every Thursday. Where coffee is concerned, there’s simply no better place to stop by for a good one.
11 Britomart Place, Auckland, New Zealand
Mon-Fri 6:30am-4:30pm; Sat-Sun 7:30am-4:30pm
38 Dixon Street, Te Aro, Wellington, New Zealand
Mon-Tue 7am-5pm; Wed-Fri 7am-7pm; Sat 8am-7pm; Sun 8am-5pm
Addington Coffee Co-op
297 Lincoln Rd, Addington, Christchurch, New Zealand
Mon-Fri 7:30am-4pm; Sat & Sun 9am-4pm
Dog With Two Tails
25 Moray Place, Dunedin, New Zealand
Mon-Sat 8am-11pm; Sun closed
42 Douglas St, Ponsonby, Auckland, New Zealand
Mon-Fri 7am-3pm; Sat 8am-3pm; Sun 9am-3pm