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Apr 25, 2010 02:48 AM

New Zealand Coffee Houses... and definitions of NZ coffees?

Hi everyone... I'm an American ex-pat living in New Zealand who makes frequent trips (well, school holidays) to Auckland or Wellington, usually staying in backpackers near Ponsoby/K-Road in Auckland or close to Courtenay Place in Wellington (I work way up in Northland). I use the city bus(Metrolink?) to get around Auckland and Wellington. Never drank coffee back in the states, but had one here and got hooked on coffee nearly straight away. My Kiwi friends say it's because this is "real coffee", and I've gotta believe them! Two questions that I hope someone can help with...

First: there are so many coffee places to choose from in both Auckland and Wellington, that I'm wondering if anyone has suggestions for "must try" coffee houses... not too interested in the sides (pastries, etc.) just wonderful 'real' coffee and perhaps a bit of ambiance... (i.e. no screaming tourists on holiday). Open to any and all suggestions in any case, as I'm willing to hop a bus to wherever I need to go for a great cup of java.

Also, I'm in Dunedin, Christchurch and Queenstown once a year, so suggestions there are welcome! Again, the closer to public transport, (or walking distance in city centres) the better!

Second: I am having a ridiculous lag in figuring out the definitions of the different styles of NZ coffee prep. Even went to a (egads!) Starbucks out of the sheer laziness in trying to sort out the names of the coffees to find that even Starbucks uses the Kiwi coffee lingo. I like a strong regular coffee with a bit of frothed milk on top, so usually end up getting a "flat white"... but frankly it is a bit too weak for my liking and I'd prefer it prepared as is, except with an extra shot of espresso thrown in. Is there a name for that? When I ask for it, I always get the lecture on how a flat white already has a shot of espresso, then I ask for a second shot and confusion erupts... it simply isn't worth the drama, so I just try to enjoy the plain flat white as is, or drink the first one fast, then order a second.

If anyone's a real expert in coffee names here in NZ and wouldn't mind providing a brief overview (i.e. "cheat sheet") of what to expect when ordering the different styles (I can't even remember the names of all of them, just cappuccino, espresso, and flat white!) maybe I'd order other styles. The coffee here is so wonderful, just want to have a sense of what to try!

Thanks in advance for any suggestions or clarifications!

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  1. OK. The definitions can change from place to place, but the general definitions are:

    short black - single shot of espresso
    ristretto - even shorter than a short black (usually a doppio ristretto so there is volume)
    long black - single shot with hot water added
    short/long macchiato - short/ long black with a proportional splash of foam or milk (macchiato means stained)
    latte/ flat white - single shot with textured milk (latte is typically served in a glass)
    cappuccino - flat white with higher foam: milk ratio

    Your starting negotiation for what you are after should be a double shot long macchiato!

    6 Replies
    1. re: mr_gimlet

      Thank you Mr. Gimlet... at the risk of further exposing my complete ignorance on the styles of coffee, would a "short black" be equivalent to an espresso, or is it a regular coffee with a single shot of espresso added?

      I can't wait to try out ordering the double shot long macchiato... hope I remember the whole description. Maybe will order it then quickly reconfirm that it is like a short black with an extra shot of espresso and the milk??

      1. re: ideabaker

        Mt G hits the nail on the head. Short black means an espresso it is one and the same. Long black is the same as an Americano, it should be coffee over water to keep the crema intact.

        Like you my partner like a strong coffee with some frothed milk, especially later in the day (she doesn't like espresso). We find the best way to get it is to ask for a macchiato with extra milk, and if you want a bigger one as for a double.

        One problem I do find is that you need to select the cafe well. If you don't you get insipid coffee which is drowned in milk. I tend to find the better places generally create flat whites etc with good flavour and they get the balance of milk and coffee right. A lot of poorer places simply add too much milk.

        One of the sure signs a place knows what is is doing is the line out of the door in the morning. If there isn't a queue there is a good reason!

        1. re: PhilD

          Oh this is so, so helpful! Love the suggestion on the queue... I have unfortunately experienced the weak, heavily milked flat white and now I know why! But have also had great ones too, usually in more upmarket places... never thought to look for a line though!

          Any suggestions of specific places to try in Auckland, Wellington, Dunedin or Christchurch? (Or for that matter, anywhere in between, I do tend to get around...)

        2. re: ideabaker

          yes, short black = espresso

          remember you want a long macchiato, so it is like a long black with an extra shot and milk - a short macchiato is an espresso with a splash of froth

          1. re: mr_gimlet

            Thanks Mr. Gimlet for the reminder about the long macchiato... I think the short macchiato would be too bitter/strong for me without the adequate balance of the frothed milk.

            Do you have any specific places that you know of in New Zealand that make outstanding coffee that you'd be willing to suggest?

            1. re: ideabaker

              Espresso Coffee workshop - corner of Owens and Manukau Road (2 Owens Road) in Epsom

      2. You've just reached coffee nirvana. Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy! Places to help you along in Wellington are:
        - peoples coffee in Newtown
        - Havana coffee in Tory street
        - cafe l'affare in College Street (these three are roasters too, to take home some just-roasted-that-morning-goodness)
        - Mojo (a few stores dotted about town and very very good)- also roast their own
        - Ernesto in Cuba Street
        - Milk on Ghuznee st
        - A tiny roastery on the corner of the Terrace and Bolton street which I can't remember the name of
        - Cafe Mode if you're up in Kelburn

        And in Dunedin, try Mazagran (on the other side of the Octagon- hard to find) and follow your nose for some of the better cafes. One we went to had spectacular coffee, so good we went back the next day- when it was terrible. It so depends on the person.
        In Queenstown, try to find Joe's Garage and a few of the independent, tiny, cafes in the city centre. I can't remember the names... was only a flying visit last time.

        Miss the Wellington coffee terribly as UK coffee mostly dirty, burnt water. Thankfully there's a weekend long coffee festival in the city we're living in in a couple of weeks time- hooray!!
        And yes, ask for a flat white with an extra shot and they shouldn't blink an eye. The best should be in tiny cups (150ml) with two shots of coffee (60ml) so almost half and half.

        2 Replies
        1. re: nzemma

          Thanks for all of the useful info, nzemma! Yes I do realise that something special is going on with coffee here. I only recently started with an occasional cup and now I understand why some folks (who I used to think were simply fussy) absolutely refuse to drink instant coffee! Will be in Wellington in October, and will find one of those places... I did have a lovely coffee at a cafe/bar on Cuba Street where you sit outside near a fountain sculpture that was made of these sort of buckets that dropped the water down from one to the other in a pattern. Perhaps that was Ernesto, who knows (Cuba Street isn't that big!). Will pay more attention next time.

          Can't wait to hunt down the Dunedin place, am one of those people who loves pushing the upper limits of my GPS system to find hidden gems.

          Still know essentially nothing about Auckland coffeehouses. Maybe there aren't many in/near Ponsoby??

          Am having fun compiling a list of must have coffee for my travels, and also very grateful to fellow CH'ers for tips on what to ask for! Again, thank you!

          1. re: ideabaker

            Ideabaker -there are plenty in Ponsonby. Just go for a wander. You'll find what you want, and it's a fun area to explore.

        2. Wellington is coffee heaven. We just moved back after five years there, and can't bring ourselves to drink much of what's on offer in the states.

          Here's my shot at Wellington's best:

          Astoria -- on Lambton Quay, especially if Shane's on the machine. It's hard to beat a mega-latte and an order of their fries! Perfect latte every time, with a constant bustle of businesspeople, families and others moving in and out. On a nice day, sit outside and watch the world go by.

          Maranui -- on the South Coast in Lyall Bay, just re-opened after a fire last August. Owned by the same people that own Deluxe (on Cambridge Terrace). Terrific coffee, beautiful views, and very good food. Even from half a world away, we're so happy that it's open again.

          Nikau -- much more urbane setting, attached to the City Museum. Great pastries and terrific lunch. But worth it just for the coffee.

          Kaffee Eis -- Oriental Parade, near Frank Kitts Park, or on Courtenay Place. Best gelato in NZ and also a very respectable mojo outlet.

          Other mojo shops also do a good job.

          Drink a latte for me. Cheers.

          1. Try Bambina, Dizengoff , Santos or One2one (121) in Ponsonby Rd. In K Rd, Alleyuya (St Kevins arcade) is good. Get the table at the far end looking out to the park and city.