When you’re out on the road, it can be surprisingly difficult to get a good cup of coffee. The stuff you get from petrol stations and convenience stores is garbage, and a cup of something nicer from a boutique café or large chain can sometimes put a little too large of a dent in your travel budget. But you’d really be missing out on something if you completely avoid coffee in New Zealand. Although it’s always thought of itself as more of a tea country – given its history with Britain – coffee culture has been alive and well in New Zealand for some time.
In fact, some of the stats about New Zealand coffee culture are staggering. For example
- New Zealand has more roasters per capita than any other country in the world
- New Zealand also ranks as the 13th largest coffee consumer in the world, ahead of the U.S. and Australia
Cafés can be found in nearly every city and town, and the chances are you won’t have to go too far to find one. Almost all of them will offer WiFi, and this can be a great way for you to spend an afternoon reading a good book or catching up with friends and family back home.
And while there isn’t that much different about ordering a coffee in New Zealand than in your home country, there are a few things that you should know to help you make the most of your experience.
Let’s take a quick look at the coffee culture in New Zealand, and afterwards we’ll recommend a few places in Auckland and Wellington for you to check out should you be in the area.
Coffee Culture – Timing
One thing that is a bit different about New Zealand coffee culture (especially compared with Europe) is timing. In many European countries, cafés will be just as busy in the afternoon, say between three and six, as they are in the morning. Having a coffee after lunch or as a break towards the end of the workday is totally normal.
In New Zealand, however, people definitely seem to be more thirsty for coffee in the morning. If you walk into a café at 3p.m., it’ll be open, but you could very well find yourself completely on your own. Maybe this is exactly what you want, but if you’re looking for that bustling café vibe that lets you plug into local life for a second, it’s best to go before noon.
What coffee to order
While New Zealand drifted away from Europe as to when to drink a coffee, they haven’t done much to differentiate what they drink. New Zealand coffee culture has definitely been influenced by Italy’s. You’ll pretty much only find espresso, and you can be sure it’ll be strong and delicious. And New Zealand has also followed Italy by having a nearly limitless number of ways to drink coffee.
One thing to point out straight away is that drip or filtered coffee is pretty much non-existent in New Zealand. For people coming from the U.S., U.K. or Germany, this might be a bit frustrating. But the espresso is delicious, so don’t worry too much. If you want to get something that slightly resembles drip coffee, you can find café americano in most places. This is espresso mixed with hot water to try and make the flavor a bit less intense.
To really feel like a local ordering coffee in New Zealand, you must order a flat white. Nowadays you can get this drink in cafés all around the world, but it was invented in New Zealand. Okay, the Australians claim they came up with it, but don’t tell that to a Kiwi!
A flat white is made with a single shot of espresso and steamed milk, but the milk is not frothy. It can best be described as velvety. It’s really quite good and will give you the chance to drink coffee like the Kiwis.
Most of the other things you’ll find café menus in New Zealand will look familiar to you. If you’re looking for low-fat milk, ask for trim milk or a “skinny.”
Another thing that might be different is a “fluffy.” This is simply steamed milk with chocolate sprinkled on top of it. This is a drink often ordered for kids who are with their parents in the café, and it’s quite popular. How could it not be? It’s basically a really fancy chocolate milk!
There are likely to be some cafés that have something on the menu you’ve never heard of, but that’s half the fun. Give it a shot and see what happens. You’ll also find lots of places that offer unique single-origin blends. Specialty coffee is becoming quite popular, but getting access to it usually means signing up for a coffee subscription service. However, in New Zealand, you can easily seek out a café serving up unique blends so that you can try different coffees from all over the world.
Don’t forget a muffin!
It’s also worth noting that most cafés in New Zealand offer more than just coffee. Many will have kitchens, and they take pride in their menus. You won’t find a lot of pre-made sandwiches or processed muffins. Stuff is fresh and made with care, so even if you’re not a coffee drinker, you’re sure to find something.
Best Coffee in New Zealand
Where to order
As we mentioned, there are tons of cafés all around New Zealand. Because of this, each one is doing all it can to be different and exciting. And all of this means that there are quite a few truly unique options to choose from. Don’t be complacent. Walk around for a bit and poke your head into a few and you’ll surely find one with good vibes and positive energy.
However, be aware that international chains are still not much of a thing. Of course, you can find a Starbucks, but Kiwis are quite faithful to their local café, and there are far less of these chains than you might expect. If you’re desperate and can’t find anything else, they’ll do. But typically, there will be a local joint not too far from you that will offer a much more welcoming and homely feel.
It’s nearly impossible to create a list of the best cafés in New Zealand. There are so many of them, and quality is easy to find. But if you’re overwhelmed by all the options, here are a few recommendations for cafés in Auckland and Wellington. Let us know what you think if you make it to one:
Olaf’s Artisan Bakery Café
1 Stokes Rd, Mount Eden, Auckland. One of the few artisan bakeries in Auckland, the pastries, cakes and cookies here are really to die for. Oh yeah, and the coffee too. If you’ve got a craving for some homemade desserts, check out Olaf’s and you won’t be disappointed. A great place to visit before or after walking up Mount Eden to admire the view.
24-26 Spring St, Freemans Bay, Auckland. A lot of the cafés in Auckland have been pursuing a modern, minimalist design for some time now. Well, Queenie’s decided to break from this. Featuring kitschy design and some more pronounced wall art, this place is quite unique as compared to other Auckland cafés.
653 Manukau Rd, Royal Oak, Auckland. If you’re looking for a place to spread out and relax on a Sunday afternoon, this is the spot. They have tons of seating options, and there is even a garden in the back where you can enjoy some fresh air while you read, work or chat with friends. Plan to spend some time here if you come to visit One Tree Hill or the Stardome Observatory.
497 Karaka Bay Rd, Karaka Bays, Wellington. This place has some great brunch, and it’s got the added bonus of being close to the beach. If you want a place to hang out after sleeping in, head over to Scorch-O-Rama for some great food, coffee and views.
Red Rabbit Coffee / Leeds St. Bakery
14 Leeds St, Te Aro, Wellington. It’s hard to know what’s better here, the cookies or the coffee. Serving up one of the better flat whites you can get in the city, Red Rabbit Coffee also has some delicious homemade pastries and deserts. Get a cookie, or two, or three. You’ll love them!
People’s Coffee – Wellington
12 Constable St, Newtown, Wellington. Unfortunately, the coffee industry has a bit of a bad reputation when it comes to working with coffee farmers from around the world. But things are changing, especially thanks to the rise of these specialty cafés around the world. For example, People’s Coffee works directly with farmers and is focused on helping them improve living conditions for themselves and those around them. If you’re looking for a cup of coffee with a conscious, then consider heading over to People’s Coffee in Wellington.
Again, these are just a few recommendations to help you sort through the wonderfully crowded New Zealand coffee world. But we urge you to go out on your own and find something unique. Who knows what you might find?!
Author: Caroline is a keen traveler, sometime digital nomad and writer at JavaPresse. Since she works online, she’s constantly stopping in cafés when she travels to get WiFi and to do some work. She’s traveled extensively in New Zealand and was thrilled to find so many quality and uniquely designed cafés sprinkled throughout this beautiful country.