Hard News by Russell Brown

Read Post

Hard News: Because it's about time we had another coffee post

410 Responses

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 17 Newer→ Last

  • ScottY,

    I think the last Starbucks I had was in Edinburgh five years ago. It was the best of a bad bunch, and at the time I only really wanted a coffee for the caffeine hit.

    I have had a few McCafe coffees over the last couple of years, and some have been a bit bland (though not as bad as Starbucks) while some have been perfectly drinkable and pleasant.

    There are good coffee places in every city and town, but they aren't as common in the smaller towns. If you are passing through a town, need caffeine, and don't know where the best place for a coffee is, the local McCafe (if they have one) probably won't be the worst option.

    Yorke of The Atatu • Since Feb 2009 • 787 posts Report Reply

  • mobsta,

    NZ's largest coffee retailer?



    BP's Wild Bean.

    NZ does have a strong coffee culture, but that doesn't mean that people don't mind fast-coffee which is OK.

    wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 8 posts Report Reply

  • Tom Beard,

    For me, it's not about the coffee. I didn't drink the stuff until I was in late twenties (shiftwork forced me to acquire the taste), and even now my standard drink is a trim latte with too much sugar, so you couldn't call me a coffee snob by any stretch of the imagination. But I am a café snob, and proud of it.

    It's not just about feeling edgy and looking down on corporate drones (though there is that): it's about preferring to spend one's time in a place that the owners actually care about. It's not just the tattooed and pierced Cuba/K-Road vibe: we have suburban cafés and suity coffeeshops that also manage to be individual, lively, personal and unique. Great customer service doesn't come from a manual: it comes from knowing your customers and loving the hospitality life.

    So, Mr Field, do you feel that "tattooed hipsters and surly short-film actresses" are judging you for your Dido and golf-casual wardrobe? Do you think that based upon external appearances, they take you for a bland, insecure, boring, humdrum suburbanite? Based upon this rant, they would be right to.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 1037 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to mobsta,

    NZ does have a strong coffee culture, but that doesn’t mean that people don’t mind fast-coffee which is OK.

    Agreed. Starbucks just seems the worst of all worlds – indifferent service, weak product, poor value and inflated sense of its own significance. I recall their head honcho grandly sweeping into town some years back to dispense judgement about our plainly inferior local offerings. Plonker.

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 15762 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to Matthew Reid,

    But did Italians bring espresso to NZ, were they owners/operators of early espresso serving coffee shops/cafes around the country?

    Well, my father and uncles weren’t, but I’m sure there was the odd one or two machines out the back of someone’s shed during those years. Whether that ever translated into a formal business somewhere, or whether it just laid the groundwork for later entrepreneurs to flourish, I don’t know.

    There definitely wasn’t anything like an espresso machine in use in the cafes of Hastings in the 1980s though. My father made do with Turkish-style coffee off the stove.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 838 posts Report Reply

  • Craig Ranapia,

    <i>From what I’ve seen, McCafe is consciously modelled on the same setup that works in your typical suburban cafe, rather than attempting to reinvent the wheel the way Starbucks did.</i>

    Indeed - last time David and I were tootling around in Oz, the McCafes we patronised scored a solid B. The coffee and food was respectable, and on one occasion wheremy order was farked it was done without attitude.Sometimes, good enough -- doing the basics well -- is just that.

    North Shore, Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 11621 posts Report Reply

  • mobsta,

    Hong Kong is filled with Starbucks, Seattle's Best Coffee et.al.
    I always struggled to find a good coffee anywhere.

    Then I discovered that Sanjay from Fuel Espresso (Wellington) had opened an espresso bar in the IFC Mall in Hong Kong.

    Firkin expensive (HKD$45 for a flat white, about NZD$7.50), but really, really good to this antipodean coffee snob, who was willing to pay any price....

    wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 8 posts Report Reply

  • giovanni tiso, in reply to Kebabette,

    Proving your point, here's a photo of a rather fine looking Gaggia coffee machine at work - Fail's Cafe, Christchurch ca. 1955

    Except one could point to France, a country dedicated to proving the point that you can use great coffee machines and still make consistently awful coffee. A friend of mine once got kicked out of a cafe in Nice because he ordered a coffee so long as he could make it himself. He could see they had the equipment...

    Wellington • Since Jun 2007 • 7315 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Dismal Soyanz,

    Until recently, Starbucks in Asia were cruising on a lack of real competition. I hear anecdotal evidence of people who have lived in places like Oz and NZ going back to Asia and starting cafes.

    That's not really fair at all. New Zealand styled coffee isn't as common but it's also not often demanded unless done so by tourists and expats, especially once you leave the bigger urban areas. Start a cafe if you wish but it will have little to do with selling coffee to most people born in Asia.

    There are coffee carts (which usually serve espresso plus about 10 other varieties) in every mall, big or small, and on the streets, in the tourist zones or not, across many towns and cities in the region. And it can be very good.

    In Asia, at least in SEA and China, Starbucks is not primarily a coffee chain - it sells fruity or chocolately fluffy things for the kids and young adults. You go elsewhere for a coffee hit.

    We travel the world, New Zealand included, with Kopi Bali or Kopi Jawa packets (very finely ground dark coffee which you simply pour hit water over and wait two minutes before partaking). It sells for about $3 a kilo and it's delicious & addictive. And we're obliged (nay, required) to bring it back to New Zealand for friends.

    In any small one bejak town in Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand you can find incredible coffee - it just may not come out of an espresso machine. The best caffeine hit I've had anywhere on this planet can be found in a small riverside retro cafe in Ratchaburi - slow dripped black syrup onto a bed of sweetened milk.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3185 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz, in reply to Craig Ranapia,

    Which amusingly is really the McD method - consistent if unspectacular quality.

    Too bad Starbucks didn't get the memo about quality.

    @Mobsta - For the sake of comparison, what's the going price for a HK Starbucks regular coffee these days?

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 168 posts Report Reply

  • andin, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    A friend of mine once got kicked out of a cafe in Nice because he ordered a coffee so long as he could make it himself. He could see they had the equipment…

    Snap! But I was in Clermont-Ferrand.

    raglan • Since Mar 2007 • 1149 posts Report Reply

  • mobsta,

    New Zealand styled coffee isn't as common but it's also not often demanded unless done so by tourists and expats,

    Yeah kind-off.
    The aforementioned Fuel in Hong Kong has queues out the door. Even at 10pm at night. Proof that really good coffee crosses cultures, albeit educated ones.

    The best caffeine hit I've had anywhere on this planet can be found in a small riverside retro cafe in Ratchaburi - slow dripped black syrup onto a bed of sweetened milk.

    Oh yes.
    Coffee slow dripped onto condensed milk.
    You can either drink the coffee from on top of the condensed milk and get a small hit of sweetness, or stir the whole lot in.
    Hmmm.....

    wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 8 posts Report Reply

  • mobsta,

    For the sake of comparison, what's the going price for a HK Starbucks regular coffee these days?

    Not sure.
    I go into Starbucks, buy a muffin, then sit down and talk to my wife on FaceTime for an hour.
    I've never looked at their coffees and prices.

    wellington • Since Jul 2009 • 8 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    In any small one bejak town in Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand you can find incredible coffee – it just may not come out of an espresso machine. The best caffeine hit I’ve had anywhere on this planet can be found in a small riverside retro cafe in Ratchaburi – slow dripped black syrup onto a bed of sweetened milk.

    Can vouch he's telling the truth. I'd swap kopi Jawa or kopi Aceh for espresso nine times out of ten. These are places which were in regular cultural and trade contact with the Arabian peninsular since the time coffee developed in the 16th century. There's a reason why coffee is often known as "java" (as much as I hate that as a generic term). They've had time to work out what works well. Unfortunately, real coffee grounds are quickly being replaced by generic packet grounds, which are cheaper and easier for desperately poor vendors to pour into from their over-the-shoulder thermos flasks.

    Espresso is just one way to extract a bean with water, there are plenty others. I'd love for some of the NZ cafes to start experimenting with other methods (they probably already are, I speak in ignorance at the moment).

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2079 posts Report Reply

  • Gabor Toth,

    I have a theory that the quality of a country's coffee is related to when there was a continental European immigration/influence.

    Most certainly true. I managed to bang on about this for several thousand words in a dissertation I did for a Public History Masters (I think it may still be up on the web somewhere in a truncated form) though in NZ it was as much the Dutch, Austrians and Hungarians as the Italians. Though we did have a small-scale espresso culture happening in metropolitan centres in the 1950s, it's safe to say that the coffee now is far better than it was then. Firstly the beans used today are much fresher (with the possible exception of Starbucks) but also the quality and level of maintenance of commercial espresso machines is far better now than it was. Import restrictions (particularly in the late 1950s) also made obtaining parts to service machines very difficult. That Gaggia machine shown in Fails Café in Christchurch is a pre-electric pump model where the cranking of the handle built up pressure in a piston which forced the hot water through the coffee. This adds another area of variation for the barista to deal with (in addition to tamp pressure, grind, humidity etc) and makes it all the more difficult to get consistent coffee. Cafés often even had to get special insurance as there was a belief (unfounded) that the machines could blow up. The hand-piston espresso machine was standard until relatively recently in Eastern Europe and from experience they can make some spectacularly bad coffee unless you happen to have a very dedicated barista.

    I’ve only ever had one coffee from a Starbucks and it was truly awful (Reading Cinema’s Branch, Courtenay Place, Wellington, come on down!) though I did once enjoy the guilty pleasure of some kind of iced coffee / icecream / cream / (+ chocolate probably) monstrosity.

    Wellington • Since Dec 2006 • 112 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    Sorry Simon - I don't see which part of that isn't fair.

    They (and their subsequent clones) did not compete on the basis of the quality of their coffee.

    Start a cafe if you wish but it will have little to do with selling coffee to most people born in Asia.

    From what I have seen of the cafes in Asia, 99% of their customers are Asian.

    You go elsewhere for a coffee hit.

    Obviously we have different experiences. I found it notoriously difficult to find a decent coffee in several Asian cities. Maybe now there are decent alternatives but when Starbucks first went into Asia there were none.

    I admit a lot of people go to Starbucks in Asia not for the real coffee but for things like the iced coffee (really just coffee flavoured milkshake) and the "fluffies" - but that's also because these are places for kids to meet that are air-conditioned. The real fluffy fans used to go to the bubble tea outlets.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 168 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to mobsta,

    The aforementioned Fuel in Hong Kong has queues out the door. Even at 10pm at night.

    Yeah, but HK, especially the island, like Singapore's CBD, are kind of exceptions to the rule. They are both very westernised. The point I was trying to make was that we perhaps shouldn't limit our coffee horizons to the Australasian stereotype of what good coffee is.

    But....

    Oh yes..

    You get that too ;)

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3185 posts Report Reply

  • Danielle, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    slow dripped black syrup onto a bed of sweetened milk

    Oh. Oh. I just remembered we used to get a variation of that in a Vietnamese restaurant in Houston. Drool.

    Charo World. Cuchi-cuchi!… • Since Nov 2006 • 3583 posts Report Reply

  • Simon Grigg, in reply to Dismal Soyanz,

    Obviously we have different experiences. I found it notoriously difficult to find a decent coffee in several Asian cities. Maybe now there are decent alternatives but when Starbucks first went into Asia there were none.

    Perhaps we define good coffee differently. If you mean good espresso in the style and surroundings many people in New Zealand would expect, I agree - but good coffee is another whole argument.

    Coffee is the one thing I've always found easy in Asia.

    Just another klong... • Since Nov 2006 • 3185 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz,

    OTOH, *$s doesn't charge a bank holiday surcharge, which rules out many NZ independent cafes for me.

    Also, quality coffee is widely available in the North Island, but not in the South. I recently had the worst coffee experience ever in suburban Christchurch - scalding hot and tasteless. Worse than any $*s, worse than the coffee machine at work, in fact, worse than instant. Only reasonable coffee I've found in CHC is C4, and anywhere rural is a write-off.

    Lack of tattoos and piercings, you see. The freakier the barista, the better the coffee. If they're clean cut, they typically won't make decent coffee. There's a mechanism for this - coffee shop workers huff whippits all the time they're not working. Only serious NOS freaks last the course and tolerate the poor wages and long hours for the time it takes to get competent. True fact.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 4221 posts Report Reply

  • steven crawford,

    I think Starbucks already uses milk powder milk. All they need is to add an aroma of kerosene, then they'll have something nostalgic.

    Since Nov 2006 • 2289 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    Well that does get esoteric. I spent a long enough time in Asia to get to appreciate the various local versions of coffee and tea. Some very nice, some gaggingly awful. If you were growing up as an urban kid in the major metropolitan cities of Asia in the 1990s, I'm pretty sure you would have thought Starbucks was nice.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 168 posts Report Reply

  • Ben Chapman, in reply to George Darroch,

    Espresso is just one way to extract a bean with water, there are plenty others. I’d love for some of the NZ cafes to start experimenting with other methods (they probably already are, I speak in ignorance at the moment).

    Customs and Memphis Belle in Wellington are pushing alternative extraction methods, such as Clover and Chemex, as well as resurrecting the plunger. Memphis Belle also produces cold-drip coffee (which apparently takes 12 hours to “brew” and is delicious.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2008 • 131 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Simon Grigg,

    In any small one bejak town in Indonesia, Malaysia or Thailand you can find incredible coffee – it just may not come out of an espresso machine. The best caffeine hit I’ve had anywhere on this planet can be found in a small riverside retro cafe in Ratchaburi – slow dripped black syrup onto a bed of sweetened milk.

    Yes, fair enough. There's coffee everywhere in South East Asia.

    Although I'd still have to say I don't really like the sweetened milk thing (especially when it's sweetened condensed milk) which is probably why I find the SE Asian styles potable enough but not really to my taste.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17976 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to Ben Chapman,

    Customs and Memphis Belle in Wellington are pushing alternative extraction methods, such as Clover and Chemex, as well as resurrecting the plunger. Memphis Belle also produces cold-drip coffee (which apparently takes 12 hours to “brew” and is delicious.

    I'm all for that. Must try some of those next time I'm down.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 17976 posts Report Reply

First ←Older Page 1 2 3 4 5 17 Newer→ Last

Post your response…

Please sign in using your Public Address credentials…

Login

You may also create an account or retrieve your password.