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

  • nic.wise,

    US starbucks is in the top 10% of coffee in the US. Needless to say, the bottom 90% can hardly be called coffee (tho by comparison, US drip isn't too bad)

    In the UK, SB's is pretty much the best of the chains, which isn't saying much, but London has a fast growning coffee culture, and it's not just the kiwis and aussies pushing it forward - the poms are getting into it too (best/most bizaar: a shot from Gwilym Davies at Prufrock in Shoreditch (world barista champ of a few years ago) weighing the shot, and stopping at _exactly_ 20g of espresso.... was VERY good tho)

    I've always been both impressed and disgusted by italian and french coffee. IT's very hit and miss, zero crema, but I love how they do it - it's quick (VERY quick), cheap (90 euro cents usually) and chearful. Great way to start a day (much better than $3.50 for an espresso. Come on NZ, this is just getting stupid)

    So, in the US: SB's is at the 90% mark. It's possible to find _ok_ coffee around, but good coffee, outside of NY, SF, and Seattle is difficult.

    In the UK, it's about 95% outside of London or somewhere "hip" like Brighton or Bristol, and maybe 75% in London (ie, there's lots of better cafe's around, but you have to hunt a little)

    In NZ, it was always about 25% - bottom of the heap. Never had a reason to go to one in NZ, really.

    I've not tried it in asia for a while, tho their coffee is generally _awful_, so I suspect they'll do ok.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 83 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn, in reply to Alastair Jamieson,

    Millers used to process their beans, which was the first time I'd seen it done. Not sure about DKD. Only went there once, and got some of their chocolate cake. The slab was vast, but the actual cake part was only about an inch thick in the middle; however the whole slice was about four inches thick, so guess what was in the gap? Chocolate icing.

    And before you say, Yum - that much chocolate icing was just a crint too much!

    Deepest, darkest Avondale… • Since Jul 2010 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • Dylan Reeve,

    I've never found Starbucks to be all that bad really. It's probably never given me a stellar cup of coffee, but it's also never really failed to the extent of some of the suburban cafes I've been to either, where scalded milk and undrinkably hot cups are not that uncommon. There are some cafes where I consistently get really good coffee, and some where it's a real craps shoot. Starbucks at least delivers a consistently reasonable cup.

    That said, I'm obviously no coffee connoisseur, but I do appreciate the odd cup, and I can at least taste a terrible coffee.

    Of course the article is still absurd.

    Auckland • Since Aug 2008 • 259 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to Alastair Jamieson,

    Like many others I fondly remember DKD (especially their epic chocolate cake!), but it always seems to me that Millers was first off the block. Both the websites state they started in 1984 (my 1st year at University), but can anyone here shed light on which was first?

    Apparently The Robert Harris at the top of Parnell had the first espresso group head machine in Auckland, and Derek and co used to go get the young University student working there to make various coffees for them to try. My sources tell me DKD was next, but others in the know might be able to add more.

    'Just Desserts' in a building accessed off the stairs in Khartoum Place

    Started uni in 85 and used to play chess and backgammon there of an evening. Great place. But for coffee and cake, DKD all the way. The Chocolate cake was legendary, as mentioned above.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn, in reply to BenWilson,

    it’s not crossing my palette again.

    My my - you paint with the stuff?

    Deepest, darkest Avondale… • Since Jul 2010 • 585 posts Report Reply

  • Whoops,

    One of many surreal experiences in China (with photographic proof somewhere) was entering a Starbucks inside the Forbidden City in Beijing.

    Just. Plain. Out. Of. Place.

    (and the coffee was bad there too!)

    here • Since Apr 2007 • 103 posts Report Reply

  • recordari, in reply to Jacqui Dunn,

    My my - you paint with the stuff?

    It's all it's good for. Burnt ink is a fair description.

    AUCKLAND • Since Dec 2009 • 2607 posts Report Reply

  • Sam F, in reply to Whoops,

    One of many surreal experiences in China (with photographic proof somewhere) was entering a Starbucks inside the Forbidden City in Beijing.

    This weirded me out too. If I recall right there was some angling to have it removed, but possibly just too good an earner?

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 1566 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Alastair Jamieson,

    drinking a lot of late night coffee at ‘Just Desserts’ in a building accessed off the stairs in Khartoum Place

    divine apple cake, and conversation with Jack Henderson

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 16794 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson,

    Only marginally better, in my opinion, than instant coffee.

    I dispute that. Instant coffee is, at least, nearly instant. Starbucks are as slow as a wet week.

    My my - you paint with the stuff?

    LOL, stoopid autocorrect.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8598 posts Report Reply

  • Julian Melville, in reply to Paul Williams,

    Campos... nice. I used to live just a bit further down the road in St Peters. Central Sydney is a bit of a crap shoot for good coffee though, a lot of the little places round town make abysmal coffee even when the food's fine.

    Auckland • Since Dec 2006 • 184 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Reid,

    I have a theory that the quality of a country's coffee is related to when there was a continental European immigration/influence. North America got its immigration of Italians in the late 19th century, before the espresso machine was invented (around the turn of the century), and with them the predominant coffee preparation method of the time - some form of drip/percolation/filter process. Australia, and presumably NZ, had an influx of Italians and other continental Europeans after WWII, and with them the magnificent espresso machine.

    Hence NZers taste for espresso surpasses the Starbucks muck, whereas in the US and Canada any imprvement in the method of preparation was a hit, starting in Seattle and spreading elsewhere. I'm not sure if the theory works for South America - anyone had good coffee in Argentina?

    South Africa • Since Nov 2006 • 79 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to nic.wise,

    US starbucks is in the top 10% of coffee in the US. Needless to say, the bottom 90% can hardly be called coffee (tho by comparison, US drip isn’t too bad)

    Well, less bad, but yeah. I once made the mistake of ordering an espresso from a roadside coffee stand in San Francisco and it was traumatically awful. I had to buy some water to wash the taste out of my mouth.

    But I did have the good fortune to stay next to a wonderful, hippyish cafe in Sebastapol when I went there for Foo Camp. Excellent espresso (I enthused to them about how they’d saved my life) and really, really yummy muffins.

    In the UK, SB’s is pretty much the best of the chains, which isn’t saying much, but London has a fast growning coffee culture, and it’s not just the kiwis and aussies pushing it forward – the poms are getting into it too (best/most bizaar: a shot from Gwilym Davies at Prufrock in Shoreditch (world barista champ of a few years ago) weighing the shot, and stopping at _exactly_ 20g of espresso…. was VERY good tho)

    Oh, I’m sure – but the influence of the Antipodeans in that development is fascinating. Funny thing is, the good suppliers have always been there. I used to go and buy a pound of beans from Monmouth in Covent Garden on paydays when I was working at a record shop in the West End. There, Forbidden Planet and the second-hand bookshops in Charing Cross Road. Good times.

    I’ve always been both impressed and disgusted by italian and french coffee. IT’s very hit and miss, zero crema, but I love how they do it – it’s quick (VERY quick), cheap (90 euro cents usually) and chearful. Great way to start a day (much better than $3.50 for an espresso. Come on NZ, this is just getting stupid)

    The rest of Europe is a rip, though. Paid the equivalent of $NZ6 for a reasonably decent espresso in Amsterdam.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18991 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Certainly some of the worst espresso I’ve had has been in provincial cafes in NZ where an untrained person has charge of the machine.

    A few months ago I absent-mindedly pulled a shot at home through a used puck of grounds, lord knows how. The resulting coffee I tasted for science, and to my surprise it was exactly like a terrible long black I’d had in New Plymouth on the way back from WOMAD. I began to wonder if someone had figured out you could save money by reusing grounds.

    Starbucks, by comparison, has never produced something so awful for me. To qualify that, I’ve never been to an NZ Starbucks, only Starbucks in the US, Canada* and the UK, so perhaps the surrounding coffee wasteland made it taste better.

    *if you are stuck in Vancouver, go to Wicked Coffee, see last para. They know what they are doing.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 2968 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to Sam F,

    From what little I’ve heard, McCafe is doing alright for McDonalds; I wonder what they’re doing right that Starbucks did wrong?* Might be an exercise for a really good senior analyst…

    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 was quite surprised when McDonalds went this way, but it's hard to argue that it works better than you'd expect.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 862 posts Report Reply

  • Dismal Soyanz,

    From the original article:

    A reason New Zealand has never embraced Starbucks is that we are a nation of shameless coffee snobs.

    Snobs? For not wanting to get a coffee from a chain that looks (and arguably) tastes corporately-bland? Ok - I'm a snob then.

    My first experience with Starbucks was in Asia. At that time, there was no such thing as a decent coffee [local variations which were very different aside]. It was, quite literally, Starbucks or nothing. Then we got other chain stores such as Gloria Jeans, Coffee Club and Tea Leaf and (Coffee) Bean. I tried them all and to be honest, found it very hard to differentiate between them. Same taste, same decor (practically), just different addresses. It became a habit, popping downstairs to the nearest Starbucks before getting stuck into work.

    Eventually I went back to Oz and after having my first coffee in Sydney, I vowed to never set foot in a Starbucks again.

    In other words, Starbucks stores are a little too close to our humdrum, middle class lives.

    I guess if you see the coffee equivalent of MacD's as middle class then, yes.

    But here's a newsflash: the Seattle-based Starbucks doesn't give a white chocolate mocha about New Zealand's coffeehouse snobbery. It wants the big markets: the Americas, Western Europe, and the mother of all growth opportunities, Asia.

    Americas - done. W. Europe - Good luck with that.

    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. Unfortunately, I don't hold out much expectation for them to compete well against the likes of Starbucks. One of the things that strike me about the cafes down under is their "kick backed-ness" - not something that seems to gel with life in Asia (or at least in the CBDs). I could be wrong. Maybe they will stick it to the Mona Lisa. Here's hoping.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2010 • 295 posts Report Reply

  • Russell Brown, in reply to HORansome,

    Just browsed over to the Espresso Engineers' site, which doesn't seem to have been updated since 2003/4 if this page is any indication.

    No. They've got a new website in the works.

    I almost sold them on an ad contra for part of the cost of the Domobar, but it didn't work out. Curses.

    Interestingly, Noel Leeming's new "Lifestyle" sections stock Domobars imported by Espresso Engineers, so I'd guess they'll be turning up in a few more households now.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 18991 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    The rest of Europe is a rip, though. Paid the equivalent of $NZ6 for a reasonably decent espresso in Amsterdam.

    Yeah, espresso seemed to be the exception there, if you asked for coffee you got filter. Same in Germany. Admittedly, if I went to a coffee shop in the 'Dam, it was the standard euphemism for a place that specialized in other things. Which I also thought wasn't any better than NZ stuff, other than the novelty of having it in a coffee shop. It was a little alarming to be called a "connoisseur" by one of the local vendors, just because I wasn't wetting my pants with excitement like all the other foreigners, and was able to pass informed judgment after sampling.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 8598 posts Report Reply

  • Andre Alessi, in reply to Matthew Reid,

    Australia, and presumably NZ, had an influx of Italians and other continental Europeans after WWII, and with them the magnificent espresso machine.

    Yeah, that sounds plausible. My father and his two brothers moved here in the late Sixties as part of the construction boom and settled in Island Bay for about a decade before dispersing around the country.

    Devonport, New Zealand • Since Nov 2006 • 862 posts Report Reply

  • nic.wise, in reply to Russell Brown,

    I used to go and buy a pound of beans from Monmouth in Covent Garden on paydays when I was working at a record shop in the West End. There, Forbidden Planet and the second-hand bookshops in Charing Cross Road. Good times.

    I still do - well, the monmouth in Borough Market anyway. Still the best, most consistent beans in the city IMO.

    In the US, I've always managed to find the good coffee on the last couple of days we were there - be it in Maidson, WI, New York, SF or Chicago. Very frustrating. Now I just google for someone selling Stumptown - also not always the best, but usually better than most.

    The rest of Europe is a rip, though. Paid the equivalent of $NZ6 for a reasonably decent espresso in Amsterdam.

    yeah, I've had both good and bad all over europe. Denmark, however. Wow. 25DKK for an espresso - thats 3 GBP or so, or $6-8NZ. It wasn't good either.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 83 posts Report Reply

  • Nick Melchior,

    I'm not a coffee drinker but an espresso machine was part of my wife's requirements for moving to Singapore in 2009. But there's quite good coffee in a number of places in Singapore now. It's almost all Australian in origin (owners/barristas etc) and tends to be in odd places due to the price of commercial rent. But Starbucks (and the local Starbucks, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf) are on every corner.

    Melbourne • Since Nov 2006 • 31 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Reid,

    I’ve always been both impressed and disgusted by italian and french coffee. IT’s very hit and miss, zero crema, but I love how they do it – it’s quick (VERY quick), cheap (90 euro cents usually) and chearful. Great way to start a day (much better than $3.50 for an espresso. Come on NZ, this is just getting stupid)

    At least in Italy, along with salt, the price of coffee is regulated, at least if you stand at the bar.

    South Africa • Since Nov 2006 • 79 posts Report Reply

  • Anarchangel,

    Starbucks in the US is great for one reason, and it's got nothing to do with the coffee.

    Free wifi in every store.

    That said, most independent coffee shops I've encountered in the US do this too. The American "work in a coffee shop" culture demands it. Sadly, not only does Starbucks NZ lack that draw, but NZ doesn't have that same cultural driver.

    Since Sep 2007 • 8 posts Report Reply

  • Matthew Reid,

    Yeah, that sounds plausible. My father and his two brothers moved here in the late Sixties as part of the construction boom and settled in Island Bay for about a decade before dispersing around the country.

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

    South Africa • Since Nov 2006 • 79 posts Report Reply

  • Whoops,

    Another coffee anecdote... draw up a stool, young child, and I will try to amuse you..


    When I used to live/work in the UK I had to spend 6 weeks on a mission-from-hell assignment in Milan.

    It was a fiendishly difficult task (space do-hickey), and my hosts would yell 'coffee break' (in Italian obviously) whenever something requiring deep thought popped up (i.e. every 15 minutes or so).... I could keep up with the coffee breaks for the first week, but after that my body started to do very strange things.

    If I remember correctly the brand of choice was Kimbo, or Bimbo, or something.

    Double shot, tiny, tiny plastic cups served from one of the million vending machines (yes!) around the office...

    here • Since Apr 2007 • 103 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.