But New Zealand, really? Not for a millisecond did I suspect it! I am certain that my earlier and very mistaken conviction of this country’s mediocre cuisine would somehow extend to coffee, kind of like Canada. After all, culturally we have the same roots. Yes, I blame Britain. I had visions of bad filtered Irish Cream flavoured coffees likened to the “pisswasser” one readily finds in Canada (Tim Horton’s anybody?). I am sure this contributed to my growing anxiety before moving down here. I continue to be proven wrong, oh so wrong.
A few of the many lovely coffees I've enjoyed around NZ
A flat white
I mean, it’s not like there are just a handful of really good coffee houses sprinkled around the city centre, the kind of destination spots you can only access when you’re in the area if you’re not lucky enough to live in hipster-land, as is the case in Toronto. Oh no, it’s far more democratic than that. Everyone gets access to the good stuff, everywhere! Just drop by a BP station for a fill-up and you’ll get a damn good cappuccino, no problem.
A BP station in Auckland adversising their flat white coffee
What is going on here? Could it be some kind of a small man complex? To go so far as to train gas station attendants to use real espresso machines and then have them actually turn out a decent latte! I’ll need to dig deeper.
So it appears that in the last couple of decades, New Zealand has undergone a coffee revolution as many Kiwis have become connoisseurs of coffee. The increased popularity of coffee has prompted a growth industry with new cafés and coffee roasting outlets springing up all over the country. Coffee-making is also very competitive, with baristas vying to make the perfect cup of coffee and coffee drinkers becoming very selective in their choice. So far, not much different from Toronto, except that Starbucks hardly stands a chance in NZ. I wonder if Starbucks consumers qualify as coffee connoisseurs in Toronto? (I hope not).
A cortado from Altezano in Auckland
New Zealand coffee connoisseurs will go a long way to get their daily caffeine fix, and favoured cafés can be anything from a‘hole-in-the-wall’ or mobile outlet just big enough to accommodate a good coffee machine and its skilled operator to stylish venues with lounge-style seating serving gourmet treats and meals. Here’s where they’ve really got it right. I mean good coffee is very accessible in NZ, particularly when you factor in the dozens of coffee mobiles trolling around town ready to dispense their liquid gold. I simply love them!
You didn’t know, did you?
New Zealand baristas have consistently shown their passion and expertise scoring in the top ten at world competitions since 2002.
New Zealand has more roasters per capita than anywhere in the world, and The Coffee Lovers lay claim to the fact that Kiwi coffees are also the best in the world.
The flat white debate
New Zealand has also gained notoriety on the world's coffee scene having been credited with pioneering the "flat white" - traditionally a less milky brew with textured rather than frothy milk.
The flat white is enjoying new popularity in Britain and the United States, attributed not just to the demand from the number of Aussies and Kiwis travelling overseas, but also the many Australasians who work as baristas in cities like London and New York.
But wait, the Kiwis have landed here too! I’ve been alerted by my friend T that there are some new players in town like Te Aro. I trust her judgement when she tells me they are extraordinary and yes, Torontonians can finally experience the joys of the flat white now (http://www.te-aro.ca/pages/about-us).
It’s a good thing I am in Toronto this month I really miss the flat white.
And if you don’t know, now you know.