Hard News by Russell Brown

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

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  • Jacqui Dunn, in reply to giovanni tiso,

    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.

    Absolutely! Got to have it made by an Italian!

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

  • Lisa Wilde, 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.

    I made a throwaway comment to my brother, years ago, long before Flat White made it to Soho, that there was only one place to buy good coffee in the city. He told me later that night he'd found it. I was sceptical but, yes indeed, he'd stumbled across Monmouth. Its Borough Market shop does a roaring trade in single bean coffees from various parts of the globe, dripped through cone filters.

    Also, I have a theory that modern coffee culture really took off here in the aftermath of the '87 crash - in Wellington, at any rate. Loads of restaurants went under due to a sudden lack of expense account clients, and building development ground to a halt. It made sense for the resulting out of work chefs and wait-people to move into the acres of empty retail space and start dishing up good - but cheap - food, offering something in between coffee bars and fine dining. And it was almost impossible to get a liquor licence back then. So, coffee it was.

    Petone • Since Jan 2011 • 3 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd, in reply to Jacqui Dunn,

    There was at least one place with a working espresso machine and clientele in 1988 Hamilton, although damnit, the name escapes me now. Something blue something. Oh, and Pigeons. Make that two. By 1990 there was Metropolis and that place upstairs at Ward Lane whose name I can never remember either. All staffed by competent operators.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Islander,

    Always have my morning coffee (really good beans but Dutch farmhouse-style) with milk (plain unwhipped full milk). Coffee thereafter is wonderful espresso AND other styles, black, and the only sweetening -occaisional - is really good honey.
    Can i sing the praises
    of Tryphenna & central borage
    then kamahi?
    And laud the deep dark joy
    of Coastal manuka?

    Big O, Mahitahi, Te Wahi … • Since Feb 2007 • 5643 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher,

    [w]e like our trim flat whites to be served by tattooed hipsters and surly short-film actresses

    The funny thing is, when Starbucks opened in New Zealand, they didn't serve flat whites. They'd do you a "low-foam latte", but there was nothing officially called a flat white on its menu board.

    They eventually added it, probably because it's what every bloody New Zealander would have been asking for (apart from old people, who are stuck on cappuccinos).

    Starbucks still don't do "trim" milk though. It's "non-fat" in their lingo.

    Nathan Field seems to not realise that New Zealand has its own unique coffee culture. It has a lot in common with Australia (the long black and the flat white), but things like the giant milky latte (as opposed to the more restrained Australian version) have their own life in New Zealand.

    Why should we bend our tastes to the not-quite-right beverages on offer at Starbucks when the local cafes will give us exactly what we like?

    Also, "tattooed hipsters and surly short-film actresses"? Dude, it's not the '90s any more.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher, in reply to Stephen Judd,

    By 1990 there was Metropolis and that place upstairs at Ward Lane whose name I can never remember either.

    Naked Lunch, was the upstairs place. I was too scared to go there, and I was also too scared to go to Metropolis when it was in its original location.

    But I got over myself and discovered the OMG world of mochaccinos (hush, I was only 17).

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • Sacha, in reply to Robyn Gallagher,

    Nathan Field seems to not realise

    much

    Ak • Since May 2008 • 19745 posts Report Reply

  • BenWilson, in reply to Russell Brown,

    Here's where I admit that we also have a Presso.

    How heavy is it? I'm thinking hiking here.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 10657 posts Report Reply

  • Geoff Lealand,

    @Jacqui and Stephen; cafes and coffee on every corner in Hammy now and only one, under-frequented Starbucks downtown. Some of the best cafes in the country, apparently.
    @ Lucy. I have experienced the abomination that is tea-making in the US. Whenever I get to travel that way, I take my own supply of Choysa extra strong.
    If you get down this way, you should take tea at Zealong, a tea plantation on the Gordonton Road. Grows and brews its own Oolong.

    Screen & Media Studies, U… • Since Oct 2007 • 2562 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    I have to stand up for US coffee culture, but not Starbucks, spit

    We moved to the SF Bay Area in '84, NZ had almost no coffee culture at all, San Francisco/Berkeley/Oakland had lots of small cafes that made great coffee - great by all your standards ... there's a very old Italian espresso tradition probably coming out of North Beach, passed around by the Beats in the 50s - there were no chains.

    Mind you much of the rest of the country had diner swill.

    Berkeley had/has Peets, not really a cafe, but a small chain of coffee roasters - I used to bring tens of pounds of Peets dark roasts back to NZ as gifts, some time in the mid to late 90s they stopped being a big deal.

    So where did Starbucks come from? well Peets started a Seattle shop, after a year or so the people running it quit and started Starbucks, doing the corporate business school thing with coffee - there's a lot of bad blood between Peets/Starbucks

    A few years later Starbucks started to open stores in our neighbourhoods, they'd buy the lease out from under little local cafes, or if the couldn't they'd open across the street trying to shut them down - local people hated it, lots of people still boycott Starbucks (myself included, I've never been into the Dunedin one, though I occasionally use one in an airport).

    The other evil thing is that Starbucks has tried to change the language of coffee - in the US people use different words for their coffee from NZ (no one has the 'right' words it's a cultural thing) - I still can't buy what a "double non-fat latte" gets me in the US in NZ - I don't think there are words for it, (there 'double' means 'more' - here 'double' invites a discussion with the person behind the counter about how many shots are already in there) - if I ordered a 'flat white' in the US I'd get a blank stare, same for a 'bowl'.

    Anyway Starbucks has tried to change the language of ordering coffee so their customers can't order coffee elsewhere - want a small coffee, you have to order a 'tall', want a really large one order a Vente (TM) - yes they've trademarked the names for some of their coffees - my favourite joke is asking the counter person "Vente, isn't that Italian for 20?", "yes ...", "20 what?" "ounces", "couldn't be, they use metric measurements in Italy, wouldn't it be litres or millilitres?" "um, litres" .... Of course Vente is 20 in Italian and it does mean 20 US fluid ounces - and it's not legal in the US to trademark a number.

    So there is great coffee in the US, if you look for that little independent cafe in the right part of town with the great book stores - same basic rules apply, look for the servers with the piercings and tattoos

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Oh yeah and you notice I didn't say "barista" - while the name is starting to be used more widely in the US originally it was a term popularised by Starbucks to make their employees look more important or better trained

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Christopher Dempsey,

    I've enjoyed reading all these coffee related posts (and the one about honey - Islander - swap some of yours for our Parnell multiflora?).

    I can date my coffee 'snobbery' to the opening of Midnight Espresso on Cuba. A long black and cake was a regular treat. Midnight Espresso was one expression of a coffee culture developing here; I used to get my long blacks in Rotorua at a tourist place. Figures.

    Then I moved to Vancouver, and worked for the second ever 'international' Starbucks Store - Robson St, for 3 years. That was a very interesting experience, including smuggling knives and jeans back across the border when we were taken on the complusory Starbucks Roasting Plant tour (the Cdn $ was at parity then so stuff was cheap in the US and smuggling stuff back home was common). But SB Robson St was very busy. Very. Line ups out the door.McGuyver used to have a triple grande latte, and he would line up with the others.

    I think SB in North America is a particular cultural experience suited to North America. It's a North American thing. You'll get a reasonable double tall latte in most SB's no matter where. Not brilliant or anything like that - but then again, SB's never claimed to have brilliant coffees. Reliable, and consistent yes. But it's a different product to stuff you find at small independent stores you'll find sprinkled across most major metropolitan centres and small liberal cities in North America, many of which sprung up post-SB's. Like Bulldog coffee near Church St in Toronto.

    More importanly, they educated hundreds of thousands about making coffee at home. We were trained to teach our customers how to make the 'perfect' cup at home - plunger mostly. We sold beans that were single origin, and blends. We ground the beans for whatever machine the customer had. I got a pound a week free, which was great. I learnt about coffee from different places around the world e.g. Indonesia versus Kenya. I distinctly remember a delicious Mexican coffee that wonderfully poured from my plunger one winter morning. I learnt what quality beans were like.

    Then I moved back here in 96, and goodness, good coffee was a little thin on the ground - apart from isolated iconic places like DKD. So when SB opened in Parnell, I worked for them for two years part-time, mostly because I couldn't find any beans anywhere that was worthy of being taken home and brewed up.

    The funny thing is, when Starbucks opened in New Zealand, they didn’t serve flat whites. They’d do you a “low-foam latte”, but there was nothing officially called a flat white on its menu board.

    They eventually added it, probably because it’s what every bloody New Zealander would have been asking for (apart from old people, who are stuck on cappuccinos).

    This is true. It was called a short double latte. But so many asked for Flat Whites and Long Blacks (Americanos) that the NZ operation changed its board. Don't underestimate this; SB's was very resistant to changing anything, so for them to bend to local customs was significant.

    I think SBs had a postive impact on the coffee scene - in the sense of spurring innovation and competition. While they welcomed it (a la North America - growing the pie means more profit) - I think in retrospect they underestimated our particular coffee culture.

    I would also point out that subsequent to SB's opening up here, the quality of coffee beans available to be taken home and brewed up increased markedly. I suspect the influence of SBs in this in some way. Every morning I offer small thanks to them for broadening up the take-home bean market for me to make my morning brew...

    Parnell / Tamaki-Auckland… • Since Sep 2008 • 659 posts Report Reply

  • Anne M,

    SB's can't even make a hot chocolate that my unsophisticated kids think is good. They always were doomed

    Since Nov 2006 • 104 posts Report Reply

  • Jonathan King,

    Curious, anyone out there have a good word to say about Nespresso machines?

    I drank a number of these -- for free -- at the, er, Cannes Film Festival last year. The coffee's actually pretty good -- say, better than your average-to-bad local espresso, not as good as a really good one ...

    But fuck owning one -- you have to buy their little pre-packed sachet / magazine things and insert them into the machine ... The Gillette, buy the handle and then be locked into the expensive blades, principle.

    Since Sep 2010 • 185 posts Report Reply

  • Stephen Judd,

    Naked Lunch, was the upstairs place. I was too scared to go there

    AAAAAH! Thank you! I spent a LOT of time lurking up there after gigs downstairs, and they catered my wedding, so I'm pretty ashamed of not being able to remember the name. You shouldn't have been scared, the operators were very nice people.

    Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 3122 posts Report Reply

  • Hilary Stace,

    Just had a strange sensory flashback to my childhood - while reading this busy indulgent thread - of my father (who never cooked) grinding up coffee beans which my mother bought in paper bags from Faggs in Cuba Street (they weighed them out for you), and making coffee on the stove in one of those metal perculators which unscrews in the middle. I can smell it and hear it gurgling and hissing. Then it was poured into cute little black expresso cups with coloured saucers, for dinner guests. Must have been early 60s.

    Wgtn • Since Jun 2008 • 3227 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    My father was turned on to coffee in the desert during the war - he still cooked it the same way they did in a billy in the desert - it was just the way he liked it - he'd buy beans (almost impossible in Dunedin, there was only one supplier), grind them, throw them in a pot of boiling water, wait a little, then use a little salt to settle the grounds .....

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Jacqui Dunn, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    of my father (who never cooked) grinding up coffee beans which my mother bought in paper bags from Faggs in Cuba Street

    My auntie, who seemed sooooo sophisticated (she smoked, drove a car, and wore slacks when everyone else female wore "frocks") got hers from Faggs. The smell of the beans in Cuba St, and the smell of coffee percolating in her house is quite an early memory for me. For a long time, the only place you could get it was Faggs, I suspect. Before Fuller Fulton's, where we bought the first camembert we ever tasted.

    Her sister, my mother, was a tea drinker. Never coffee. She claimed it made her cough (coff?)

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

  • quentin c,

    Starbucks in NY is definitely about free wifi and free toilets.

    China already has a Taiwanese Starbucks-ripoff chain 'Ecoffee' spreading throughout, so they are stuffed there. Link to an old article here: http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/biz/archives/2005/02/26/2003224678
    Check the 2nd photo, a total logo rip.

    The Starbucks in Three Lamps was definitely farting against thunder. Free wifi though. If they'd done that when they set up shop in NZ, then who knows.

    Since Nov 2009 • 7 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Oh – one other thing about coffee and language in California – a lot of places have hispanic people working behind the counter – at my old local the Mexican crew would service a line out the door every morning far faster than any NZ counter I’ve ever seen – one guy taking money, another gets pastries and a third, just one guy, makes coffees – he writes nothing down and has 4-5 orders in progress at once and never forgets – there’s a strange mix of language you often hear people ordering in, a mix of coffee-italian, english and spanish, “two non fat lattes por favor”

    There’s also a tradition of busing ones own table, not required, but it’s polite, something that’s hard to do in NZ because there’s nowhere to put the stuff – I keep looking around for a dirty dish basin in the corner somewhere but there’s never one, I still feel like I’m letting the side down when I leave with dishes on the table

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Paul Campbell,

    Talking about coffee in Taiwan (there are Starbucks everywhere) - I always wondered about the english name of the coffee place on the street below the supplier I've been visiting a lot recently: "Coffee cake touched"

    Dunedin • Since Nov 2006 • 2622 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    and don't forget Trade Aid has also helped bring in more and more coffee while ensuring growers get best prices...

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7953 posts Report Reply

  • nzlemming, in reply to Hilary Stace,

    coffee beans which my mother bought in paper bags from Faggs in Cuba Street (they weighed them out for you),

    Ah, yes! I used to work across the road in James Smiths (when it actually was James Smiths). I loved going into Faggs and buying coffee – the smell alone could keep me going. I would buy the beans for Mum who had a wall-mounted ceramic grinder (wish I’d kept it) and made coffee in one of those stove-top bubbling percolators with the glass top. Truly horrible coffee IIRC but still better than instant ;-)

    Faggs was also an importer of odd confectionery, like Dutch liquorice (salty!) and English sweets like CurlyWurlys. So sad when they closed and were replaced by a second-hand sportsgoods store.

    Waikanae • Since Nov 2006 • 2935 posts Report Reply

  • Robyn Gallagher, in reply to Christopher Dempsey,

    Don’t underestimate this; SB’s was very resistant to changing anything, so for them to bend to local customs was significant.

    My other Starbucks observation - when I was in Australia in 2001, I noticed that the Starbucks cup range was Short, Tall and Grande, whereas in New Zealand it was Tall, Grande and Venti (though Short was available on request). NZ SEZ MOAR COFFEE PLZ!

    This matches the way Australian cafes so coffee - if you order a latte, you'll get a neat glass, not a massive bowl.

    Raglan • Since Nov 2006 • 1946 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I remember how excited we were when our Aunt gave us her used percolator.

    I didn’t drink an espresso til 2002, when I was in my first year of uni. Partly, the culture wasn’t established then, and partly the idea of spending $3 on a cup of coffee just didn’t make sense in my family.

    What an amazing experience that first latte was. I’d gone vegan by then, so my experience of cafe culture, in NZ and elsewhere is entirely in soy and simple espresso/long black/americano. I find that in Wellington I can trust most places to make a soy latte or cappucino, but elsewhere I’m better off just getting a flat white. Steam burns through soy a lot more easily, so the less frothing in untrained hands, the better. I’ve done it behind a counter myself and I don’t think it’s that hard, but it seems to be for a lot of cafe staff. Vitasoy have released a cafe specific product which should improve things in NZ, for both the competent and the not-so-competent.

    WLG • Since Nov 2006 • 2264 posts Report Reply

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