I stayed in Wellington with my coffee-obsessed best Kiwi friend Heidi last year, which meant that every day was a new coffee adventure. Spring in New Zealand is the perfect time to snuggle up with a cup of steaming coffee—whether the weather was tempestuous or sunny, espresso kept my eyes open for adventuring or some laptop time working indoors while the rain and wind went wild outside.
It would be absurd to say that we could have gone to every cafe in the city in less than a month (although I did go to just about every bookstore), but we did go to more than one a day. The coffee scene in New Zealand is invigorating, to say the least. Cafes are hip and chill, although they all have too much personality for me to feel comfortable camping out with my computer for hours of work on the free wifi. This is the atmosphere for intimate catch ups with friends or an hour of quiet contemplation over a sketchbook or journal.
Tasting the flavors of New Zealand through coffee is my favorite way to explore. Plus, the more caffeine I consume, the more energetically I travel, so it’s a win-win-win for me. Follow me through the coffee variations I sampled, and get inspired for a taste or two of your own.
A flat white is warm milk and espresso, but it has some vital and intimate difference from a latte that no one could quite explain to me. I know you can never get a flat white to go. If you do, it becomes a latte, but I really have no idea why. The extensive wikipedia page for flat white goes into great detail about the difference in volume and microfoam between a latte and a flat white, but it doesn’t mention a thing about flat white to go. Or maybe it does—I admit I skim-read.
The drink is the opposite of a dry cappuccino, more milk and less froth than a latte, with a closer ratio of espresso to milk for a stronger flavor, if that helps anyone.
This is smooth, it’s creamy, it goes down easy, and it’s a great way to start the morning. If you appreciate latte art, this is the beverage where local baristas let their talents shine.
Kiwis are obsessed with flat whites on a level of regional pride that rivals the love that Americans feel for the country’s flag. With the drink’s origins in Oceania, you can’t blame Kiwis for their adoration. The first thing New Zealanders asked me when they heard I was taking a tour of coffee was “how do you like the flat white?”
To be honest, this is not the drink for me. It was tasty, but since we were trying all the coffee that Wellington had to offer, I just couldn’t drink that much milk and still eat all the tasty food of New Zealand, so I went hunting for an alternative that would still keep me caffeinated.
This is not a beverage native to New Zealand, but it was my next stop after the flat white, since no one goes for weak, yet satisfying, brewed coffee like Americans do, as far as I can tell from my travels.
My best advice: don’t order an Americano outside of North America and Italy if your accent sounds like mine. It’s a good way to get “Americano for the American” jokes tossed around the coffee shop at your expense.
Besides, I was in New Zealand to experience New Zealand, not to caffeinate in the same old ways I always did at home. It was time to find a local solution to my milk problem that would let me drink as much coffee as my heart desired (and could stand without palpitations).
This is New Zealand’s version of an Americano, but like the latte/flat white pairing, they are also apparently completely and utterly opposed to each other in Kiwi coffee culture.
I admit, the alleged differences perturb me. According to Coffee of Day (and the rest of the internet), “A long black is made by pouring an espresso or ristretto over hot water. A long black is similar to an Americano, which is made by adding hot water to the espresso shot; but a long black retains the crema and is less voluminous, therefore more strongly flavored.”
To this, I cry bull. The consensus across the interwebz seems to be that a long black adds espresso to water, while an Americano adds water to espresso for an ultimately inferior beverage. But the coffee shop where I used to work trained us to add espresso to water for our Americanos. So everything I thought I knew is a lie.
The long black was what I finally settled on after my failed Americano orders. Hot and bold, blissfully smaller than the 12-ounce coffee that I can’t escape stateside, this woke me up and let me taste the flavors of the different beans and brews of Wellington without overwhelming myself with milk.
Okay, okay. This isn’t coffee. But much like with their coffee, Kiwis don’t mess around where hot chocolate is concerned. I don’t know if I’m just used to Heidi, but my impression of New Zealand’s sweet tooth is that the whole country knows what it’s doing as far as sweets go.
The hot chocolate I tried in Wellington laid the cream on thick and made my teeth ache with the real, rich chocolate in the mix. It’s not something I can handle every day, but boy is the New Zealand hot chocolate something I’ll remember.
Let me know in the comments what your favorite coffee is to drink in New Zealand! Click here for more New Zealand articles.