2 Coffee Junkies on the Hunt for Good Brews around New Zealand
Our first impression of the New Zealand coffee culture was pretty disappointing, instant coffee simply doesn’t do it. But we were proven wrong! So, in the case you have a craving for great coffee, here is our guide to the 10 Best Coffee Roasters in New Zealand plus where to find the best Long Black and Cappuccino!
I have been a coffee addict for quite a few years. From time to time I take a short break from coffee but let's be honest, its just not the same without it. A good day starts with a good cup of coffee. Even though Nora discovered the awesome taste of plain Long Blacks and Americanos more recently, she always loved the smell. It reminds her of those weekend mornings where her mom and dad made coffee, prepared breakfast and you could already smell that it was about time to eat. Today she is probably more snobby about coffee than me! :D
Where do we start... our first impression of the New Zealand coffee culture was pretty disappointing, instant coffee simply doesn’t do it. But we were proven wrong! We quickly developed a routine when visiting a new town along our roadtrip to look up well rated cafes and coffee roasters to enjoy a good cup of joe.
From mostly drinking Cappuccino, Nora developed a taste for straight black coffee right here in New Zealand thanks to the REALLY awesome coffee roasters all over the two islands. Not only is the coffee exemplary here, you get a sense that the roasters and cafes are progressive when it comes to considering their environmental impact on the world. Specifically, the waste that is produced from being in the coffee business. You'll notice that almost all coffee places have an option to bring your own cup and get a discount as well as programs for recycling coffee beans and fair trade with suppliers.
Bubus Café, Taupo
Where it all began, where we found out what the NZ coffee scene truly has to offer. While working on our van in Taupo and desperate for a good coffee, it was more than convenient having a coffee shop near by.
The owners focus on good coffee, roasting their beans in-house (they are both SCA trained - Specialty Coffee Association) with no other unnecessary knick knacks. The interior has a simple Scandinavian interior design which is great for just dropping in for a coffee or extended chill sessions. But it also provides a good work atmosphere.
Both roasters/owners are super friendly people as well. You can tell that they truly care about coffee and their craft as well as making their customers happy. Their mission is to introduce coffee culture to New Zealand, bringing its delicacy to the people. They even took half a year to choose the perfect coffee biscuit to accompany their brews. Bubu is a little out of the way of downtown, but it is well worth the short drive.
Escape, New Plymouth
New Plymouth already has it all, beautiful beaches with rough surf, laid back vibe and chill local culture all set to the backdrop of the imposing, conical Mount Taranaki. What could make this area better? An excellent coffee roastery that embodies what makes the area special.
Escape Coffee Roasters is a locally owned, converted building that combines surf shop, chill out area and coffee. When you walk in you'll see a bunch of skateboards, surfboards and gear everywhere. Then when you venture deeper you'll see a humble middle island from where they serve their delightful brews!
We got there later in the day shortly before closing time and the baristas were in a good mood, chatting up customers, laughing with each other and all around just loving their jobs and work space. We ordered a long black and a cappuccino from their Black Bird Organic Fair Trade Dark Roast. Rich, robust and smooth it was heaven in a cup! To our surprise, our coffee was on the house! Maybe because we were the last guests, who knows but it made us quite happy. :)
When you drop by to bask in the glory of towering Taranaki, be sure to stop by Escape. They not only serve up top coffee, they also have yoga classes, live music on occasion and even a shower in their bathroom. :D
Ozone, New Plymouth
While Escape Roasters embodies the surfer vibe that is New Plymouth, Ozone is almost the polar opposite. It has the refinement and classy simplicity you would expect from a chic cafe in Hamburg or Stockholm. While Escape produces excellent brews without fanfare, when you walk into Ozone you get the immediate sense that they take their coffee seriously!
On the left side there is the barista's area with a massive La Marzocco espresso machine with a backdrop of ivory white tiles. Opposite you’ll find a pastry counter and little shop where you can buy all manner of slick coffee gear. Adding to that there is a spacious seating area that feels cozy while still never feeling claustrophobic, a perfect place to meetup with friends or sit and work! They also have outdoor seating!
C4 Coffee, Christchurch
Christchurch is a special city, still in the process of rebuilding after the recent earthquakes, you'll see a lot of remaining rubble and buildings under repair/renovation. That is at first glance however, if you look deeper you'll see a resilient and vibrant city that has risen to the challenge of bettering their home.
Chief amongst the rebuilding city you'll notice that small, local businesses are everywhere, some of them Coffee Roasters and Cafes. One of the Roasters that we think best shows off the culture of ChCh is C4 Coffee. Situated in a huge, renovated industrial warehouse, C4 is hands down the most visually impressive roaster that we've ever stepped foot in. Not just in New Zealand but out of anywhere we've been.
When you first walk in via an old loading ramp, you are greeted by an immense sense of space. On the left there is the baristas counter with cozy laptop friendly seating, on the right you see the huge roasting machines where the magic happens and towards the back there is a shop that sells every type of coffee accessory that you could imagine and ones you had no idea existed until setting foot in C4.
Variety is the name of the game here, there are almost as many brew methods to choose from as there are roasts available. You can order all the typical coffee preparations like filter, espresso and drip but if you're feeling wild you can also request Aeropress, Moka Pot, hand poured, french press, Chemex, Syphon (looks like a crazy chemistry device you'd have used in High School) and more.
C4's brew methods are certainly a draw for coffeephiles, now you just have to decide on which roast to go with (no easy task as there are over 200 different roast+brew options to choose from)! To start, there are blended roasts with quirky names like Krank (house blend), Headset and Villain. Then you have a generous selection of Single Origin roasts from countries that would also make for a pretty sweet travel bucket list, Congo, Brazil, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Indonesia and the list goes on.
It would be hard to say which roast and brew type to go with, so you'll just have to drop by C4 to see what the fuss is about! Bonus: you can even order from C4, they have free shipping in New Zealand, so you never have to be left wanting! In fact, while writing this in Wanaka, we're drinking the V6 blended roast (if only coffee stains could come through on a blog!).
Addington Coffee Co-Op, Christchurch
Another prime example of what makes Christchurch, well Christchurch! Addington Coffee is located in yet another big, old renovated, spacious building. The space has the feel of a big communal gathering area and as you walk in you are hit with the smell of coffee, pastries and delicious food. You'll immediately notice a bike hanging from the ceiling and the antique looking coffee roaster in the back left corner.
Where the coffee roasters we've previously written about focus primarily on coffee, Addington is equal parts awesome coffee and tasty, visually appealing food. The Big House Breakfast for me and a tasty bagel with scrambled eggs for Nora. A yummy sweet treat can’t be missed either!
The food and coffee are great, but Addington really shines when it comes to their business philosophy and mission. They are all about fair, ethical business practices and giving back to the community. In fact, they contribute 70% of their profits to giving back to the local community as well as contributing to the producers they source their coffee from abroad. This is reinforced by the little shop at the front. It sells mostly local products as well as products from overseas in struggling communities.
If you value supporting a business that serves top notch food and coffee while also doing its part to make the world, both locally and internationally, a better place then you can't miss this gem in Christchurch
Blink Coffee Bar, Nelson
Most cafes are pretty easy to spot from a distance, you know the look, a bunch of people sitting down, chatting and laughing all while sipping their drinks. Blink on the other hand is almost a secret spot that you would likely miss if you didn't know what you were looking for!
Blink is hidden down a narrow walkway sandwiched between two small clothing stores. It is literally just a cube with a guy, an espresso machine, some pictures including a Stormtroopers face and a bar stool for him to sit on.
Don't let that fool you though, Blink has removed all of the unnecessary bits of a typical cafe and puts the excellent espresso front and center as the only focus. What it lacks in ambiance and even seating, it makes up for in divine coffee. But that’s the whole point. Good coffee for people on the go. Make sure to grab a brew while exploring the Nelson farmer's market!
Kuku Coffee, Dunedin
As you travel around New Zealand and take some time to explore the cities and towns, you'll begin to notice the Kiwis who have said no to the typical 9 to 5 and chosen to open up their own business. Kūkū coffee perfectly demonstrates this entrepreneurialism (fun fact: Kūkū is the Maori name for the New Zealand pigeon).
Located on the western side of Dunedin, Kūkū Coffee sits inside a humble building no bigger than a doctor's waiting room. Jared takes his coffee seriously, but not in a pretentious way. After working as a coffee roaster for 13+ years, Jared decided to apply his skills to his own business.
It's pretty easy finding the biggest and best coffee roaster in a city, but it is significantly harder to find hidden gems like Kūkū, we almost missed it. There are no frills or fluff, just a Kiwi, a roasting machine, some seats, an old portable record player and delicious coffee.
Besides the tasty coffee you also get to strike up a conversation with Jared. He's a super friendly guy that is happy to give as much advice as you want about other hidden gems in the South Island. You also quickly learn about his other passion, music. He has a mini DJ setup next to the roasting machine and plays unique tunes from NZ artists as well as blues classics.
If you want to enjoy some of the simple pleasures of life, namely coffee and music, without pretence, then you should go checkout Kūkū Coffee.
Common Ground Espresso, Dunedin
Dunedin is a thriving student city. You get an immediate sense of hustle and bustle when you first arrive via a crazy highway. The city is part college town, with its optimistic, youthful energy. Then if you drive 10 minutes south to the beautiful, huge stretches of beaches on the east coast, you'll find that Dunedin also has a big surf culture.
The resulting eclectic energy from this melting pot gives Dunedin its unique vibe. Equal parts quirky, sporty, industrial and traditional. What brings these different parts together? Well, amongst other things, great coffee! This is where Common Ground Espresso comes in.
Situated in an unassuming business park with auto body shops, mechanics, upholstery etc. there sits a diamond in the rough. Common Ground is unapologetically 100% coffee. No food, just a place for coffee lovers to gather and imbibe. The smell when you walk into the built out garage/warehouse is unbelievable!
You're equally as likely to spot business men and mechanics there as you are to spot college students and surfers. What they all share in common is the appreciation for divine roasts. You can't go wrong here, there are only a handful of brews on the menu, the star of the show are the roasts. Just order and enjoy!
While living in Wanaka we did order some coffee online because we had such good memories of it. And yes, it was worth it. :)
Whanake Gallery & Espresso Bar, Westport
What do you do when you finish a long drive through what feels like the coast at the edge of the world? Get yourself some coffee of course! We drove up the western coast of the South Island, the road winding along towering cliffs with the untamed Tasman Sea crashing below, and ended up in Westport. A small coastal town that feels lost in time.
Even if you end up in a town that seems lost in time, as a coffee junkie in New Zealand, you'll still find that you'll be able to grab a good brew. It was exactly what we needed! Whanake Espresso Bar doesn't roast their own beans, but they serve them up just right! You can also check out the art while waiting. Many times, you don't need a fancy cafe to sit down in, a lot of the time you just need a good coffee to give you that much needed afternoon boost and Whanake Espresso Bar Delivers! Make sure to bring your own cup as well!
Underground Coffee, Christchurch
Underground coffee is a name that you will quickly come to recognize, especially on the south island. They are one of the most prolific roasters in New Zealand. And yes, Underground is also based in Christchurch. Just something about ChCh that brings the best out of coffee!
There are multiple roaster locations distributed through ChCh and we decided to visit. Walking in you are greeted by an industrial chic ambiance. The smell of fresh roasted and brewed coffee permeates everything and brings a smile to the face. We just stayed for a quick coffee and a scone but it was an excellent way to start the day.
Underground is a roaster that you don't necessarily need to visit while in the city as their coffee is hawked by tons of cafes. However, if you're in the area just stop by and enjoy.
Thanks for reading, enjoy your next cup!
Did we miss your favorite coffee roaster? Tell us more about it in the comments below & how you like your coffee!