I absolutely love coffee. I drink it black without any sugar – usually an espresso, but if I need that extra kick – a long black will do me just fine. I never used to drink coffee like this. But before my trip to Paris when I was twenty, I started drinking it black in the desperate hope I would fit in with the local Parisian women while I was there. It didn’t work. I was so obviously a tourist! However, it did create a change in my coffee habits. I now shun certain cafes for the types of coffee they offer, and can taste good coffee from bad. When in doubt, I order a hot chocolate or tea – because I would rather have no coffee than a bad one!
Everyone has a favourite cafe – whether it is because they do the cake you like, its close by and you go there a lot, it offers options for you dietary requirements, or the coffee is just plain great! I’m sure you’re conjuring up and image in your head right now. My favourite cafe is a tiny place called Number One Queen Street. Named as such because it is located at No.1 Queen Street in Auckland City. It might not look like much from the outside – just a small building with a few vintage caravans dotted around the outside – but I maintain it is the best cafe in all of Auckland.It is right in front of the Ferry building, and near the wharf where the cruise ships always dock, so there is plenty of foot traffic and it’s always busy. The owner is a fantastic hippy guy with amazing dreadlocks, who always sings to the radio while he is making your coffee. He even brings his super friendly dog to work, who often sits with me when I’m enjoying my hot beverage. Number One Queen Street was nominated for Hospitality New Zealand’s Cafe of the Year Award. I love going here – it is part of my daily routine. Yet, strangely, I never order coffee from this cafe. My regular order (and the baristas know it so well they start making it when I walk in the door), is a large soy hot chocolate.
Soy? I hear you say. Yes. Soy. And no, that does not make me hipster (although I have been known to order avocado on toast from time to time). When I was a child I was allergic to dairy, so the taste of soy milk is the taste of my childhood. Plus it makes a sweeter hot chocolate without the need for any added extras. Not only that, soy milk needs to be heated at exactly the right temperature to make it sweet and creamy – not burnt or curdled. That is something that many cafes get wrong. Not this one. Each barista at Number One Queen Street makes the perfect soy hot chocolate. I don’t even mind parting with inner city prices for it ($6).
Cafe culture in New Zealand – especially in Auckland, cannot be understated. Every Aucklander worth their salt is some way ingrained in the cafe culture. To us, Starbucks does not cut the mustard when it comes to coffee. In fact, I wouldn’t even go to Starbucks for a coffee! Their coffee is awful. They don’t even have a Vienna on the menu (long black, with whipped cream and cinnamon on top). The only people who go to Starbucks are white-14-year-old-Ugg-boot-wearing girls, for their Pumpkin Spiced Latte and Instagram worthy pictures. As for Costa, well, we don’t have them in New Zealand, but I have tried it in England, and I am sorry, but it was the worst coffee I have ever tasted (I stuck to drinking tea on this holiday, as most places didn’t offer soy, and the coffee was so bad I couldn’t cope). We don’t really go for chain store coffee shops here. Although we do have Columbus Coffee, the Coffee Club and Hollywood Bakery, they’re not the place where people who know their coffee, or understand cafe culture go. Chain store coffee shops are for Mums with kids, old ladies, or the uneducated coffee drinker – not the connoisseur. Sure, you can go here to order a trim flat white… just don’t expect it to be a great one.
There are more individual coffee shops in Auckland than there are chain store kinds, and that is because New Zealanders love their coffee. We would rather pay that $2 more for a proper barista coffee, than pay $3 for a crappy coffee. We want the homemade cakes, and free range options, we want avocado on toast, and a quirky atmosphere, we want baristas that know your face and order so well that they just start making it when you come in. Cafe culture in Auckland, is akin to that in Paris and Rome. It is an institution. You may call me snobby or hipster for having these views. I am not a hipster. I don’t order soy because it is the next in a fad diet. I don’t drink kale smoothies, I didn’t vote Greens in the last election, I don’t own anything of the hemp product, and I don’t go to these cafes in my Lulu Lemon Active wear. I am just an Aucklander, a New Zealander, a connoisseur who is serious about her coffee.
I challenge you this my dear reader… Next time you’re out and about, find a unique coffee shop or cafe, try out their barista skills and homemade cakes, go outside of your comfort zone on your coffee choices. Avoid the chain store and be adventurous. You never know what treasures you might find. Life is too short to drink bad coffee.