They head overseas, absorb the cultures, then bring home their new-found loves, with a sprinkling of rebellion. When Italians told them espresso should be a single shot, they were ignored. A standard espresso coffee of any style in New Zealand will come with the deeper flavour (and extra caffeine) of a double shot. Kiwis de-fussed the cappuccino to create the creamy simplicity of a flat white. In a few short decades, these travelling mavericks took the NZ scene from instant-white-with-two to today’s thriving coffee culture.
Double down on the ethics
Another way Kiwis have been pushing this scene forward is with a focus on ethics. It’s almost impossible to find coffee that doesn’t have some kind of ethical consideration attached to it. No surprises: the coffee market is worth 90% of Fairtrade’s retail sales in NZ, raising $16 million in revenue.
Many NZ coffee importers have set up their own standards of trade, too. They have agreements signed by growers and exporters that allow for regular visits and guarantees of a top-quality product.
There are more ways to be a good global citizen than just paying a fair wage to overseas coffee farmers. NZ cafes and roasters are often some of the first movers there too – think Kokako’s totally compostable packaging, and the takeaway-cup-free movement coming out of Christchurch.
While the first seeds of the coffee scene were laid in the cosmopolitan centres, today you’ll find roasteries and cafés doing wonderful things in the country’s smallest nooks.
Here are a few of our favourite coffee mavericks.
From their origins in 1998, Ozone has grown from a passionate team of three to a company with connections around the globe. Their business revolves around coffee excellence, and strong relationships with customers, suppliers and their team.
They source their coffee from all over – from Long Miles Coffee Project in Burundi to the challenging and diverse landscapes of Brazil. You’ll find Ozone in Grey Lynn, New Plymouth and London.
Based in Havelock North, Hawthorne supply award-winning artisan Arabica coffee blends to retailers and brew up coffees in their café. Hawthorne is NZ’s most awarded roastery, from the best plunger to best decaf (they’re even getting awards for their packaging).
Their focus is on quality – they’ll create a coffee blend, tell you how it’s best prepared, and send you off with a smile and an amazing scone.
With coffee sourced from small farmers in Latin America and Africa, Rocket in Hamilton likes to do something a little extra sweet for their growers. They’ve established relationships with single farmers and co-ops, then furnished them with beehives. The honey provides extra income for growers and the beehives take up hardly any room while bringing in a few extra thousand pollinators for the crop.
As an added bonus, when you visit, you can watch them roasting the coffee while you drink the end result.
Dunedin-based Common Ground do small batch roasting, so you know the bean in your morning drop has been roasted to absolute perfection. It comes down to their focus on high quality and top care for the bean – not volume. They are all about the coffee, and you can tell from the rich heady aroma of perfectly roasted beans as you walk in the door.
They also have a charitable side hustle partnering with local schools. They sell their coffee in these schools, with a third of the proceeds going to the school and the remainder going to a local charity of the kids’ choosing.
Taking a break from the richness of espresso, at Morning Magpie you get the light, fruity flavours of filtered coffee. The pour-over style makes it more of an experience; you have to really work for your java.
There’s also local art displayed on the walls, live music and local ingredients in the kitchen. If hot cross buns made with Whittaker’s dark chocolate and coffee-soaked sultanas don’t tempt you, you’re clearly a person of steely self-control.
One of the best-known names in NZ coffee, L’affare have been kicking around since 1990. Established in Wellington and now with a branch in Auckland too, their coffee blends are sold commercially and stock many Kiwi households.
They look at every facet of their supply chain and aim for thoughtful sustainability at every step – the growers are Enviro-Mark Gold certified, for example.
Land of the long flat white
From the tip of the North Island to the sandy shores of Stewart Island, Kiwis have turned traditional coffee methods upside down and made them their own. Each roaster has put their own stamp on things, with coffee styles ranging from a dark roast through to light and fruity. But the new wave of roasteries has added something else to their quest for quality: ethics. That means New Zealand coffee isn’t just good for sleep-deprived Kiwis; it’s good for the growers and the local economies, too.
It’s coffee that’s worth getting out of bed for.