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New Zealand Coffee Culture: A Complete Guide

new zealand cafe with mountains

Since being introduced in the 14th century, coffee has been a huge part of New Zealand’s culture. It is a staple in most pantries around the world. We would even go so far as to say it’s a necessity for some of us. Coffee has been in New Zealand since the Europeans arrived, and like the rest of the world, New Zealanders can’t do without it.

If you’ve ever wondered about the New Zealand coffee culture and how it may differ from your own, we’re here to explain it to you. Follow along as we delve into New Zealand’s coffee culture and tell you everything you need to know.

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Coffee in New Zealand

Highly praised by tourists and residents alike, New Zealand’s coffee has been often praised for its high quality and superb taste. The best time to visit New Zealand if you want to try the best coffee and take part in the culture is between February and March. These are the months when the coffee harvest begins, and everyone partakes in this rich culture and fragrant brew. It’s also when the aroma is the best, and you can enjoy the gorgeous nature of the culture.

Though the coffee culture didn’t really take root in New Zealand until the 1980s, they are going strong with it now. Next, we’ll go cover the coffee culture from the baristas to the national coffee drink, the Flat White.

a cup of coffee in New Zealand
Image Credit: Niklas Ohlrogge, Unsplash

Barista Culture

Espresso is held in high esteem in New Zealand, which is apparent when you step off of a plane at the airport to find a barista ready to fix your espresso for you instead of a coffee machine. It seems that in New Zealand, a craftsman espresso prepared by a talented and friendly barista is the norm, not the exception.

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What Makes for a Great Cup of Coffee in New Zealand?

Coffee is subjective, and a great cup of coffee is according to the person drinking it. In New Zealand, as in many parts of the world, a great cup of coffee is fresh, aromatic, and should taste like the beans were just freshly ground. It should never taste burnt or stale; other than that, it’s up to the individual drinking it.

What Is the Difference Between a Long Black and an Americano?

In New Zealand, while these two coffees may seem the same, they indeed are very different. With an Americano, you pour double the amount of hot water over the espresso, but you do the total opposite with the Long Black.

However, if you want your Long Black or Americano the way you drink it in your own country, you can certainly order both and have milk on the side. The baristas in the New Zealand coffee shops certainly don’t mind.

Americano coffee
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What About the World-Famous Flat White?

The debate over who invented the Flat White has been raging between New Zealand and Australia for years now. There are arguments and even proof on both sides, but nothing has been settled yet. Australia claims the Flat White was invented in one of their cafes in 1985, while New Zealand claims it was invented by a barista in their country in 1989. Regardless of who invented it first or its origins, the Flat White continues to be a favorite of tourists and residents of New Zealand alike. The Flat White is smoother than a cappuccino, yet still more robust than a latte, which makes it well-loved no matter where you’re from. Since the Flat White is the national coffee drink, you make the decision.

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Café Food in New Zealand

Of course, no matter how good the coffee is, you’re going to want dessert, pastries, or some kind of food with it, aren’t you? Well, café food in New Zealand can help with that as well. While the coffee lounges are usually centered around espresso, the food is excellent as well.

Most of the food is privately sourced, so you’ll be able to get heavenly eggs here that actually have solid yellow yolks to go with your fragrant coffee. After all, everyone knows there’s nothing like a strong mug of coffee and eggs in the morning. You can also get a gluten-free veggie lover and vegan food in most of the coffee cafes, so you’re covered no matter what your style of eating may be.

cafe in New Zealand
Image Credit: Adrien Olichon, Unsplash

How to Fit into New Zealand’s Social Coffee Culture

New Zealand still follows a lot of the old British traditions, including partaking in tea breaks in the mornings and again in the afternoons. Any morning and afternoon, you’ll see workers and tourists alike flocking the local coffee shops to get their caffeine fixes, and yes, you can still get tea if you so desire.

Wi-Fi in coffee cafes hasn’t taken off here yet, so these breaks are spent catching up with friends, co-workers, and even family members. These coffee/tea breaks are very social occasions and meant to not only drink your coffee but to have fun and catch up on the local gossip as well.

You’re not going to find drip coffee here, the Wi-Fi speed is subpar, but the coffee cafes are great for striking up conversations and making a host of new friends.

So, this concludes our guide on the coffee culture in New Zealand.

Whether you’re ordering a regular old cup of joe or a Flat White, you’ll enjoy the coffee culture in New Zealand a whole lot more if you attend the coffee breaks with the locals and make some new friends along the way. How has your experience with New Zealand’s coffee culture been? Tell us in the comments below.

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Kate MacDonnell

Kate is a lifelong coffee enthusiast and homebrewer who enjoys writing for coffee websites and sampling every kind of coffee known to man. She’s tried unusual coffees from all over the world and owns an unhealthy amount of coffee gear.

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