New Zealand is known in our indigenous Maori language as ‘Aotearoa’, which translates as ‘the land of the long white cloud’, in reference to our Southern Alps that run the length of the South Island and are often shrouded in cloud. On a purely light-hearted note, maybe it should be ‘the land of the long black or would you prefer a flat white?’
|Coffee is now so fashionable, you’ll even see coffee-related art pieces!|
When I was a youngster my parents didn’t wander off down to the local café for a social Sunday catch up, if anything in true English fashion, they invited friends around for a hot cuppa tea. Actually, there wasn’t a café in our local town, just a couple of pubs, a ‘dairy’ (the Kiwi version of the local store that sells everything from groceries and newspapers to takeaways and lotto) and a petrol station. And the reason there wasn’t one was because café culture didn’t really hit us here in the South Pacific until late in the game.
Today, especially in Queenstown, the quickest way to climb the social ladder is to position yourself at one of the many exceptionally good cafes dotted around town, in a sunny spot, preferably with high foot traffic and ideally with a cute baby. And I’m not just taking the mickey; I do it from time to time myself (except without the baby). I justify a $4.50 Saturday morning coffee, brewed to perfection, in the knowledge that my day will then be filled with adrenaline fuelled Queenstown activities. Hmmm… Should I go hiking, snowboarding, mountain biking or maybe out on the stand-up paddle board?
|View of the Bonny Jean hut on the Heather Jock track near Queenstown|
Speaking of stand-up paddle boards – the fastest growing sport on the planet – a local Queenstowner, Jase John takes things one step (or paddle stroke) further, crossing Lake Wakatipu every so often, with his dog, to get a coffee at the Hilton!
|Jase paddling across Lake Wakatipu with his adventure pup Loui, to the Hilton Hotel for a coffee|
Now, for the benefit of our many North American readers, it may be helpful if I pass on a few tips, to help you navigate the initially daunting prospect of ordering a coffee in a Kiwi café…
1.You won’t find ‘drip’ coffee on any menu – ask for an Americano and you’ll get a double shot of espresso and hot water served in a big mug. Be prepared – it’s strong!
2.If you have children in tow, don’t be alarmed if they ask if you’d like a ‘fluffy’! It’s not a pick-up line, or a toy. A fluffy is simply steamed milk and froth, sprinkled with chocolate and served with a marshmallow. A great way to introduce the little ones to the café scene without the caffeine hit.
3.The most common coffee on order is called a ‘flat white’ – basically a cappuccino-sized coffee with milk and only a hint of froth. Take the milk away and you’ve got yourself a ‘long black’.
For a full breakdown of all the types of coffee you’ll find in New Zealand, check out our ‘coffee culture deciphered’ page on our website.
|Flat White anyone? Complete with the silver fern emblem.|
I’ll leave you with this challenge: If you’re a visitor to Queenstown, try to wrestle with the desire to head straight to Starbucks and instead try one of the dozen or so small and locally owned cafes in central Queenstown. My favourite is Atlas (they serve nice beer too), closely followed by Refuel, Joe’s Garage, Vudu Café and Bob’s Weigh.
Oh, and if you’re travelling around the country, have a look at ‘The great New Zealand café’ book by Matthew Hawke and Niki Grennell. Of course, if you’re joining us on an Active New Zealand adventure, please quiz our guides on their favourite coffee haunts!
Paul @ Active HQ