Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Café Debrett, Auckland Central

I'm a creature of habit, and once I've hit on a good thing I tend not to stray too far from it, hence my daily cup generally comes from the lovely people at ME Coffee Boutique on Albert Street. However, finding myself on Shortland Street and a few minutes early for a meeting this morning, I stopped by Café Debrett for a flat white.

So it's 0945 on a Tuesday, in a café in Auckland's CBD, and there's two people in it, sitting in silence waiting for their takeaway cups. I approach the counter. After waiting for a minute or so, I cough gently. One of the two chaps behind the counter notices me, takes my order, berates the barista for not working fast enough, and grimly turns back to whatever he was doing that was so much more important than serving customers (making wraps, I think).

A few minutes later, an all-too-familiar Allpress cup is dumped on the counter before me. Wordlessly, sullenly. It's too hot, slightly scalded, underextracted, careless. The flavour is dull even for Allpress, from whom I've come to expect an average but consistent brew.

So don't bother. In this area there are a dozen better coffee places within spitting distance, so there's no excuse to deal with this sort of appalling service and sub-standard product. The food looks ok; pides, wraps, that sort of thing, but from my experience in there it's all prepared with the sort of scowl that fair turns the stomach. Yeah, you might be having a bad day, but that doesn't mean your customers have to as well.

Café Debrett
Hotel Debrett
Shortland Street

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Mazagran, Moray Pl., Dunedin

Mazagran is a bit of a legend in Dunedin. A tiny cafe (4x2 person tables) its coffee roaster takes up a serious proportion of the space. Located just behind the Rear Window of the Art Gallery in upper Moray Place, it apparently it supplies roasted beans to many cafes around Dunedin. They sell single variety beans and blends over the counter as well.

One Friday night recently I walked past about 9pm and the owner was sitting in the window, reading the paper surrounded by sacks of green beans and there was a delicious smell of roasting coffee. Yesterday I managed to get in to try the product.

And the coffee was good. The house blend had a full, rich flavour, with a very slight tang at the end - almost bitter but not. I'd liken it to a well made Havana coffee.

After 3 long blacks (which I now assume were double) on an empty stomach I was 'buzzing'. Thankfully the company was good and Dunedin treated us to a fine(ish) day so we could sit out the outside tables. All coffees are served in glasses and its a cash only place. They had a few truffles available but this is a place for good coffee not food. Also a great range of serious reading material from local poetry to the New Yorker and Vanity Fair.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Le Petit Cafe - Britomart

Down in the depths of the CBD lies one of those little silver futuristic style shoeboxes. There are a few dotted around, one has a forex set up, another sells "newspapers and candy" - very NYC!

One however, just down from the Britomart Transport Centre is a coffee kiosk. Usually operated by two, Le Petit Cafe produces amazing things. Granted they use Vittoria which is not usually first pick for me, but surprisingly they have managed to take the best bits from the bean to produce a drinkable if not slightly lovely first shot.

I am a firm believer in the service maketh the cup too. We can sometimes turn a blind eye to the unorthodox when we receive outstanding service and the team at Le Petit nail it every time. They remember the way I like my cappucino, (not exactly rocket science, but slightly unusual I suppose), when less busy even start making it before I get there. Both of the team could have had the roughest morning/day ever, but you'd never know because they have perfected the art of putting on a brave face and making their customers their first priority.

If you happen to be wandering around Britomart.. give them a go. Well worth it.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Roasted Addiqtion, Kingsland

It's weird for me to write this, as I've been amused by the Roasted Addiqtion brand for a while - the self-styled coffee dealers offer their product by the shot, gram or kilo, and living in Kingsland you get odd whiffs of their roasting beans every now and then. Not as nice as it sounds, but interesting nonetheless.

Still, as both The Fridge and Shaky Isles are between my house and their cafe on New North Road, I only managed to get in there last weekend, and y'know, was a bit disappointed. So it was a Saturday morning and they were busy, but service was confused, frantic and distracted, and by the time we eventually got our coffees, gruffly handed over by a barista who looked like she'd rather be anywhere else, our normally sunny morning dispositions (honestly) were beginning to fray.

In the cup - not the masterbrew we'd been expecting at all. Thin, spitefully acidic and worse - scalded. I'll perhaps report on the actual beans themselves at another point, as I suspect this was more down to poor handling than poor raw materials. For now though, I think I'll give the cafe itself a miss.

Roasted Addiqtion
487 New North Road

+64 (0) 9 815 0913

Monday, August 17, 2009

A cafe in Grey Lynn

Having owned and worked in cafes before, you sometimes come across the odd barista who thinks they are above everyone else on the planet and will "only make the coffee" and not assist with other tasks. Usually, these types can get away with the attitude because they are good at what they do and making coffee actually does have a science to it and seeing so many baristas bugger it up, when you get a good barista you tend to panda towards their insecurities in order to keep them on board.

If you have a good team in your cafe, the barista can be left to their own devices, because often the cashier will provide the smiley face, the kitchen team create the most delicious menus ever, the cafe assistants keep the cafe clean and tidy and warm and welcoming and the owners will work on the business and not in it, meaning you have a very happy team.

All good and well when this equation works. But what happens when it doesn't. What happens if the cashier is answering the phone or fixing the eftpos terminal, the cafe assistant is helping to clean up a spilt fluffy, the kitchen staff are tending to orders... well, who is left as the next point of contact for incoming customers? The owners probably aren't there, or they are upstairs in the office, oblivious to the mini chaos.. so the next point of contact would be the barista.

Yep. The surly, fierce looking, unwelcoming yet bloody brilliant at making coffee barista. The one who was hired purely for their excellent coffee making skills is now in charge of first impressions. Disaster much? Absolutely.

I am all about helping businesses reach their potential. Especially in this climate, a "bad" review doesn't help anyone. So this cafe in Grey Lynn that I go to on a quasi regular basis will remain nameless. I'm positive too that the barista doesn't care what I write here; they will get on with their day being the self-obsessed chump they are, continuing to make coffee. But on the off-chance that he/she reads this, and recognises the behaviour as their own... perhaps you might like to adjust it slightly for the good of the business and the good of the other customers you treat in this manner.

If you are a barista who has agreed with the owners to "only make the coffee" please know that sometimes you will be required to make eye-contact with customers when the usual team who would do this is busy.

1) If multi-tasking is a challenge for you, perhaps practice the eyebrow raise or if you can manage, even a smile to incoming customers. They will then know that you are as busy as hell and will be with them soon.

2) Granted, it's not in everyone's nature to smile. So if that is difficult for you, it's okay but absolutely don't be selective in your smiling and welcoming eyebrow raises. To smile at the first two customers, even manage a hello, and then to give a horrible evil look of death to the third customer, well that third customer might just get a bit of a complex. Especially if this evil look experience seems to happen to them all the time.

3) I know it's a pain, when you have stretched a large jug of full cream milk and someone asks for a trim... ask them if it's ok to have full cream or ask if they mind waiting while you use up the full cream. Passing off full cream as trim milk can potentially make someone rather ill and that isn't a nice thing to do someone is it?

4) Finally, it can be tough when you are in a working environment with a particularly attractive person. Perhaps someone you would really like to get to know better. How great is it when that person gives you the time of day and you are having a fabulous conversation! You're in! Uh-oh.. here is an annoying customer! Someone who wants to buy something from you and keep you in a job! What do you do? Decisions decisions! Here's what you don't do. Don't ever look at me as if I am worth less than the shit on your shoe. Do not continue your conversation and put your hand up to my face when I say hello to initiate my order for coffee being taken. And do not then make me feel like I am imposing by coming into the cafe to get a coffee.

Thanks fo reading! Hope you have a fabulous day!

Monday, August 10, 2009

Mamatas - Richmond Road

Favourite coffee spot this week... Mamata's on Richmond Road. They use Kokako organic beans which produce a smooth almost velvety texture and with a double shot it's enough of a kick to get through the morning! And not only do they produce fabulous caps the service is excellent, they consistently remember my coffee and being greeted in the morning with a smiley friendly face is a fab start to the day!

Go check them out - Mamata's Bakehouse, 401 Richmond Road, Grey Lynn.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Centre of Gravity, Auckland Central

You know Gravity - they make that coffee in the purple bags on the supermarket shelves, wholly decent stuff and for those of you like me who like great coffee but really can't be bothered hunting it down in arcane apothecaries in hidden side streets and so on, it's a good choice. Of their many and varied blends, Jump Start is a favourite of mine.

The Centre of Gravity, nestled below the TBWA building on Mayoral Drive, is just that - a training centre, coffee bar and sometime boardroom for whoever wants to hire it (at a very reasonable $30ph). No matter how many times I come here, I'm always slightly concerned that I'm walking into someone's basement, as you wander through the white and purple corridors to finally get to the bar itself. It's an oddly gratifying experience just making it inside.

And once you're in there, you're never that keen to leave. Hidden away from the rush and shove of Auckland's CBD, it's a little oasis of shiny coffee machines, quietly friendly baristas and the best cinnamon brioches I've had, bar none. The coffee is tremendous, punchy, rich and just the legal side of amphetamine-strength. The consistency is amazing - each cup given the care it deserves and none coming away lacking. You can tell this is where budding baristas come to learn.

So it's a bit off the beaten track. It's hidden in a basement, and it's occasionally full of TBWA types talking with fabulous indiscretion about their clients. But it serves excellent coffee, it's in my top three CBD coffee places, and if you need to be unambiguously caffeinated for a good hour or two, nothing will do the trick quite like one of theirs.

Centre of Gravity
15 Mayoral Drive

+64 (0) 9 377 9952

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Re-Branding Starbucks Coffee Shops

Corporate global brand goes ‘indie’

Starbucks is piloting a range of new boutique coffee stores. On Friday, ‘15th Avenue Coffee and Tea – Inspired by Starbucks’ will open in Seattle, USA. But will the new branding actually work?
What do you think?

Coffee Article in NZ Herald

I thought I'd post this link to an article in the NZ Herald from this morning which talks about New Zealanders coffee drinking habits at home.

It's always surprised me coming from the UK how many people in NZ have espresso machines and drink copious amounts of coffee at home. In the UK I'd hardly drink coffee at home, choosing rather to enjoy the filter coffee at work.

Moving here it wasn't long before I succumbed to an espresso machine and I rarely leave the house without having an espresso.

Nescafe Decaf Instant

Well, I get tired, literally, after drinking too much coffee so I occasionally need some light relief. All of the caffeine I intake during a 24 hour period must be bad for me. I can sometimes drink in excess of 8 cups a day.
When I feel like this my coffee of choice is Nescafe Decaf Instant. Urgh, I can hear you all say and I agree it is pretty darn disgusting to say the least but there are few alternatives.

Kopi Luwak - Pea Berry Coffee

Tonight I had a very interesting coffee drink experience. A friend has just returned from Bali and he brought back Kopi Luwak which is from the North Central Area. So what makes this coffee so special? Well the Pea Berry's are eating by a civit like animal called Paradoxurus and whilst in their stomach undergo a type of fermentation. The animal then excretes the bean which is left after digestion and these are collected by the locals, washed thoroughly and then ground. So what was it like? Well it is a very smooth coffee with a nutty flavour. Pretty mellow, although our cups were not as strong as they could have been. On the nose is slightly pungent, but certainly not unpleasant. Would I drink this again? Yes I would, it certainly is a full bodied but smooth coffee which goes well in the later part of the evening.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

MASH The Octagon, Dunedin

My current preferred place for coffee in Dunedin is MASH on the Octagon.

Since I've moved to Dunedin, its the only place I've found using Supreme Organic Fairtrade beans (my favourite) and there is great consistency in their long blacks - not barista specific. The staff are friendly and efficient.

MASH is a small place but has outside seating for fine days . Its also one of the few cafes on the Octagon that isn't a bar although they do serve drinks. They have good range of delicious cabinet food and small menu. I often have brunch here in a weekend and can highly reccomemend their potato gratin with chorizo, poached eggs and tomato chilli jam.

I favour MASH for several reasons. Firstly the service is excellent, even when on your own. I stopped going to a nearby cafe because their attitude to solo patrons was appalling. Its also centrally located and close to theatres, galleries, library and the Saturday morning market at the Railway Station. Finally they have great art, including a stunning 'whole wall' piece by Pete Wheeler.

Bean Grinding

Yesterday we were in Milford mall and decided to stop for a coffee. There are few options but decided on Bean Grinding, a cafe near The Warehouse.

There was a great selection of food - all looked fresh and delicious. I nearly got one of the wonderful looking lamingtons with the dark chocolate and huge coconut pieces, but decided on the lemon cake. We ended up both ordering the lemon cake, my friend had a hot chocolate and a flat white for me.

The lemon cake came warmed up with a little cream on the side. It had a lemon syrup topping and was delicious. The hot chocolate looked nice with a small chocolate fish on the side.

The flat white coffee... well, I cant get it out of my mind. It was hot and strong. Strong enough that I could really taste the coffee and wasn't just a short latte. Strong enough that I didn't feel the need to order another coffee, which is often the case.

So I would definitely go back, and would recommend to others. Bean Grinding - excellent food, excellent coffee.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The View from the High Chair - Servo, Te Atatu

I had a business meeting this morning at The Servo on Te Atatu Peninsula. It's a handy location just off the North Western Motorway and there was plenty of parking close by.

As is the life of the Mumpreneur, most meetings are attended with the kids in tow and locations have to be chosen with them in mind as well. We were greeted warmly and I admired the fresh looking window counter food (and amazing looking cakes) while browsing a good, if unsurprising menu. The Eggs Benedict I decided on were more than passable (they offer smoked salmon or bacon varieties) and the coffee arrived quickly. A double marshmellow side on the Fluffies is always well received by the smallest members of our table. (Fluffy price $1.50)

Overall the View from the High Chair was a good one: Decent toy box and a small play pen (yay a cage!) as well as a kid friendly couch area. Watch the Fluffy temperatures though, they needed cooling down a bit before the kids could be let loose at them.

Rating: 3 chocolate fish (out of 5)

Monday, July 27, 2009

ME Coffee Boutique, Auckland Central

A few months ago, I began work in Auckland's CBD, and on the face of it, was condemned to dubious, unexciting coffee courtesy of the many Allpress-powered coffee outlets and the ubiquitous Starbucks littering the area. Exhaustive research began, and a process sadly more hit than miss ensued, in the search for a decent daily coffee.

One such hit is ME (is it pronounced 'me'? 'Em Eee'? 'Meh'? I have no idea). It's nestled snugly in between some juice bar or other and the Chifley Suites, near the corner of Albert Street and Wyndham Street, an otherwise unassuming part of Auckland's commercial centre. In all honesty I'm loath to give you this information as the place is tiny and the barista appears to be one extraordinarily talented chap who despite his skill only has so much capacity, so the more people I tell, the longer I'll have to wait for my morning cup.

This, readers, is altruism at work.

As for the brew itself, it's an excellent everyday roast, rich and full-flavoured, delicately aromatic, with a mild caffeine punch but by no means aggressively turbocharged. The shot is a smooth one, with well-emulsified oils and no hint of over-extraction, and several weeks of patronage can report that it's metronomic in consistency. A scrupulous level of care is taken with every cup.

One final point, a nice touch which may or may not be intentional. A cube of Whittaker's dark chocolate is carefully placed atop each takeaway plastic lid. Once lifted off and eaten, it leaves behind a smudge of melted chocolate which, with each sip, delivers a tantalising waft of cocoa. Now that's how you give a touch of luxury to someone's day. Surprise, and yes, delight.

ME Coffee Boutique,
72 Albert Street
Auckland 1010

+64 (0) 9 379 7505

Supreme Brazil Coffee

I have been a regular at Savour & Devour now for 5 years. Last week I encountered something that surprised me and it wasn't pleasant. They had changed their coffee! Well I can hear you now saying 'He has too much time on his hands to recognise a change in coffee' but to me it is fundamental to a good cafe.
Why change something that isn't broken as their previous coffee, Supreme Fairtrade Organic, was just the ticket.
I would like to add that after my boycott and complaints they are back with their original and so am I!

Ground Culinary Centre, Lyttleton

We discovered Ground Culinary Centre on a visit to Christchurch a couple of months ago and I have just been back for our second visit. Ground is a special place not only because of the fine coffee and food that is served there, but also for the range of gourmet foods and organic produce.

The interior of Ground is very reminiscent of an old shop, with character all around and a charming atmosphere. Besides the Deli and Coffee counters, there is a good range of wine on sale, breads and produce. The staff are friendly and care about what they are doing and the food they are serving.

We were very impressed once again with the service we received when a staff member sought us out and asked us what we wanted, getting our order underway and allowing us to skip the queue of people waiting to pay. It has been a long day and so we both decided to try the Steak and Mushroom Pie with salad and have a coffee. The pie was seriously good, packed full of meat and mushrooms it was full on both flavour and contents. The salad was a great roast vegetable salad comprising pumpkin, kumara, potato and lettuce leaf with a sprinkling of sesame seeds. No complaints with the food whatsoever.

The coffee is locally roasted by the Lyttleton Coffee Company and is a blend of organic and fair trade coffee beans. It is good, strong and rich in flavour. It stood up well in my flat white and also was perfect in my partners long black. The guys roasting and blending this stuff are on the money.

So on my second visit to Ground, my initial impressions were confirmed. This is a stylish place that does great food and coffee with a heart. Make sure you visit on your next trip to Christchurch.