17 November 2017

12 Great Speciality Coffee Spots in Wellington, New Zealand

After a couple of intense periods of speciality coffee consumption in Melbourne and Sydney, I reverted back to ‘normal’ levels until I arrived in Wellington, New Zealand. I already had a number of local roasters and coffee shops on my list for the New Zealand capital, but I was also lucky that a coffee-loving Wellingtonian offered to show me around the city and its coffee scene. Lovely Tim (@coffeelater on Twitter and Instagram) seemed to know almost everyone who works in coffee in his home city and introduced me to a number of the movers and shakers, for which I am endlessly grateful.

I only spent 48 hours in Wellington but managed to check out 12 cafés and roasteries during that time, leaving many more coffee bars for the return visit that I’m hoping to make at some point. I’ve added everything to this Google Map, and another great resource for speciality coffee in Wellington and several other New Zealand cities is the Neat Places guide to New Zealand coffee roasters.

CBD North
Coffee Supreme
I first came across Coffee Supreme via their Melbourne café, which I didn't have time to visit, but the company has been roasting in Wellington since speciality coffee was a mere twinkle in London's eye — 1993, to be more precise. As I'd already been to Coffee Supreme's Customs Brew Bar (see below), I wasn't planning to go to their Midland Park coffee bar too, but walking past, I was drawn in by the cool merch on sale. I love their 'we eat coffee for breakfast' slogan and would have bought a mug if I'd had room in my case, and I'm sure the 'barista socks' would have been a great gift for someone.

I ended up getting a coffee: a really top-notch espresso with their limited espresso blend, which, thanks to the utmost care of the barista, was very drinkable with milk chocolate and strawberry notes. I also got some beans to take home — again, the barista helped me to select a variety that would work well in my Aeropress at home and that had been roasted recently enough to last until I was home. And I've been enjoying the Ethiopian Sede at home all week.

Coffee Supreme is located at 31 Waring Taylor Street, Wellington. Website. TwitterInstagram.

On my last morning in Wellington, I did a final fast-and-furious coffee tour and Frank's was the first stop. The small, busy coffee bar is located on The Terrace, not far from the cable car. They serve coffee from Red Rabbit (who originally roasted in Wellington, but have since moved their roasting operation to Auckland) and a few breakfast goods and sweet treats. I had a piccolo made with a single-origin Guatemalan coffee, which was prepared very well, along with a double-chocolate muffin. The décor is minimalist and the staff were very friendly, although they were so busy during the morning rush that there wasn't much chance to chat.

Frank's is located at 116 The Terrace, Wellington. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Mojo Coffee
I hadn't heard of Mojo Coffee before Tim mentioned them to me, but as with a number of the other Wellington roasters, they've been in the business for well over a decade. They now have over 30 cafés in Wellington (you can find them in both the domestic and the international terminals at the airport) and Auckland and I visited their waterfront location on Customhouse Quay, which is right next to their roastery. With its blue-accented, industrial-chic interiors and coffee-related words of wisdom embossed on the windows ('coffee, never a rational thing', for instance), the bright, airy café is attractive and inviting.

During my visit, they were serving one of their house espresso blends, the intriguingly named Dr Mojo's Medicine, for coffees with milk, and a single-origin Ruvuma AA for black coffee. I had a piccolo, which was very nice, and stuck to scrambled eggs on toast for my lunch. They have some more interesting options on their all-day menu too.

Mojo Coffee is located at 33 Customhouse Quay, Wellington (and other locations). Website. Twitter. Instagram.

CBD South (Te Aro)
Customs by Coffee Supreme
With what must be one of the most beautiful coffee menu boards in the world — a repurposed wooden arrivals board, which hangs over nine large vials of coffee beans — Coffee Supreme's Customs Brew Bar was another recommendation from Tim. The slim coffee bar is gorgeous throughout, with wood panelling on some of the walls and the counter and mid-century furniture, accessorised with funky vintage pieces.

I was hoping for a pourover and a doughnut, but neither of these were possible — they only get doughnuts later in the week and it was a Tuesday, for one thing, and hand-brewed filter coffee tends to be rare in Wellington and in New Zealand more generally. Although I couldn't quite be tempted by one of the many toasts that are served all week, I did happily indulge in one of the two batch-brew filter coffees on offer, made with care using the Fetco. The Kenyan Guama, with its sharp grapefruit and redcurrant accents, was a lovely morning drink, particularly as it cooled. There's even a poster of this variety on the wall at Customs, which will appeal both to lovers of coffee and graphic design.

Customs by Coffee Supreme is located at 39 Ghuznee Street, Te Aro, Wellington. Website. TwitterInstagram.

Flight Coffee Hangar
Flight Coffee's flagship café, The Hangar, was on my list almost as soon as I started my antipodean coffee research. They came to my attention during the great Wush Wush rush of 2017, and I visited The Hangar twice during my visit. The first time, Tim and I stopped by for an afternoon coffee. I had a wonderfully flavoursome Rwandan Vunga, which had apricot and black tea notes and which was brewed through a Gino Dripper. Tim enjoyed a Guatemalan Las Joyas as a cold drip.

The coffee menu is extensive here: there were three espresso options (plus a limited edition), three single-origins available as Fetco batch-brew filter coffees (one also available as a pourover) and several cold options. I'd have dearly liked to have a Flight Coffee flight — you can choose among one coffee three ways (espresso, cold drip and flat white), a flat white flight (one with each espresso), and a filter flight (three Fetco-produced filter coffees) — but it was late in the day and I'd already had a lot of coffee.

Instead, I returned on my last morning to buy some coffee beans and tried the limited-edition espresso, a Mexican Garabandal washed Geisha, which was brewed meticulously and which had lovely blackberry and peach notes. They have had the same coffee in natural- and honey-processed formats too and it's been very popular.

Flight Coffee Hangar is located at 119 Dixon Street, Te Aro, Wellington. Website. TwitterInstagram.

Gentlemen's Beans
If you visit the Gentlemen's Beans kiosk on Courtenay Place at the right time, you can get a margherita as well as a macchiato — the micro-roaster's owners also serve pizza and subs. I arrived early, just after my morning run and so stuck to a piccolo and a pastry whose name I've now forgotten, but it looked like a Danish, only with a ricotta and espresso filling.

Gentlemen's Beans is located on Courtenay Place near Taranaki Street, Te Aro, Wellington. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Goldmine by Lamason
Brand-new to the Wellington coffee scene — it had been open only a couple of days when I visited — Goldmine is a spin-off of former Peoples Coffee trainer Dave Lamason's popular Lamason Brew bar. I was excited to check it out, partly because it was new but mainly because they serve hand-brewed filter coffee — using a V60, no less. There were three single-origin Peoples Coffee coffees available as pourovers, and I selected the Ethiopian Guji, which was delicious, with rich, plummy notes. I was too early (or was it late?) for brunch, but the food menu looked great too.

Goldmine is located at 171 Willis Street, Te Aro, Wellington. Facebook.

Havana Coffee Works
Wellington is a little bit obsessed with all things Cuba, from the busy, restaurant-filled Cuba Street in the CBD, to Havana Coffee Works, which will celebrate its 30th anniversary in 2019. Tim took me to their Tory Street HQ, whose interiors resemble a colourful street in the titular Cuban capital. Havana's coffee is served in many cafés and coffee shops across Wellington and far beyond, but you can also have a coffee or buy beans at the roastery.

They now sell a number of single-origin espressos, but it was the chocolatey Five Star blend that I tried in my piccolo, which was brewed on the most revolutionary La Marzocco customisation I've see for some time.

Havana Coffee Works is located at 163 Tory Street, Te Aro, Wellington. Website. Instagram.

Milk Crate
Just next door to Customs on Ghuznee Street, Milk Crate is a sleek, minimalist espresso bar with a cool adjoining lifestyle boutique called Precinct 35. Put off by the lack of hand-brewed filter coffee (I hadn't yet learned the Kiwi ways), I missed the chance to try the Kenyan Thunguri from Rich Coffee on the batch brew. It was hard to mind too much, though, when I had a really excellent piccolo instead made using the Rich Coffee seasonal blend.

I sat at the counter, admiring the red coffee cups and the Rich Coffee-branded La Marzocco Linea. I soon found out that the espresso machine had travelled almost as far as I had because it was a parting gift for one of Rich Coffee's two owners, Richie Russell, when he left Monmouth Coffee after ten years in 2015. The machine, before its refurb and rebrand, used to live in Monmouth's Borough Market location, just down the road from my home.

Milk Crate is located at 35 Ghuznee Street, Te Aro, Wellington. Website. Instagram.

Prefab (Acme & Co)
Tim and I met for a late lunch at Acme & Co's Wellington café and hub, Prefab, on the day I arrived in the city. I gorged on a giant burger and duck-fat fries and enjoyed a lovely piccolo — served in an Acme cup and saucer, of course. Tim then introduced me to founders Bridget Dunn and Jeff Kennedy, who were working behind the counter alongside the 8kg roaster. It was fascinating to chat to them both about Acme, coffee, Wellington and nori, among many other topics, and their warmth and their passion for their work came through very strongly.

Bridget and Jeff very kindly allowed me to choose a new Acme cup to add to my collection and I opted for the new version of their tulip cup in grey — alas, I didn't think to ask for their thoughts on a special, limited-edition neon-pink Acme cup just for me.

Prefab is located at 14 Jessie Street, Te Aro, Wellington. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Peoples Coffee Café
Another of the old guards of the Wellington speciality coffee scene, Peoples Coffee have been roasting since 2004 and have long been leaders in the ethical and sustainability world. I didn't have a coffee in their small, cosy Newtown café as it was the end of the day and I'd already had my fill for the day, but I did buy some beans. I also got to try their coffee at Goldmine the following morning and really liked the Ethiopian filter coffee I had — so much so that I'll happily forgive the absent apostrophe in their name!

Peoples Coffee Café is located at 12 Constable Street, Newtown, Wellington. Website. Instagram.

Rich Coffee Roastery
Last, but certainly not least, is Rich Coffee. Founded by two people who have had big roles in the once burgeoning and now booming speciality coffee industry in London — Richie Russell (formerly of Monmouth) and Cam McClure (who used to own Flat White) — in 2015, the company is a relative newcomer to the Wellington coffee scene.

The roastery, on a quiet Newtown side street, opens up to the public at the weekend, but Tim arranged for us to drop by to meet Richie one afternoon. I really enjoyed talking to him and Tim about the coffee world both in London and in Wellington, and inspiring to hear about how it's definitely possible to launch a new speciality coffee company in a saturated market like Wellington if you can offer people something different and are willing to work your socks off.

I love their clean, minimalist branding (not just because, given my full name, I'm a sucker for the letter R). Richie made me a great-tasting, fruity piccolo with their current seasonal espresso blend. Their other coffee of the moment is the washed-process Kenyan I failed to sample at Milk Crate, whose flavour profile is making my mouth water even now. If the roastery isn't open and you'd like to try some Rich Coffee, head over to Milk Crate, who will brew you up an excellent cup.

Rich Coffee Roastery is located at 369 Adelaide Road, Newtown, Wellington. Website. Instagram.

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