Sunday, March 30, 2008

Auckland Espresso Run

visited: march 2008

Having spent almost 2 days in Auckland I had a great deal of time to visit most of the coffee shops on my list and meet great people along the way. I got a really interesting impression about Auckland’s coffee culture. It seem to me that the majority of speciality coffee shops are one way or another are linked to Allpress Espresso company. The company supplies LaMarzocco and Synesso into the country, so even if you are not using their coffee you are forced to get a LaMarzocco or Synesso equipment from them. Here is my espresso run …

MOJO (205-209 Queen St) was my favourite out of a whole bunch of places. It is very central and is located on the lobby floor of National Bank building. They occupy a very spacious open area with a lot of natural sunlight. As they are in the lobby of a busy building it creates a very unique atmosphere. There are plenty of seats around, but I would imagine that they do a whole deal of take-aways. As they are in an office building all the customers are regulars and I really like that.

The coffee side of things were just flawless. They have a synesso running a double shot into the cup every time. They roast their own coffee in Wellington. The staff are very knowledgeable and are well trained. One of New Zealands best baristas Tafa works there, he has placed 4th in the country last year and is hoping to do better this year so I wish him all the very best.

You absolutely must visit MOJO it is a very special place with fantastic coffee.

An absolute gem of a find is a small espresso bar called Ben (57 Fort St). Ironically the owners name is Ben, he also happens to be a roster. He roasts in-house on a small diedrich roaster that is neatly place near the windows. They have a synesso machine and as well as MOJO pull a double shot. Ben’s coffee is much more different in flavours, more delicate and smooth. I thoroughly enjoyed the overall balance of the espresso. I was highly impressed by this espresso bar and would definitely recommend it.

I absolutely must credit Ben for his amazing creations, this ideal espresso bar has everything a good coffee shop should have. I also love the fact that he is an independent roaster and that gives him freedom to express his own skills and ideas in his coffee.

I don’t often stumble across a good coffee shop but this one was my first coffee of the day a place just around the corner from my hotel. Elliott Stables (Elliot street alley) I walked in to have a coffee there because I saw a LaMarzocco machine. They use allpress coffee. I never really liked the taste of commercial air roasted coffees but this was relatively good. Not sure which allpress blend they were using but it was very smooth and sweet, it did lack a lot of body though.

Centre of Gravity (11 Mayoral Dve) This coffee shop and training centre is located underground. A very interesting tunnel like corridor bar. There is absolutely no sunlight in there so it will be a nightmare place to work in. On top of things there is no air conditioning and it gets ridiculously hot in there. There was hardly anyone in there around lunchtime and I doubt that it ever gets busy, just because it is not very appealing to be relaxing in a bunker, however they stress that they are mostly a training facility rather than an espresso bar. They roast their coffee in wellington (I think). The coffee was pretty average but never the less drinkable. I recommend going there just to check out the space.

Caffetteria Allpress (Adelaide St, Freemans Bay) I was expecting great things out of this particular place. They are attached to the roastery and are absolutely pumped with the best equipment possible. Not to mention the interior or the shop, luscious space with long benches a real great environment to work in for any barista. It did lack a lot of natural sunlight and it feels really dusk and depressing inside. They also have a relatively big outside space and on a sunny day everyone was enjoying their coffee outside.

To my huge anticipation of an amazing cup of coffee I got an absolute abomination of an espresso shot. It was very long (40ml) over extracted and carried a lot of bitter and unpleasant sour notes. The texture was very dusty and almost grainy. I really didn’t enjoy it at all.
From a “showcase, display” espresso bar I was expecting to get the best of Allpress offerings instead my hopes were shattered.

I've included a picture from my rostery tour. Here is the Allpress air roaster.

Atomic Coffee Roasters (420C New North Road, Kingsland) These guys carry a lot of history behind them. They were the pioneer rosters a few years back. At the rostery they have an attached espresso bar, so you can actually see through the window and watch the roastmasted do his thing. Big glass windows separate the roastery and espresso bar. The whole place is really bright and has a great feel about it. They use an SM machine and a mazzer grinder. Despite their reputation and pioneer work in the past my espresso was very bad. Although the length of espresso was sufficient the coffee tasted very dusty and dirty. I think they haven’t cleaned the machine for a long time, on the picture you might be able to notice milk crust on the steamwand, and that for me is not a very good sign. I was not impressed at all. I am sorry to say, but you can save your time and effort catching a train to Kingsland because it was not worth it.

New Zealand scene is very advanced in its own right, far beyond anything we have here in Australia. A lot of coffee roasters that are doing the right thing and the specialty coffee market is very competitive. Still there is a dominant roaster Allpress that people know and trust the logo. As allpress are distributors of LM machines in New Zealand they sell them for a good price to all of their clients and as they hold a lot of business around town it is not rare to see these brand new LM machiens in many coffee shops. I went to few other cafes that use allpress coffee, naturally have amazing machinery and great potential to make a good coffee but the knowledge behind the machine simply wasn’t there. The coffee was bellow standard and those shops are not worth mentioning. As the saying goes … the coffee is only as good as the barista.

Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to visit Altura coffee and meet Chris White. As many of you know Carl Sara 3rd world barista in 2007 had his coffee roasted by Altura. I definitely recommend going there. It is a little out of town and not very easy to get to.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Christchurch and Wellington Espresso Run

visited: march 2008

I apologise for not keeping up to date with my blog, to be perfectly honest nothing exciting or thrilling is happening in my life at the moment, so my espresso runs are a very rare occasion these days, however over Easter I visited New Zealand and had an opportunity to drop past few coffee shops. Here is a quick rundown of places in Christchurch and Wellington.


There are few places that I’ve heard of, however all but one were closed due to Easter holidays.

I ended up going to C1 Espresso (150 High Street) , this unorthodox espresso bar offered a very rewarding experience. They pull a double ristretto into a funky heavy glass. The coffee itself was fantastic and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Sitting among Japanese cartoons that are pasted on walls was very interesting. They also have a small space for a DJ, yet another very interesting concept that they integrated into their space. They even have a bazaar sowing machine that will poor your water (you have to see it to believe it).

C1 is an absolute must to visit.

I would like to mention others that I didn’t get a chance to visit as they were closed, but feel that they are definitely worth visiting.

Vivace espresso bar (86 Hereford Street)
Underground Roastery (803 Colombo St)


Same story as Christchurch, all the places are closed on public holidays apart from one.

Caffe Astoria (159 Lambton Quay) is located at the bottom of a big Vodafone building. A well established café with 2 WEGA machines. Inside the shop they have a small Italian made Vittoria roaster. They only do one blend and do a pretty solid job. I thought that the coffee was very good however I could sense few defects like chalkiness, might be due to long roast time or something to do with the roaster not very sure. Never the less I do recommend visiting them, you will get a decent shot of espresso.

Other places to look out for:

Lafare (27 College St)
Mojo (23 kent terrace)