Cof­fee Highs and Lows

mailife - - Contents - Words and images by RAJAN SAMI

How do you screw up some­thing as ba­sic as a good cup of cof­fee? Well, there are any num­ber of ways: burn­ing the beans at the roast­ing stage, grind­ing the roasted beans too fine, pack­ing the cof­fee well too tightly, not clean­ing equip­ment and not us­ing good wa­ter will re­sult in burnt, bit­ter tast­ing cof­fee. And that’ll be five bucks, thanks! Af­ter many such ex­pe­ri­ences over the years in our na­tion’s beloved cap­i­tal, I’d mostly re­signed my­self to or­der­ing bu (when avail­able) or over­priced cups of su­per­mar­ket brand teas at Suva cafes, sav­ing my cof­fee fixes for when I travel. So imag­ine my glee when I re­cently landed in Welling­ton, New Zealand’s lit­tle cap­i­tal of cool – and now cof­fee, ranked one of the top eight places to get great cof­fee in the world by CNN. With a mas­sive cof­fee drink­ing cul­ture, pop­u­la­tion base and dis­pos­able in­come to sup­port the habit, there’s lit­er­ally a bean­ery/roast­ery/cof­fee joint on al­most ev­ery cor­ner of this quirky and com­pact lit­tle city. My very first Welling­to­nian cof­fee comes out of a con­tainer the next morn­ing and it doesn’t dis­ap­point. Not just any old con­tainer but the coolest lit­tle hip­ster con­tainer café called Sto­ries Cof­fee on bo­hemian Cuba Street. I get an al­mond milk flat white (for the lac­tose-into-ler­anza) with a beau­ti­ful, nat­u­ral, washed Peru­vian es­presso, slightly bit­ter­sweet with­out tast­ing one bit burnt. I have to say al­mond milks abroad have come a long way. Back home I’m mostly only able to get the pricey 97% fil­tered wa­ter, 3% al­mond va­ri­ety but there’s a new batch of barista blends in Aus­tralia and New Zealand that are as full-bod­ied and creamy as milk. Soy is more widely avail­able in Fi­jian cafes but I pre­fer nut milks to soy (which can cre­ate ex­cess phlegm in the body – very un­sexy – and I’m con­vinced all the ex­tra phy­toe­stro­gen it packs is to blame for my man­boobs). Fresh co­conut milk could be an­other pos­si­ble dairy-free sub­sti­tute but re­quires some ex­per­i­men­ta­tion. Over­heat the milk and the fats turn to oil, over­pow­er­ing the taste of cof­fee. In Welling­ton on an­other day I hike all the way up to Ha­vana Cof­fee Works, a hot air roast­ery with a café on Tory St to meet an old Kiwi friend I’ve not seen for six years since he left Fiji to move back to New Zealand. The heady aroma of beans roast­ing next door hits me even be­fore I’ve walked in the door. Then comes the fly­ing cof­fee kick which gets me so buzzed I speed talk through the next hour try­ing to cram as much of the six years we’ve not seen each other as I can into 50 min­utes. Im­pos­si­ble. Over the course of the week I’m there, I have meet­ings at two dif­fer­ent Mo­jos, the hugely suc­cess­ful chain of cof­fee shops scat­tered through­out Welling­ton, each one out­fit­ted dif­fer­ently to suit the lo­ca­tion. I’m not hugely im­pressed with the ser­vice nor the al­mond milk flat white at the St James Theatre out­let. I have an ear­ly­ish 9am Mon­day meet­ing with my editor and our young and surly server seems to want to do any­thing but work that morn­ing. I have a bet­ter luck at Mojo Au­rora at the Ter­races where busi­ness types are con­duct­ing meet­ings as my friend and I have a quick catch up. I get a healthy green juice (in­stead of cof­fee) and a de­li­cious gluten-free treat that we split. But what sells me on Mojo is the free sparkling wa­ter. I could sell my soul for air bub­bles. My search for Welling­ton’s next level cof­fee ex­pe­ri­ence leads me to bustling Har­bour­side Mar­kets be­hind Te Papa Ton­garewa Mu­seum* on Sun­day, where I try Ni­tro Cof­fee for the first time. Triple fil­tered with Pe­tone ar­ti­sanal spring wa­ter, the 18-hour cold brew pro­duces lower acidic cof­fee that gives me a dull all day buzz. As a fi­nal step, it’s gassed with ni­tro­gen when served, which ab­sorbs into the cof­fee giv­ing it beer-like head. Te Papa is hands down one of the coolest mu­se­ums I’ve been to and ab­so­lutely free (NZ$10 do­na­tions are rec­om­mended but not com­pul­sory). It’s rea­son

enough to visit Welling­ton. Pre­fab was pretty fab, ged­dit? It came highly rec­om­mended by a lo­cal foodie (that’s the kinda travel in­tel I like to rely on, rather than TripAd­vi­sor which ag­gre­gates trav­ellers’ list­ings) and it didn’t dis­ap­point. Tucked away on non­de­script Jessie Street with no sig­nage, the ca­sual, mod­ern out­post is where I had hands down the best al­mond milk flat white (beans roasted on site) and in­dulged in a spot of lunchtime peo­ple watch­ing. Caf­feine fixes and ca­sual voyeurism go hand in hand. On the day I’m sched­uled to fly back to Fiji, a friend and I head to Beach House & Kiosk, a newish joint in pic­turesque Is­land Bay for a last minute brunch. I get Kip­per fish cakes and poached eggs with hol­landaise and a lovely – you guessed it – al­mond milk flat white. Much as I love it, there’s a part of me that had been re­sist­ing Welling­ton’s per­fectly gen­tri­fied white hip­ster yup­pie bubble. But sit­ting here, hav­ing an­other great meal and what may be my last great cup of cof­fee in a while, I give in and en­joy the ride.

GOOD NEWS

Over the past few weeks since be­ing back in Fiji, I’ve had – sur­prise, sur­prise – great cof­fee. I had a good cup of cof­fee at the Gate­way across from Nadi Air­port of all places, then an­other at BirdRock in Mart­in­tar (that many Suva trans­plants have raved about and with good rea­son) and an­other nice cuppa at Café O on De­na­rau, although mas­sively un­happy about hav­ing to fork out an ex­tra $2 for soy on top of the reg­u­lar price of flat white. On a re­cent as­sign­ment to Toko­riki Is­land in Ma­manuca, I had more great cof­fee. Ditto, the Blue Gin­ger in Lau­toka, where I got a per­fectly ex­e­cuted ristretto (all of the fla­vor, half the caf­feine) flat white with soy milk ($1.50 ex­tra, groan). I’m told the Burn­ing West is much more re­laxed in many ways (“You can go to Eds in shorts,” one Westie told like it was a good thing) but also way fussier given the tourism trade and gen­er­ally higher ex­pec­ta­tions of in­bound trav­ellers who might know a thing or two about good cof­fee. Which makes my im­mi­nent move from our beloved cap­i­tal to the tourism belt all the more ap­peal­ing. I’m just happy I no longer have to get on a plane to get a de­cent cup of cof­fee.

Pre­fab

Ha­vana Cof­fee Works Sto­ries Cof­fee Close Up

Ni­tro Cof­fee Sto­ries Cof­fee

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