Navigating Coffee Culture An Expats Guide to New Zealand

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Welcome to New Zealand's Coffee Culture

As an expat living in New Zealand, you're undoubtedly keen to immerse yourself in the local culture. One way to experience authentic, everyday life is by exploring New Zealand's roaring coffee culture, rich with traditions and customs. This comprehensive guide is designed to offer insights and tips specifically for expats interested in coffee and wanting to engage with local communities. Whether you're a coffee enthusiast or a casual drinker, read on for practical tips, recommended cafes, and insights into New Zealand's coffee industry.

Understanding Coffee Origins and Production

New Zealand's coffee industry is relatively new, having taken root in the 1980s. Today, coffee enthusiasts in New Zealand have access to locally grown beans, as well as imported varieties. Understanding the origins of coffee in New Zealand and around the world can help you appreciate the uniqueness of New Zealand's coffee culture and make informed decisions about which coffee styles and blends to try.

Coffee beans can be cultivated almost anywhere, but the choice of environment dictates the flavor and aroma. New Zealand has favorable conditions for coffee production due to its geographic location. The country's climate and soil offer a unique blend that produces high-quality coffee beans appreciated worldwide.

Auckland and the Waikato region are renowned coffee cultivation hotspots, thanks to their ideal tropical climate and alluvial soils. Meanwhile, Nelson and Marlborough are ideal for growing coffee because of their north-facing slopes and mild microclimates. As an expat, exploring coffee plantations in these regions can be a great way to connect with local communities, learn about cultivation methods, and experience coffee from its root.

Embracing Favorite Coffee Style Drinks

New Zealand's coffee culture is shaped by a diverse array of coffee style drinks. From flat whites to lattes, and long blacks, there's something for everyone in New Zealand's coffee scene. Here's a rundown of some favorite coffee styles favored by New Zealanders:

  • Similar to a cappuccino but with less froth. This popular beverage has been attributed to New Zealand, and many people believe it's a New Zealand invention. It's made with a double shot of espresso and steamed milk, served in a smaller cup.
  • Similar to an Americano, but with a stronger espresso flavor. The Long Black is made with a single shot of espresso poured over hot water instead of steamed milk.
  • The traditional latte is made with a double shot of espresso and steamed milk, but in New Zealand, it's offered in two sizes - latte and baby latte. A baby latte is a smaller version, containing half the milk.
  • Similar to a latte, but with more foam. In New Zealand, cappuccinos are traditionally made with a single shot of espresso.
  • This is a small and strong shot of coffee, made with finely ground, boiled water, andpressure.

As an expat, understanding New Zealand's coffee culture also involves familiarizing yourself with coffee terminologies. Here are some coffee-related phrases you may hear:

  • A trained coffee maker.
  • Where coffee is made.
  • The visual designs that form on top of steamed milk.
  • A device used to stop coffee beans from overheating while left open for a few minutes.
  • Aficionado or addict, specifically of coffee.

Exploring these coffee style drinks and terms is an essential aspect of engaging with New Zealand's coffee culture. These liquid experiences provide an excellent opportunity to connect with locals and learn the nuances behind the culture.

Embracing Coffee Drinking Customs and Traditions

New Zealand's coffee culture is shaped by unique drinking customs and traditions. Understanding these customs is essential, especially when trying to connect with locals. Here are some tips and insights:

  • Coffee with breakfast is a major part of New Zealand culture. Grabbing a cup of coffee while enjoying breakfast is a perfect way to start the day. Try exploring cafes that offer breakfast specialties tailored for coffee lovers.
  • Morning coffee is an essential part of many New Zealanders' daily routines. Whether heading to work or college, grabbing a cup of coffee from a nearby cafe is the perfect way to kickstart the day.
  • When visiting a friend or conducting business in New Zealand, it's customary to enjoy coffee together. The meeting coffee shows respect and appreciation for the other person's time.
  • After a busy day, many New Zealanders unwind with an afternoon coffee. This coffee style is a great time to catch up with friends and connect with locals.
  • New Zealand's central business districts - CBDs - offer unique coffee culture experiences. Smaller, busy cafes with only a few baristas are a common sight in CBDs where people drop by while running errands or taking a break. This setup provides an excellent opportunity to connect with locals and drink coffee in a bustling environment.

Coffee is deeply woven into New Zealand's social fabric. Engaging with these coffee drinking customs is an excellent way to connect with locals and learn more about the culture.

Recommendations for Expat-friendly Coffee Shops and Cafes in New Zealand

New Zealand offers a plethora of coffee shops and cafes, and as an expat, exploring these coffee shops is an excellent way to connect with the culture. Below are some recommendations for expat-friendly coffee shops and cafes in New Zealand that offer a unique coffee experience:

  • Established in 2003, Mojo has since grown to become a quintessential New Zealand brand with unique, innovative flavors. With locations in Wellington, Auckland, and Hawke's Bay, Mojo offers a well-balanced coffee culture experience.
  • Known for its clothing and gear stores, Kathmandu has ventured into the coffee industry with its espresso bar in its Auckland flagship store. The Kathmandu espresso bar offers high-quality coffee alongside its famous apparel inventory.
  • A chain bookstore, Reader's Warehouse, has established a reputation for itself in the coffee culture industry. In addition to its book offerings, Reader's Warehouse offer a great coffee experience with its unique collection of cafes.
  • A chain cafe with locations throughout Auckland, Brother's Espresso offers unique and flavorful coffee styles. Brother's Espresso offers a unique dining experience as well, with menu items such as porridge, croissants, and artisan sandwiches.
  • Established by a talented team of baristas and craftsmen, CabinetMaker combines high-quality craftsmanship, in addition to its superior coffee supplies. CabinetMaker offers coffee supplies and maker services alongside its coffee shops.

Exploring these coffee shops' unique flavors and styles is an excellent way to connect with locals, engage with New Zealand's coffee culture, and learn about the country's coffee industry.

Respecting Local Coffee Drinking Customs

Respecting New Zealand's coffee drinking customs is essential, especially when trying to connect with locals. Some tips to follow while drinking coffee in New Zealand include:

  • When ordering a cappuccino or latte, New Zealanders prefer less foam than Australians or Europeans. When ordering, ask for less foam or a dry cappuccino to avoid getting too much foam.
  • It's traditional to dunk your biscuits into your coffee. The nibblers served alongside coffee in New Zealand cafes are usually meant to dunk into your coffee.
  • Ordering takeaway coffee is incredibly speedy, especially in busy towns and cities. New Zealanders prefer takeaway coffee over dining in for the added convenience.
  • New Zealanders tend to indulge in early morning coffee, often around 9 or 10 am. This timing is hugely popular, especially among working professionals, making it an excellent opportunity to connect with locals and learn more about the culture.
  • New Zealand has introduced initiatives aimed at reducing waste by banning disposable cups. As a result, most merchants offer a discount for using reusable cups. Using reusable cups demonstrates respect for local traditions and promote sustainable practices.

Understanding and adhering to local coffee drinking customs is essential in connecting with locals, learning unique aspects of New Zealand's culture, and experiencing the country's coffee scene from a more profound perspective.


New Zealand's coffee culture provides an unparalleled experience for coffee enthusiasts and casual drinkers alike. Our guide has provided insights into New Zealand's coffee culture from an expat point of view, focusing on understanding coffee origins and production, embracing favorite coffee style drinks, appreciating coffee drinking customs and traditions, exploring expat-friendly coffee shops and cafes, and respecting local coffee drinking customs. By keeping these tips in mind, you'll have the perfect opportunity to connect with locals, engage with the coffee culture, and make the most of your New Zealand experience.