Kiwi coffee is up with the best

TASTE TEST: Flight Coffee managing director Nick Clark.
TASTE TEST: Flight Coffee managing director Nick Clark.

New Zealand has a young coffee culture by international standards with demand for quality coffee having risen dramatically over the past decade.

But our roasters and baristas are already competitive with the best in the world in producing "specialty coffee", with many of them having brought back experience and knowledge gained on their OEs to our shores.

Specialty coffee is an industry term that refers to coffee produced to a high quality from seed to cup in harvesting, processing, storage, roasting and brewing. Most freshly roasted coffee in New Zealand is specialty coffee, president of the New Zealand Specialty Coffee Association (NZSCA) Carl Sara said. "If we look at New Zealand as a whole, the quality of coffee produced here is extremely high," he said. And it was also common to find Kiwis working in specialty coffee cafes overseas, particularly in the United States and United Kingdom, he said.

"They're either infiltrated by New Zealanders, run by New Zealanders or are modelled off New Zealand."

The growth in the size of the association mirrors the sharp rise in the popularity of freshly roasted coffee here - membership numbers have reached 467, including baristas, roasters and companies.

One of those is New Zealand coffee stalwart Coffee Supreme which has roasted beans in Wellington since 1993. It also has cafes in Auckland and Christchurch and a roastery in Melbourne. New Zealand's roasting methods are world class and we are well-regarded internationally for producing good coffee, Coffee Supreme New Zealand managing director Al Keating said. The international specialty coffee community is small and New Zealanders "doing really good things" can be found embedded in cafes and roasteries worldwide, he said.

New Zealand's short history has allowed the domestic industry to evolve freely, he said.

"It gives us a lot of freedom to reinvent things and get a bit creative and see things differently."

Wellington specialty coffee producer Acme and Co logistics manager Paddy Kennedy worked in the UK when specialty coffee cafes started taking off a decade ago. "A lot of them were owned by, or the machines were manned by, New Zealand and Australian baristas," he said.

"We have stamped the industry with our passion for coffee."

When New Plymouth specialty coffee roasters Ozone Coffee Roasters opened its cafe in Shoreditch, London, in 2012 it created excitement in the industry, he said.

"There was a big buzz and it was really well received. There's a specific style to the New Zealand cafe where the service is professional but casual."

Director of Wellington's Flight Coffee and 2013 New Zealand barista champion Nick Clark said New Zealand's specialty coffee scene had a good reputation but still had a way to go to catch up with the US, UK, Denmark and Finland. "But we're not far off and we're climbing," he said.

"When we started moving towards the specialty sector we were a bit of a late bloomer but we're definitely blooming."

The creation of the NZSCA, improved technology, resources and availability of quality green coffee beans had lifted New Zealand's coffee industry standards, Clark said.

"Give it more time and it'll get bigger, better and more accessible." The rise of social media had also helped, he said.

"There's so much you can learn and gauge just by watching what other companies are doing online."

Sara said there were up to 230 roasters operating in New Zealand which made for a challenging and competitive environment.

New Zealand was unique in that it has an almost 100 per cent espresso-based cafe culture, he said. "That generates a certain kind of coffee profile and also demands a certain amount of quality." The US market for example was about 80 per cent filter coffee, he said.

Also helping fuel the coffee roasting market in New Zealand was increased popularity in home-brewed coffee. About 80 per cent of coffee consumers still drink instant or soluble coffee at home. Some have also switched to single serve espresso such as Nespresso capsules, Sara said.

"It's not as good as fresh coffee but it's certainly providing a better drink."


Imagine waking up in the morning and reaching for your smartphone to order a fresh-bean coffee poured straight from the kitchen tap. That's now a possibility with a new kitchen appliance called TopBrewer – a coffee grinding, milk frothing, stainless steel tap built into any tabletop.

Made by Denmark company Scanomat, the TopBrewer is sold in New Zealand through Wellington coffee roasters and cafe operators Mojo Coffee. An entry-level unit costs $12,500 plus GST. The tap's bluetooth technology syncs with mobile devices allowing the user to dial up a coffee remotely.

A keypad screen built into the tabletop can also be used. Mojo sales and account manager Cameron Harris said TopBrewer provided convenience and tasty coffee. "You're never going to get the presentation of a professional latte but you can get a pretty good coffee," he said. But it wouldn't be to everyone's liking, he said.

"There are going to be snobs out there who are going to be purists."

The machine can also pour orange juice, sparkling water, hot chocolate and tea, he said.

"You don't have to have a barista or train your receptionist to make coffee you just push a button and you are your own barista," he said. Mojo started supplying the TopBrewer in March and had trialled it on a few customers so far.

Sunday Star Times