Angela Cuming gives her verdict on Waikato's cafe scene.
In last week's Time Out, I may or may not have mentioned in passing my preference for small, independent Waikato cafes over the likes of Starbucks.
That prompted a few good-natured jibes thrown my way and accusations of the "coffee snob" variety.
Pride wounded and the Irishman in tow, I decided to confront my demons and headed to the Starbucks housed in the Chartwell Westfield foodcourt.
The Irishman had agreed to break his own ban on Starbucks with the lure of Skyfall after our beverages, but the special Christmas menu and confusing drink size names (grande what?) had him reaching for a bottle of water.
I ordered a very festive "gingerbread latte", short. That means small, but here they call it short. Confused?
So were we, but I took my drink, sat down on the worn green armchairs, wondered who on earth would order a gingerbread-flavoured coffee (it's not so nice) and kept ourselves amused by trying to spot Hobbit fans in the cinema foyer instead.
The experience brings me to this, my Christmas message for you all: Don't believe the marketing, Starbucks is below average at best. Explore the Waikato's hundreds of other wonderful, quirky, welcoming and very cool cafes. I've had the pleasure of visiting one a week for the past year and they rarely let me down.
I truly believe we have some of the finest coffee and baristas in the world here and the most wonderful fresh, local food and amazing service.
And so I say Merry Christmas and never order the gingerbread latte.