Coffee is a big part of New Zealand and Australian culture — while the Brits will head to the pub for a beer and a chat, we’re more likely to grab a table at a local cafe. Yes, we’re big fans of bars as well, but the afternoon coffee also plays an important role. We’re rather picky as well, we like our coffee to be flavoursome. Here, it’s espresso all the way — you’d be hard-pressed to find filter coffee anywhere, except perhaps in a breakfast buffet or an American diner; the word “coffee” is a category, not an item in itself.

Although multi-national chains like Starbucks have also found their place in the Antipodes, independent cafes and small, locally-run chains also flourish: New Zealand has Columbus, Atomic and Sierra, while in Australia you’ll find Gloria Jeans, Dome and Hudsons among others. Wherever you head, though, you’ll need to know the local parlance to help you find the right coffee for you.

1. Short black

This is just another way of saying “espresso”. You can have a single shot (20-30ml), or a double shot for about 50 cents extra.

A short black, aka espresso.
A short black, aka espresso.

2. Long black

As the name suggests, there’s no milk involved, just a shot of espresso and hot water. Some cafes serve the espresso in a large cup with the water on the side for you to add to your taste, but generally it’s a standard black coffee. It’s also sometimes referred to as an americano, and although some cafes make a distinction between a long black and an americano, but it’s a little arcane.

3. Flat white

I’m not sure where the “flat” comes in, but yes, it’s a white coffee — one that is hard to find outside of the South Pacific. It’s served in a smallish cup and is made with a shot of espresso topped up with heated milk. The milk isn’t boiled, but heated using a steam wand, which creates a dense foam. When the milk is poured on top of the espresso, the baristas often agitate the milk jug to create a design in the foam at the top of the coffee.

pirate flat white
Coffee art

4. Latte

A latte is another white coffee, but it tends to be milkier than a flat white. Also, each cafe has a different interpretation of just what a latte is — some serve it in a tall glass, others in a large bowl. If you’re looking for homogeny, choose a flat white.

5. Cappuccino

I’m sure you’ve come across this one before — it’s one-third espresso, one-third heated milk, and one-third froth. The froth is a lot less dense than the foam you’ll find in a latte or flat white, and it’s usually topped with a sprinkling of cocoa powder or cinnamon.

Most cafes have a selection of seven to ten coffee options, including mochaccinos (mochas), macchiatos, iced coffees and affogatos among others: if you’re not sure what it is, ask. And Kiwis and Aussies tend to be pretty easy-going: if you want a coffee that isn’t on the menu, they’ll quite probably make it for you if you ask nicely (and explain how to make it).

Long black, flat white and jaffas
Long black, flat white and jaffas

Your thoughts on "Get to know your South Pacific coffee"

  • And here I thought a cuppa was TEA in New Zealand. (which I prefer to coffee, which I prefer to coffee anyhow.)

    on October 2, 2011 at 7:38 pm Reply
  • I (as a NZer) would say you're right, a cuppa would be tea. But to confuse matters, I often plan to "grab a coffee" with someone, and they will choose a hot chocolate or a Chai instead. But the event would still be called "grabbing a coffee".

    on October 3, 2011 at 12:13 am Reply

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