I didn’t find a decent cup of brewed coffee the entire time we were in NZ. Considering that there were coffee houses everywhere, surpassing even the density you’d expect in Seattle, you would think that you would find a decent cup of joe somewhere. It turns out that the best way to have good coffee is to order a “long black” (close to what is known in the States as an Americano) in which a double shot of espresso is combined with steaming hot water. A simple espresso is called a “short black.” Here in the States, I have yet to have a satisfactory Americano, so you can imagine my pleasant surprise when I tasted my first long black, followed by equally good cups wherever I went. Why is brewed coffee so lousy, then? The only thing I can think of is that they use instant coffee. Argh! Indeed, when you look down the supermarket aisle for coffee, there are more instant coffee choices than I’ve ever seen in the U.S. If you like instant coffee, then you’ll have no complaints in New Zealand. For obvious reasons, you don’t ever get a free refill of a long black.
For drinkers who like milk in their coffee, NZ (and Australia) offers what is known as a “flat white,” similar to a cappucino or latte, but differing in the way the milk is incorporated into the brew. In NZ, it starts out with a double shot of espresso, then the milk is added in such a way as to minimize the foaminess (therefore “flat”).
Sometimes, these drinks are served with miniature muffins. If you love coffee, you can’t have enough of these.
P.S. I was reading the NZ board today (9-10-2010) on chowhound and discovered that the basic coffee beverages start out with only a single shop of espresso rather than double.