For those who have never been to Wellington, I can only liken the cultural capital of New Zealand to a blend of Cape Town, Portland and San Francisco, which happen to be some of my favourite cities across the world. It’s no wonder then, that I fell in love with windy Wellington and extended my stay by a couple of days, to behold one last sunset from Mount Victoria.
Where the beach meets the city and runners greet mountain bikers upon the 300+km of surrounding tracks, Wellington is a hub for outdoor enthusiasts and coffee lovers alike. With over 750 restaurants, bars and cafés, Wellington is the coffee capital of New Zealand for good reason. Colourful creativity bursts around every corner of this hip, vibrant city. Chains and department outlets are overlooked in favour of vinyl record shops and a multitude of vintage clothing stores. Wellington, a timeless city that remains true to itself despite current trends; it’s neither boastful or outlandish. An overwhelming sense of home and embrace gives Wellington a unique ambience that left me wondering when I’ll be back, before I had even left.
During the few days I had in Wellington, I explored as many cafés as I could and was blown away by what the city had to offer. Here’s a list of my favourites:
1. Lamason Brew Bar: Overall Favourite
Corner of Lombard & Bond St,
Monday – Friday: 7am – 4:30pm
Saturday: 9:30am – 3pm
“We are a Siphon & Espresso Brew Bar that is dedicated to top-shelf espresso and beautifully crafted single origin, non-pressurized coffee. We use a 3 group La Sanmarco 80’s Chrome for espresso, HARIO gold and wood siphons, and HARIO V60”. (Lamason Brew Bar – Facebook Page)
When a café devotes itself to the artistic brewing method of the siphon, expectations are great. Named after the owner, Dave Lamason, this relatively new café serves up a wide selection of beautiful single-origins, roasted by Peoples Coffee along with a tasty espresso blend. There’s a very good reason why Lamason was bustling with people when I arrived: they serve some of the best coffee I tasted in New Zealand.
Coffee aside, the space itself is a great representation of Wellington. Despite focusing on hand-brew methods, there is nothing pretentious nor intimidating about this café, simply serving really good coffee (along with the odd toastie). What’s more, the baristas were all incredibly friendly, knowledgeable and accommodating. A space to work and a place to chat, Lamason is the first café I’ll visit when I touch down in Wellington.
2. Flight Coffee Hangar – Quality Single-Origins
119 Dixon St,
Monday – Friday: 7am – 5pm
Saturday – Sunday: 8am – 5pm
“Flight Coffee is a family of driven people that work together to produce amazing coffee, while always aiming to have the best impact we can on the industry and the lives it connects. Our focus is on coffee appreciation, education, and development. Education is key.” (Flight Coffee Website)
How can I describe the atmosphere when one walks into a café like Flight Coffee? I look around the room to find an elderly couple reading the daily newspaper while drinking their morning flat whites. On the table next to them, a young businessman writing in his notebook before bumping into a friend, with whom he sits and drinks an espresso. Then there’s me, a coffee lover, desperate to try every Single-Origin on the menu, “The Flight of Filters, please”.
Perhaps that itself might be the perfect description: Flight Coffee is a relaxed setting for all coffee lovers, young and old, to experience personable service, delicious coffee and flavourful food. A speciality coffee roaster that’s mastered the fine art of good food is hard to find but for me, Flight Coffee Hangar is spot on.
3. Peoples Coffee – People Passion
12 Constable St,
“We believe regularly visiting our producer partners plays an important role in understanding the realities of farming specialty coffee, and is key to being able to best represent the true value of coffee.
Buying from a co-op means we have great traceability; we know who grew our coffee, where, how, and exactly how much they got paid… over a few years, simply by purchasing, preparing and drinking Peoples Coffee, you can improve the quality of life for whole communities of people, all over the world.” (Peoples Coffee Website)
With coffee exclusively from small coffee farms in Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, Peru, Ethiopia, Rwanda and Mexico, Peoples Coffee is one of only two New Zealand businesses to gain certification from the World Fair Trade Organisation. Their extraordinary commitment to social change has resulted in not only an improvement in the lives of coffee farmers but an improvement in coffee quality around the world. With 125 million people depending on coffee for their livelihood, the importance of Peoples’ role in the industry cannot be overlooked.
Yet it wasn’t their traceability or social impact that first drew me into this rustic, hipster café, situated in the diverse suburb of Newtown. In fact, not even the minimalist, vintage interiors can take credit for attracting me to this bright, urban space. Only after tasting Peoples Coffee at Lamason did I decide to visit the café itself before I left Wellington and I am so glad that I did. A unique setting, serving quality coffee with a beautiful story. It’s a pleasure to drink their filter and support their work.
4. Mojo Coffee– The Safe Bet
Multiple Locations including: Lambton Quay, Market Lane, Featherston Street, Aurora Centre (+more)
Opening Hours (Waterfront):
Monday – Friday: 7am-5pm
Saturday – Sunday: 8am – 4pm
“Founded as a boutique roastery café in Wellington by Steve and Julie Gianoutsos in 2003, Mojo Coffee is now one of New Zealand’s most experienced independent coffee roasters and café operators. Starting from humble beginnings on Wakefield Street, we’ve grown like a family, working with passionate individuals along the way.” (Mojo Coffee – Our Story)
What makes Mojo special? Their ability to maintain the environment of a local independent café despite having many established locations. There’s no denying Mojo Coffee are supplying a substantial number of locations around both Wellington and Auckland, with 20 stores in Wellington alone yet quality is far from compromised.
It’s somewhat reassuring to wonder around Wellington in the knowledge that you’re within a couple of kms of Mojo Coffee and hence, a decent flat white. Most cafés, including the Waterfront location, have a variety of fresh breakfast and brunch options which are of equal high standard. What begun as a boutique roastery in 2003, Mojo is the perfect example of starting small and naturally expanding while staying personable and upholding quality.
5. Havana – Where It All Began
163 Tory St,
Monday – Friday: 7am-5pm
‘The coffee you feel’ is our motto or slogan and it’s just that, awesome espresso really. It’s coffee that you drink and feel; it tastes like it smells and that’s what we are all about. (Sam Keall – Havana)
Havana deserves a huge amount of credit as one of the driving forces behind third-wave coffee in Wellington. Easily walkable from Wellington’s modest CBD, Havana successfully takes the snobbery out of coffee as you are transported back in time to 90s Cuba. Evidence of their first store on Cuba Street remains, with the intricately designed café interiors showcasing incredible artistry with traditional chandeliers, pastel coloured walls and a spiral steel staircase. A glimpse into Havana, Cuba but in Wellington, New Zealand.
While many cafés across Wellington serve Havana coffee (including Fidels – one of my favourite breakfast spots), there’s nowhere quite like the café itself. Greeted at the door by an aroma of roasting coffee beans and a friendly smile from the baristas, Havana has a welcoming, fuss-free attitude towards serving great coffee. It’s abundantly clear from every aspect of the café, the staff at Havana are passionate and enthusiastic about what they do: the ultimate recipe for success.
Literally buzzing from an amazing few days in Wellington, my greatest piece of advice for anyone thinking about a trip to New Zealand would be to visit and experience this charming city for yourself. Thank you to Wellington Tourism and The Copthorne Hotel Oriental Bay for their gracious hospitality.