Caravan on Tour
Simon in New Zealand June/July 2015

Since Christmas 2014, I have had the privilege of returning to New Zealand twice. From these trips, albeit only months apart, I have been able to see obvious changes in our thriving industry. Both here in London and down under, two things have stood out for me more than anything else; awareness and progression.

From the age old ‘no-weigh José’ style of the antipodes being phased out, back to the analysed (…sometimes too much) approach here in the UK, the industry is on the front foot, battling to get noticed and appreciated for the hours of work that passionately goes into what we do. The difference between our two markets is all in the timing; it’s a game of cat and mouse as to who is doing the latest and greatest. Unlike the late nineties and noughties, the UK and Europe are, for me, now the leaders of our industry, with the Antipodeans now seen to be slightly behind the times. One thing is still a clear winner around the world still, and that is the Latte Art Throwdown. I was lucky enough to be invited to attend the one in Auckland, although too late to compete, the turnout was huge with over 100 people packing into the Coffee General site, located in the Department Store in Takapuna. Hans, owner of three locations, has a great following as he has no major ties to any coffee company using 4-5 roasters at a time for retail and espresso service. He roasts is own blend as a house offer too, under the name Merito Coffee. 


Since arriving in London two and half years ago, my own knowledge and understanding of coffee as a product has grown considerably. I notice my own development most on my trips back to NZ; where parts of the skill set necessary for work life here in London are still not yet common practice. Examples could be the weighing shots, pulling longer extractions, using roasting technology, or roasting with place, and not process, in mind. Much like the craft beer or wines growth and expanse, it only takes a few small, everyday adjustments to practices to see positive and widespread appeal to our industry.  I hope to see that on these trips back to New Zealand that there is a narrowing gap between market standards and a continual push to expand and develop the industry at both ends.


It wouldn’t be a story about the improvement of Auckland’s new café scene without a cheeky review. Here I’ve listed a few venues that stand out for me as either being heavily influenced by the world market, and who are now positively influencing the local market. With the help of and other coffee websites, the sightglass looking to the world’s most recent trends is a whole lot clearer. 


Ceremony Grafton – I am a little biased about these guys, as one of the owners, Charles Williams, is a great friend. But, what they do is great! This first time business is well thought out, intentional and best of all, simple. In the vain of Japanese minimalism, the clean, crisp fit out is a new and interesting change from the norm. For me, vibes are an important piece of the puzzle when you are trying to capture your style of offering. An eclectic offering on the turntable (you can be host DJ on Sunday mornings!), a Linea PB pulling ‘spros of the Bomber and Belle blends from Flight, Moccamaster with the brew, and sandwiches that are en pointe, you’re sure to be pleased, I was. Charles’ spot reminded me quite a lot of the Brooklyn Coffee set up on Commercial Street in Shoreditch, and coincidentally, the two coffee shops are planning a ‘global coffee swap’, where they have sent 1kg of their coffee and  takeaway cups from their own supply and carried out a full day coffee swap. This is something that Ceremony plan to do on a semi regular basis with other coffee venues around the world. 


Camper Coffee – For me, the best prepared coffee in Auckland hands down. Lee’s attention to detail is exceptional. In a space of only about nine square metres, he manages to fit in a Synesso 2grp, Mythos One, EK43, wash up and storage area and the sum total of two very small stools. His knowledge and contact within the industry is vast, using multiple roasters for his filter offerings, including the likes of Koppi, Tim Wendelboe, and Heart Roasters. Lee uses Rocket Coffee (one of my favourite NZ roasters) for his house blend for espresso, and some filters also. If he is not happy with the brew, you will not get it until it tastes right. All single origin espressos are prepared and tasted prior to serving, ensuring their quality. This is something that I have a lot of respect for. 



Coffee Lab – Always a stalwart of the Auckland specialty coffee scene, I am always interested to see what Anna is up to. Anna & Rob McGregor, owners of Coffee Lab, just buy really good coffee. Coming back to New Zealand, I imagined I would come back to Coffee Lab roasting super light and pushing to envelope with their coffee offer, but I forget that the offer is for the customer, not the barista!  Looking after her customer’s familiar taste is paramount for Anna. An instant change was never going to be on the cards. Krisse ‘Helen’ McGregor, a finalist at this year’s World Cup Tasters Championships in Gothenburg, spent six months working with us at Caravan in 2014 and has stepped back into the family business with a fresh set of eyes, helping influence an approach focused on slightly different development of the coffee, whilst still allowing the Coffee Lab style to shine through it all. Coffee Lab now offers a wider selection of their beans as a ‘light roast’ option, with my favourite being their range of Geisha from the Guatemalan farm, Santa Felisa.

Krisse ‘Helen’ McGregor, a finalist at this year’s World Cup Tasters Championships in Gothenburg, spent six months working with us at Caravan in 2014 and has stepped back into the family business with a fresh set of eyes.

Welcome Eatery – Coffee Supreme old boy Ralph Jenner, no relation to Caitlyn, has teamed up with buddies of old and the owners of an office block in Grafton to create an epic tuck shop, come high end eatery. Simple and clean, everything about it feels good. The food is fresh, the layout is attractive, coffee is well served (Coffee Supreme & Flight Coffee) and the presentation is just cool. When I arrived at Welcome, I expected to see Ralph manning the espresso machine, slinging flat whites and long blacks to the locals, except here is comes fresh from making sausage rolls out back. This spot could well be the café of an inner city building in London, LA or New York. This type of thing makes me feel good. Knowing that the people who make it all happen and are actually the ones who make it all happen.


The Street Food Collective – This is the first permanent location of its kind in Auckland at least, and quite possibly New Zealand. Started by Ryan & Annelise Clarke, it’s built around the Street Feast concept. After a world trip wanting to look for inspiration for a new coffee location in Auckland, Ryan and Annelise were hooked on BBQ and street food. This well used space in central Ponsonby captures the best of specialty, both food and drink. A bar, which operates out of a 1973 Bedford Campervan, is serving carefully manufactured cocktails and boasts only six beers on tap, all microbreweries from New Zealand. Inside the collective area, the only resident spot is dedicated for their coffee service. A 3grp Linea PB pulls shots of Flight’s Bomber blend, while their Fetco allows for the introduction of filter coffee in bulk which is a rarity in Auckland. The rest of the site boasts pop up stalls and powered van sites, where the best in Auckland’s street food scene can peddle their morsels to a willing crowd.



Notable venues

  • Depot – Hands down the best meal I’ve had in New Zealand since I started my love affair with food. Menu and delivery was exceptional. A definite similarity to Caravan’s well travelled style of plate. A spot at the passé was a considerable factor in my experience! 

  • Federal St Deli – a tribute to the New York deli with high quality offerings. Dual roasters, available as filter only. #obscenepoutine

  • Miss Moonshines – opened in collaboration with The Street Food Collective. Owners Ryan and Annelise travelled in search of café ideas, and returned with a 1.5tonne smoker from Kansas. #BBQtime. 


  • Supreme Seafarers – Minimal interior and shared entrance to offices and a restaurant upstairs. Great coffee, great banter and chilled. 

  • Geeks on Sainsbury – The newest opening since my return to NZ. Ex Dear Jervois staff member has opened up a clinically styled venue on the fringe of St. Lukes. Coffee is great (Red Rabbit of Wellington), and good food options make it a great addition to the area.  

By Simon Lewthwaite