Flat-White Tour 2012 Flat white

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I am a coffee addict!

I have drunk copious quantities of the stuff, black, for the last 45 years. My tastes have changed over the years; cona, instant, percolated and I have even on occasion enjoyed airline coffee. It all changed in 2004 when my business partner signed us up for a year-long office rental of a machine that ground the beans and made a quite acceptable espresso complete with crema (and powdered cream - if you were into that). BP had introduced their Wild Bean Café concept and that was ok as well. Even for a Long Black. In 2007, on our RWC 2007 tour of France, I discovered French Espresso - this was truly consistent espresso and it was even served at McDonalds in small espresso cups. I fell truly in love with espresso!

So why is this about Flat Whites?

I have only come across the odd café in NZ that produces what I consider to be a standard Long Black (double espresso, served in a warm cup with a small side-jug of hot water). So, forever tired of complaining, or not, I have changed my coffee drinking habits. My home coffee is black & strong and is brewed in my Rancilio Silivia, after being ground in my conical-burr grinder. When I go out I drink Flat Whites. Once again, there is a broad interpretation of what is a Flat White and an even broader range of quality so I have decided to rate every Flat White that I buy from now on and to publish the result.

My Flat White expectation is simple - I should enjoy it! The milk should be textured and sweet. The espresso base should be correctly brewed avoiding sour or bitter taste. The temperature should be just-so.

These coffee reviews are my own opinions based on unscientific methodology to determine which of the star-ratings will be allocated to each Flat White purchased. The ratings do not reflect the food on offer, the ambience of the café nor the appearance of the staff. I will expect that each flat-white will be the best the café has to offer, that the staff have been properly trained and their equipment is properly set up, calibrated and maintained. I may comment on other aspects of the café but this does not reflect on the star-rating given to the Flat White. No decision will be reviewed after publication. While I may choose to re-visit the café and order another Flat White at some point in the future, my revisitation will again be totally anonymous.

26/01/12 - have added a two and a half star rating.

Later... Interestingly, as I get a few reviews under my belt, I find myself wandering from the original objectives, but so be it. I also note that without exception (almost) the 3-star coffee is accompanied by quickly cleared tables, a smile and a general concern about the customer. I do so want to remove half a star from 'The Store' but the coffee itself was very good; and ' famous' people elsewhere shouldn't be complacent...

Later still... I am asked why I don't complain about bad coffee, but the answer is simple. I am sure that there would be puzzlement "nobody else has complained", "certainly sir, here's a refund (even though I don't know why you are complaining)". God help me if I am offered a replacement cup!!! I see that those who would understand are unlikely to have me complain in the first place so it is all a vicious circle; especially as I am an unknown transient customer - maybe I need to be more selective of the cafés I use, walk in and make a snap judgement as to the likelihood of a good coffee and then to stay or go accordingly... maybe. I do notice that some of the better coffee purveyors carry sub-advertising for their coffee suppliers. I will take more note of this in future

Tasted great, looked great and I would happily recommend to my friends
I couldn't quite give it three stars but it was close
Actually, this was a good flat white
I did not enjoy this flat white - maybe it was just a bad day?

Flat White Reviews...

Comments, Complaints, Suggestions

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It is now 2015. The cafés and their ratings below, while accurate at the time of my actual visit, may now be totally irrelevant; simply the café may have changed hands, staff have moved on, training has been undertaken etc etc. I leave this matrix displayed as a snapshot of what it was for the time being.....

$4.00 Fran's Café Cambridge Map 28/12/11 Very average. Website http://www.franscafe.co.nz/
$4.00 Bus Stop Café Mangakino 28/12/11 Nice location. Website http://www.busstopcafe.co.nz/
$4.00 The Dam Café Mangakino Map   29/12/11 So damn good that I went back for another!
$4.00 Breakfast Shed Café Cambridge Map 30/12/11 It was a shame that the food prices charged were higher than the advertised prices - there's no excuse for this!
$4.00 Rata Café Cambridge Map   04/01/12 Website http://www.ratacafeandcatering.co.nz/
$4.00 Robert Harris Milford Milford Map   08/01/12 Website Robert Harris Milford
$4.20 Espresso Bar By Atomic Akl Airport Map   09/01/12 Too production-line like; inadequate staff training
$3.50 McDonalds Bombay Map 09/01/12 Surprisingly good by attentive staffer McCafé Website
$3.60 Scotts Café Cambridge Map 10/01/12 Always great coffee (and food) - It's my local!!!
$4.50 Momento Espresso Hamilton Map 11/01/12 Another favourite - always good (Hood St) Website
$3.50 Savour (De Bretts Resort) Taupo Map 17/01/12 I left mine unfinished. A shame, the rest was niceWebsite
$3.50 The Steaming Bean Taupo Map 18/01/12 "Good taste remains eternal" - Superb! He had a flat white. She had a hot chocolate - also Superb!
$4.00 Ground Up Pauahatanui Map 19/01/12 Nice café, nice food in a nice location.
$4.20 Café Vella Plimmerton Map 20/01/12 Almost 3 stars, Nice café atmosphere Other reviews
$4.00 MV Straitsman Tory Channel Map 20/01/12 Cook Strait ferry - what more can I say? Website
$4.00 The Store Kekerengu Map   22/01/12 Very nice coffee and surrounds - a great shame about the service. Website
$4.00 Two Rivers Café Cheviot Map 23/01/12 Quantity does not make up for quality - served in big, big cup; too big! Nice café. Website
$4.20 Artisan (Rangiora Bakery) Rangiora Map   24/01/12 Nice coffee and incredible pastries! Website
$3.80 Seagars at Oxford Oxford Map 24/01/12 Just another Flat White but the slowest ever! Website
$3.80 Samo Café Lyttelton Map 26/01/12 Interesting café (...out of the ruins) Website
$3.80 Crafted Coffee Company Christchurch Map 26/01/12 Cashel Container Mall - nice coffee & friendly Website
$4.00 Café Crema New Brighton Map   27/01/12 Nice coffee & friendly
$3.50 The Raspberry Café Tai Tapu Map 28/01/12 One of the nicest country cafés ever! Coffe was good.
$4.00 The Stables Akaroa Map 29/01/12 Quaint, coffee ok, food ok. Nothing flash.
$4.00 Salmon Tales Rakaia Map 30/01/12 Surpisingly, very good coffee for a tourist-trap! Website
$4.00 Heritage Café Methven Map   31/01/12 Ho-hum...
$4.00 Café Time Tinwald Map   01/02/12 Coffee was good; food was crap...
$3.80 Verde Café Deli Geraldine Map   02/02/12 Lovely café & food. Very good coffee.
$3.80 Verde Café Deli Geraldine Map   03/02/12 We went back for the food which was superb. This has to be one of the top cafés. Coffee scored high again too
$3.80 Pukeko Café Timaru Map 04/02/12 Nice coffee, nice food.
$4.00 The Stables Timaru Rural Map 05/02/12 Oh so close! Nice café, great company. Thanks A&M.
$4.00 The Farm Barn Fairlie Rural Map   06/02/12 Nice coffee, pleasant surroundings, good location
$9.00 Farilie Hotel Fairlie Map


06/02/12 3-star cold beer after a 22km bike ride on the local river trails. I don't even know if they serve coffee!!!
$3.50 The Purple Lizard Timaru Map 07/02/12 This place was recommended but disappointed
$3.50 ARTrio Art Café Waimate Map 08/02/12 Coffee good, café exceptional! Website
$4.00 Valley Café and Bakery Kurow Map   08/02/12 The only game in town today - unfortunately!
$4.00 The Bay Café Macandrew Bay, Otago Map 11/02/12 Nice coffee, nice setting Website
$4.00 Larnach Castle Otago Peninsula Map 11/02/12 The barista was well presented and polite - why was she not trained to make good coffee? Website
$4.50 Tall Poppy Port Chalmers Map   12/02/12 Pleasant enough
$3.50 Kissing Gate (middlemarch) OtagoRailTrail Map 13/02/12 Nice coffee and a welcome sight indeed; quaint.
$4.00 Otago Central Hotel (Hyde) Otago RailTrail Map 14/02/12 30kms on a bike - I should have had a beer! Website
  $4.50 E-Central Café (Ranfurly) Otago RailTrail Map   15/02/12 No stars at all !!! Nice food, nice staff, but don't go there for the coffee!!
$4.50 Oturehua Railway Hotel Otago RailTrail Map   16/02/12 Damn fine coffee, nice location and nice biscuit. I would have liked lunch to run into dinner and a 3-star Speights...
$4.50 Stationside Café (Lauder) Otago RailTrail Map   16/02/12 Good coffee, lovely ladies in the kitchen and almost a challenge to the previous contender in the coffee stakes.
$4.50 Chatto Creek Tavern Otago RailTrail Map 17/02/12 Even though this is a pub they still masquerade as a café to catch the rail-trail traffic. Coffee did not excite me.
$4.00 The Bank Café Clyde Map   18/02/12 Nice coffee, friendly, good food
$4.50 Wild Walnut Café Lawrence Map   19/02/12 So much promise. Nice food though! Website
$3.90 Café 55 Balclutha Map   20/02/12 Coffee was a bit rough as was the sausage roll Website
$5.00 Whistling Frog Catlins Map 21/02/12 Struggled to make 2 stars - Most expensive coffee yet!
$4.50 Niagara Falls Café Catlins Map   21/02/12 At last!!! A café that knows how to make coffee!!! Website
$4.00 Three Bean Café Invercargill Map   22/02/12 Has won coffee awards 2010/2011. Standards have slipped.
  $3.50 The Postmaster Bakery Riverton Map   23/02/12 No stars! Bitter coffee served with sudsy foam on top.
$4.00 Kiwi-French Crepes Stewart Island Map   25/02/12 We hoped for better from the French side of things.
$4.00 Table Talk Gore Map   27/02/12 The milk wasn't quite right but the coffee was exceptional!
$4.50 Sandfly Café Te Anau Map 28/02/12 Overextracted and bitter - it wasn't a good start.
$4.00 Miles Better Pies Te Anau Map 29/02/12 Makes some specialty cafés look a bit amateurish. Nice pies!
$4.20 The Fat Duck Te Anau Map 01/03/12 Barista seemed to have the knowledge, but that little bit of je ne sais quoi that makes a great coffee was missing
$4.00 Kingston Flyer Café Kingston Map   01/03/12 Good coffee, roaring fire, snow on the hills Website
$4.00 Joe's Garage Queenstown Map 02/03/12 Good coffee, nice café Website
$4.00 Trading Post Glenorchy Map   03/03/12 Lovely spot and very good coffee Website
$4.00 Vudu Café & Larder Queenstown Map   03/03/12 The one in Rees St. Nearly...
  $4.00 Cider House Café Cromwell Map 04/03/12 Terrible coffee (and the food was no better). Don't go there
$4.00 The Cheeky Monkey Cromwell Map 04/03/12 Good coffee, nice staff, nice place
$4.20 Bonjour Café Arrowtown Map 05/03/12 Served in 12oz glass as part of breakfast Website
$3.90 Wrinkly Rams Omarama Map   06/03/12 Nice coffee in a big touristy café Website
$4.00 The Old Mountaineers Café Mt Cook Map 07/03/12 Nice coffee, nice food, great café
$4.60 Hermitage Café Mt Cook Map   07/03/12 Big touristy place - nice coffee though Website
$4.00 Astro Café (Mount John) Lake Tekapo Map 08/03/12 Coffee slightly bitter and too foamy. Lovely location Website
$4.50 One Smart Coffee (Linda) Lake Ruataniwha Map   11/03/12 Mobile van at event - tend to be a bit hit & miss...
$4.50 The Musterer's Hut Twizel Map 12/03/12 Nice enough coffee. Lovely day and nice setting Website
$4.20 Relishes Café Wanaka Map   13/03/12 Very nice coffee, lovely day. Almost got 3!! Website
$4.00 Otoko Espresso Haast Map 14/03/12 Rusty old shed on wheels - Loved it!!!
$4.50 Salmon Farm Café Haast Highway Map   14/03/12 Nice coffee! Didn't have any food but it looked good
$4.20 Hobnail Café Fox Glacier Map   15/03/12 Nice coffee, nice food, nice ambience
$4.00 Plump Pigeon Franz Joseph Map   15/03/12 Nice coffee - quality seems to be consistent on the West Coast (so far!). Time will tell... Website
$4.50 Matheson Café Fox Glacier Map   16/03/12 Nice coffee while waiting for Mt Cook to appear from cloud
$4.50 Cheese & Deli Café Hokitika Map   17/03/12 Just got there before closing - nice coffee Website
$4.20 Driftwood Café Hokitika Map   18/03/12 Nice coffee!
$4.20 J's (Middle Break Café Westport Map   19/03/12 Nice coffee, interesting décor. ('J' worked here.... !)

It has been pointed out to me by several people that I have started commenting on food, décor etc. Yes I am, but I have to write something! It seems a bit negative that I pick every coffee to bits unless it is truly deserving of a scathing review (in which case it will have its faults pointed out) and the truth is that most of the 2-star coffees are perfectly OK, not perfect but not bad either. If you have noticed, the ratings on the West Coast of the South Island are consistently good, if somewhat unspectacular, as opposed to the other side of the country! Of the two 3-star ratings in the South Island (excluding the Speights with its own self-awarded 3 gold stars) both of those cafés had a great feel to them; one of them was particularly nice and one of them was downright careless with its customers (at least when we were there). As I have said in my earlier writings, I expect that every coffee I drink will be the best that they have to offer, but I now truly believe most people don't really care about excellent coffee, from either side of the counter, and if the expectations aren't high then neither will be the quality...

$4.00 Reef Cottage B&B Café Reefton Map   21/03/12 Nice coffee, nice town Website
$4.00 Wobbly Kea Café & Bar Arthurs Pass Map   22/03/12 Coffee was OK. Cafe noisy; would be better as a bar Website
$4.50 Drovers Café & Bar Springfield Map   22/03/12 Almost made 3-stars! Coffee spot on, milk almost...
$4.50 Three Creeks Art & Craft Burkes Pass Map   24/03/12 Coffee caravan outside the shop - very well done! Website
$4.50 Shawtys Twizel Map   24/03/12 Good coffee and nice food Website
$4.00 Classic Café (Dunedin) Lake Ruataniwha Map 29/03/12 Mobile cart. Milk v. good, espresso shot - almost!! Website
$4.00 Springs Deli Café Hanmer Springs Map   02/04/12 Bad milk texturing and watery sour espresso - not good
$4.00 Chantellinis Café & Bar Hanmer Springs Map 02/04/12 This only just got to 2-stars. Lovely setting. Website
$4.20 Rivers Café Murchison Map   03/04/12 It's been a while but worth the wait! Website
$4.50 Up The Garden Path Takaka Map 03/04/12 Nice coffee and one of the nicest cafés so far Website
$4.50 Paddle Crab Café (Puponga) Farewell Spit Map   04/04/12 Hmmm.... Lovely view from the café (it's for sale)
$4.00 Pirate Espresso Port Tarakohe   06/04/12 On Jaques Cousteau's old boat? Nice location
  $5.00 Anatoki Salmon Farm Café Takaka Map 06/04/12 It made Greggs Instant coffee seem good!!! Website
$3.50 TOAD HallMotueka Map 06/04/12 Milk not textured right; not enough sweetness Website
$4.50 The Naked Bun Mapua Map   07/04/12 Nice coffee, lovely weather and great location Website
$5.00 Portage Hotel Café Kenepuru Sound Map   08/04/12 Nice coffee, lovely view and beautiful setting Website
$4.00 McCafé Blenheim Map   09/04/12 Need some lessons from Maccas, Bombay
$4.50 Cortado Café Picton Map   09/04/12 Rubbish! What a way to finish the South Island Website
$4.20 Memphis Belle Coffee Wellington Map 10/04/12 Absolutely top-notch! Had an espresso as well! Website

I have just been to Memphis Belle in Dixon Street, Wellington. I went there as I wanted to try the coffee, having heard a lot about it recently through publicity they have variously & properly earned, to see if high-level baristas can serve up a good coffee to a walk-in customer; they should be able to but sadly experience has proven that this is not always the case with some other cafés... I ordered an Espresso and a Flat White - the Espresso was served first and looked very very good and it tasted very very very good! The Flat White followed looking good (no 'very's you will note) but boy, it tasted good, very very very good. And the cafe was clean. And the service was friendly. And I would go back. And I would recommend Memphis Belle to anyone who wants extraordinarily good coffee. And to all those who are content to pay for and drink some of the crap that gets served up by many of the other cafés above - people, you are missing something. I would also suggest that some coffee roasters should be employing a premium brand name that can only be used by cafés serving up a premium product; after all, many of the zero and 1-star cafés above advertise your brands at their gates and then let them down badly.

$4.00 Black Stump Café Pahiatua Map 11/04/12 Nice coffee, nice café, good service
$4.50 International Airport Café Mangaweka Map   11/04/12 Coffee was good, watch for low-flying planes Website
$3.50 The Steaming Bean Taupo Map 12/04/12 "Good taste remains eternal" Didn't I come here in January? Yep, and on the return visit it's still great; as it should be!
$4.00 Essence Café Ngongotaha Map   13/04/12 Nice coffee, friendly service
$3.90 The Coffee Club Te Rapa Base Map 18/04/12 Espresso ok, milk too foamy. Absolutely no excuse for charging $5 (next size up) without asking me. Menu said $3.90 and their website shows a $3.90 size cup! Website

4/08/2012 - I spent a week in the New Territories of Hong Kong and was determined to have, at least, a couple of coffees whilst there. The problem with Hong Kong and coffee is that they are just not compatible; Hongkongers don't grab a coffee on the go, they would have it, if at all, with lunch which is usually a serious affair. The café as we know it doesn't exist.

Take Fuel Espresso, as an example - it makes good coffee but serves only coffee (and other associated drinks) and has a couple of jars of biscuits on the counter. It doesn't do lunch or dinner and thereby doesn't have many customers. I expect most of its custom comes from ex-pats who work in the area (the Finance District on Hong Kong Island). I have previously had very good espresso/flat-white in another couple of Central cafés so it is there if you can find it.

Pacific Coffee is a chain of stores that serves Starbucks-type coffee with disgusting milk and these tend to be in the suburban malls. I made the mistake of buying a flat white at one of these stores on a previous visit so have left it off my reviews as I am not masochistic enough to return for another coffee. Café Habitu is part of a chain that is also found in the malls and does things much better. It boasts of its coffees origins and of the roasting process. I scored the coffee as pretty good. Once again, this is a shop which is unlikely to sell many coffees as we know them and more the fancy drinks with chai/sugar/chocolate. But I will go back there.

$6.00 Café Habitu Festival Walk, Kowloon Tong, Hong Kong Map   02/08/12 There was no flat white on the menu so I went for latte which turned out very well. The espresso was good and the 'milk' tasted just fine Website
$7.00 Fuel Espresso IFC Plaza, Central, Hong Kong Map   03/08/12 I had a double espresso as well as a Flat White. Both were very good coffees. Website

10/4/2013 - Did I say "I will go back there"? I probably should have said 'I would go back there' but I didn't. I'm not going back just yet as there are now more coffee shops and the somewhat-foreign-to-HK coffee culture seems to be on the move here although it is minute relative to the population. Kate has told me of all sorts of places that, since I was last here, have either sprung up or have come to our attention. As I have just discovered, on my visit to Colour Brown in Sai Kung, milk (or whatever passes for it) will be the defining factor in a good flat white here. So I will probably use that as an excuse to also buy an espresso at the same time so I can be objective about why the flat white was good/bad. And in most cafes here I will be ordering lattes but in most cases they are flatish-whiteish-like.

$5.00 agnès b. Café LPG   Shop 390, New Town Plaza, Sha Tin Map 09/04/13 No flat white but there was a latte and it was nice. Kate had a machiatto and said that was good also. Part of HK chain...
$5.00 Colour Brown 34-36 See Cheung Street, Sai Kung Map 10/04/13 The latte was vaguely ok - the espresso tasted ok I think but it was overwhelmed by whatever milk they used and it left a weird after-taste. I had a double espresso also and that was quite ok. Website

12/04/13 - Today my daughter Kate, who is also somewhat of a coffee nut, is going to review a couple of coffees we had on an outing to Central District (Hong Kong Island). The first coffee, at Posto Pubblico was included with the set menu lunch and the second was meant to be at the Rabbit Hole, which we had read about. Unfortunately they weren't doing coffee today so we wandered on and stopped off at the other Fuel Espresso, downstairs inside the Landmark Centre in Des Voeux Road. Kate and I disagreed on the relative ratings of today's two coffees but hey, I have always said that the ratings are subjective...

$5.00 Posto Pubblico

28 Elgin Street, Soho, Central District

Map 12/04/13 Guest Review by Kate - xxWebsite
$7.00 Fuel Espresso B47 Landmark, Central District Map 12/04/13 Guest Review by Kate - xxWebsite

.. and I just couldn't help myself - on the way back to NZ at the HKG Airport I found a new coffee shop just by my boarding gate so, just to be different, I had a Machiatto for openers and followed that up with my Flat-White (actually served as a Latte, surprise, surprise)

$5.00 Espressamente

Terminal 1, Hong Kong Int'l Airport

Map   14/04/13 Nice but too hot. Fastidious presentation.