What does drinking coffee mean to us in Christchurch?

Mel Eddy only developed a taste for coffee when she visited Vietnam with her husband Perri...
Mel Eddy only developed a taste for coffee when she visited Vietnam with her husband Perri Saunderson. Photo: Chris Barclay
We interrupt Anthony Brady as he waits for a vanilla latte at Fulla Beanz in Cashel Mall.

“What I tend to do is have a coffee three times a week. The first (caffeine) hit is usually between 9 and 11,” he said.

“I would have them on Wednesday and Friday during the working week for no particular reason. If I’m having a bad morning or feel like I deserve one I’ll have one earlier in the week.

“I’ll have a coffee once a week at home, on Saturday or Sunday (to finish his weekly quota).

“I was having coffee every day but I found it gave me heartburn, so I purposefully try and limit it. Basically, I alternate my coffee and alcohol days. For some strange reason that makes me feel really good and healthy. I’m not sure it has any bearing on medical science, but that’s why I try and do.

“I used to buy coffee from the supermarket but the place I go to started selling their own stuff so it makes sense to support a local business.”

Brady bristles when asked if he absorbs his caffeine chilled, via an energy drink: “I don’t touch them, I’m not 17.”

Fulla Beanz is a minute away from Brady’s workplace but there was another motivation for popping in.

“He’s no longer there but a guy that worked there was a (Tottenham) Spurs supporter so there used to be some banter,” said Brady, an enthusiastic fan of Arsenal, North London’s premier football team.

Anthony Brady and John Laing take a morning coffee break in Cashel Mall. Photo: Chris Barclay
Anthony Brady and John Laing take a morning coffee break in Cashel Mall. Photo: Chris Barclay
Brady’s workmate John Laing started drinking coffee, following the example of mum and dad.

“From there you start to develop a flavour and a taste for it. You start to appreciate it. You go from your instant to something a little bit more special,” he said, nominating an Americano as his current preference at a cafe.

“That’s my go-to bought coffee. It’s just a straight coffee with a dash of cream to soften it up a bit. I’d have two or three coffees a day.”

Laing primarily makes coffee in the office kitchen, with his own supply and plunger.

“It’s not two or three bought coffees a day, that ridiculous, I’d need a mortgage,” he said.

He uses a cup or two in the morning to get going during the week, the same rationale applies after lunch.

“It’s nice to have that little pick up in the afternoon. I probably won’t drink it after 2pm.”

Laing notes how the caffeine culture in Christchurch has developed since the 1980s.

“We didn’t get onto that whole European-style coffee places for a very long time. There was a time when it was just a couple of spoonfuls of Nescafe, a glass with some hot water and a glass of milk,” he said.

“If you wanted a coffee you went to a cafe. Ballantynes was the classic. Then more and more people got Europeanised and coffee shops started opening. 

“Now people talk very comfortably about different types of roasts and different types of beans. The grind.”

Perri Saunderson blames working in the hospitality industry for being a coffee drinker for 30-odd years.

“I have one a day, mid-morning. Sometimes that’s just at home as well. I’ve got a filter and I’ve got one of those stove top espresso makers,” the flat white fan said.

“I’ve drunk coffee ever since I’ve been in hospo really. It’s just one of those things that every now and then you get flicked a coffee. 

“I’ve never used it as a kick or anything like that, it’s just a hot beverage,” said Saunderson, who is also a tea drinker.

“I have to be. Dilmah took me to Sri Lanka five times so I feel obliged to drink tea.”

His wife Mel Eddy had a caffeine epiphany when they toured Vietnam in 2017.

“I’d drunk tea my whole life. Tea, tea, tea. I’d have five or six cups a day … Dilmah, Kenya Bold was another favourite,” Eddy confessed over a flat white at Flax Bar and Eatery in Marshland.

She liked the smell of coffee, though not the taste, until the couple reached Hanoi.

“The Vietnamese coffee was really nice. It’s not bitter. Coffee lovers will hate this but they (Vietnamese) drink it with condensed milk. Which makes it very delicious. I get it here, at Vietnam To Go on St Asaph St,” Eddy said.

“I don’t drink my usual coffee (a flat white) with condensed milk.”

Eddy drinks about six cups a week, including one Vietnamese-style at the weekend.

She said her caffeine drinking intensified during Covid-19 lockdown when a skeleton crew at her workplace established a coffee club.

“I thought I’d be part of the club, feel part of the team and I started drinking more coffee.

“I do find now that I’m not so good (in the morning at work) if I don’t have one. Tea was good enough but I have coffee now to snap me into action.”

She now also prefers to order coffee when out and about.

“If you go to a cafe and have tea it’s a bit lame. Sometimes you just get a cup with a tea bag. I can do that at home. Coffee feels a bit more special, like you’re getting something more because they’ve got the machine, frothing the milk and putting the pattern on the top.”

Barista Ed Carvell works at Town Tonic in Addington. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Barista Ed Carvell works at Town Tonic in Addington. Photo: Geoff Sloan
Coffee before exercise enhances fat burning?

Ed Carvell can’t validate new research proclaiming the benefits of coffee consumption before a gym workout, he’s usually too rushed off his feet in the morning to make it across Bernard St.

Carvell, the barista at Addington’s Town Tonic on Lincoln Rd, hasn’t seen any customers finish off a short black before heading to Plus Fitness/24-7.

That action plan is recommended by a recent study from the University of Granada, where Spanish researchers claim drinking a cup of coffee 30 minutes before aerobic exercise enhances fat burning.

“We get a few that look like they’ve been to the gym and on the way back. I don’t notice a whole heap . . .  maybe on the weekend,” Carvell shrugged.

“I’ve never had coffee before going to the gym. I’m not sure how coffee would sit in the stomach when you work out for an hour.”

However, Carvell can speak about coffee drinking habits in Christchurch with authority and compare them to, say, Auckland where he developed an affinity with the hospitality industry before moving south four and a half years ago.

Unsurprisingly, Carvell also finds time to fill his own cup once the doors open at 7.30am. 

“It’s always two back-to-back in the morning and if it’s a big day I’ll have one in the afternoon,” he said.

Carvell’s choice is an iced long black, a preference that doesn’t rate high on the list of coffees he provides to regulars.

“Most people stick to their flat whites, lattes and cappuccinos . . .  then you’ve got all the alternative milks.”

While full cream and trim milk still dominates, Carvell said soy, almond oat and coconut varieties are seeping into the market share.

“Dairy still reigns supreme but compared to when I started (alternative milks) have grown massively. It’s one of the biggest changes, the shift over to dairy-free,” he said.

“I think it’s a combination of it being a bit trendy and the newer milks taste better than soy.”

Carvell started his coffee making career at Mojo in Auckland, the ideal testing ground for a would-be barista, a profession where qualifications are not essential.

“Generally it’s just practice makes perfect, then you read up a little bit to really hone those skills,” he said.

Carvell said the key was marrying speed with attention to detail.

“You can have people smashing heaps of coffees out at once but they’re all rubbish. You want that balance between still having high quality coffees but not having to wait 10-15 minutes for them.”

Carvell said the bulk of his clientele were creatures of habit so he had a heads-up on their orders when they turned up, often four times a day.

“They all have their go-to,” he said, adding there also wasn’t a lot of variance between the coffee drinking scene in Christchurch and his hometown.

“Other than volume, there’s not a whole heap of difference really.

“It’s a myth about the latte drinking Aucklander. There’s just as many of them down here.”

 

 

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