Gail Carriger’s Kiwi Files ~ Tea in Kaikora & Flat Whites in New Zealand

On one of our various stop-overs on our driving tour of the South Island, we made our way to Kaikoura. We had intended to swim with dolphins but weather did not permit. However we saw some truly adorable seal pups playing in a waterfall which made it well worth the trip. Perhaps almost as good as the seal pups was this tea experience I had soon after.

Throughout New Zealand, the AB and I were charmed by the beverages: coffee and tea alike.

A brief aside… You see the AB is a coffee drinker.

Now let us be clear here, coffee is as serious a business to the AB as tea is to me. There is a complex mixology procedure involving three different types of beans: a dark roast (for depth), an Italian (for flavor), and a peaberry (for earthy notes). Then there is a special burr grinder and a special Frisbee French press or whatnot. It takes forever and is very complicated. One of the reasons I opt for tea is that, even with a pot and loose leaf, it is the lazy woman’s beverage.

So the AB is a drip drinker by trade, with a splash of milk, but an espresso drinker by necessity. (For it is a truth universally acknowledged that a cafe with good espresso will ever be in want of good drip coffee… and visa-versa. And I always choose to build alliances with local cafes that have good espresso. So at home in cafes we will both drink espresso.)

Yes, me, I do drink coffee. Frankly, in the good old USofA espresso is safer than tea. Rarely is the tea at all good here. I’m just as snobby about espresso (having lived in Italy for two years way back at the dawn of time). I prefer lattes and the AB likes cappuccinos. Both of us are obnoxiously strict about our standards and opinions. I will throw away an entire latte if the bean is gritty, burnt, or too French, not to mention if the milk has been scalded! (Here’s the thing: if you must put sugar in your tea/coffee, you aren’t drinking the right tea/coffee. There should be a bean or a roast or a blend out there for which milk will add just enough sweetness to cut the bitter for anyone’s taste. I really believe this. Or you have a mad crazy sweet tooth. Or you’re from the South.)


Now where was I? Oh yes. So the Kiwis know their bean. They lean heavily towards the Italian (as one should!) and they do something with it called a flat white. Now, there is endless contention over the exact definition of a “flat white” but essentially it is a midway milk allotment between latte and cappuccino. Because the bean choice is so good, this means there is enough milk for me, but it’s also strong enough for the AB.

We drank a lot of flat whites.

However, because they have their roots in the UK and still feel them, the Kiwis ALSO offer up some truly serviceable Assam-heavy English Breakfast teas. At this cafe in Kaikoura, I actually encountered a full on tea menu! It was thrilling.

I didn’t even bother to dither. You know my feelings, Gentle Reader: give me that strong smooth Assam.

I’m pleased to say that despite the description, it wasn’t brisk. It was soft (sigh, why do people get that wrong?) but was malty, mellow, and delicious. And look at the beauty of the leaf?

I know you might not think that a thing of beauty, but trust me it’s stunning. STUNNING. Big as my thumb, some of those leaves. I was charmed. I waxed poetical. The AB was most embarrassed.

We were left with the feeling that we might have to move of New Zealand. So far it’s the only nation where tea and espresso are accorded equal respect in the eyes of the picky. Then again we would have to have a major discussion on the subject of condiments into which sugar is added in a most whole irresponsible manner. (There was excess sugar not only in the ketchup but in the Marmite.)

I believe the tea/coffee experience is helped along by the fact that the dairy is so amazing in New Zealand. It always helps if the milk is full fat and delicious. Mmmmm.

{Gail’s monthly read along for May is The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley}


Your Moment of Parasol . . .

via centuriespast tumblr

Your Infusion of Cute . . .

To get Marmite without sugar you must go Mighty

Your Tisane of Smart . . .
A Bachelor’s Bill of Fare (1857)

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  
25 Ways To Be A Bad-Ass Maker Who Makes Bad-Ass Stuff

Book News:
The Novel Strumpet says of Prudence “This novel was chocked full of all the wit and Victorian decorum we have come to expect from a Carriger novel. And the wonderfully described fashion – particularly hats.” ( Includes a video review as well.)

Quote of the Day:
“Wise men speak because they have something to say; fools because they have to say something.”
~ Plato

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  1. Kyle Morgan said:

    Thanks for the post. I can related to the tea appreciation although I am more of a weekend connoisseur at best. I've some how recently lost my favorite loose leaf infuser. Anyways, I've only just started reading your blog so I'm sure that you've seen this but I have to make sure. It's a "chap hop" song by professor elemental all about tea.

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