Coffee House Babble

Pre-dawn on Thursday: The Coffee Shop With No Name,
beside the Reserve Bank Building,
The Terrace, Wellington.

One late summer morning in Ohope, after a fairly heavy night back in the mid-1980s, the hosts of the party emerged, suggesting a coffee.

There was a  general consensus all round that this was probably a Good Thing.

The hosts then produced something I’d never seen before.

Firstly, there were coffee beans. 

These were ground, and a kettle was boiled.

The water was then poured into a glass jug before a plunger was inserted in the top.

After a few minutes, and with an air of solemn ritual, the plunger was gradually depressed, care being taken to make sure the water was dark enough.

The coffee was then served in glass cups.


It probably can’t be exaggerated just how exotic coffee – real stuff, that is – seemed back in the Bad ‘Ol Days.

Instant coffee was the norm. Greggs for preference  was usually the one in the newsrooms where I worked , for some reason.

The friends who produced this strange, foreign thing had been overseas – in fact one was a native of Jersey – so I put this dubious innovation down to the offshore influence.

It was, though, very nice. I treated it as a bit of a one-off which, while pleasant enough, would probably never catch on.

A year or two later, in Auckland, I had my first espresso. I’d heard of these things, and had gathered they were good for waking one up. I had something of a hangover and was heading for an appointment, so stopped in at this small place in Queen St’s Canterbury Arcade.

“Single or double?” was the query. Err. How big was the cup, I asked. They were, it was explained to me, the same size: a small thing which looked about the size of a film canister was shown.

That seemed a bit of a rip off, but I needed  that coffee. So I ordered a double, thinking this was probably going to be a waste of time.

Several hours later I was still bouncing off the walls. That stuff really had an effect.

I’m still a tea drinker, mostly, but tea is comfort drink. It plays a different role.

Coffee has function as well at atmosphere. First, it has that fantastic aroma. Secondly, it has musical associations.

Whenever I hear a Miles Davis muted trumpet solo, I crave a coffee.

The other times of course is Reserve Bank monetary policy statement lock ups – a topical matter this week,with governor Graeme Wheeler deciding to “pull the trigger” to use the term some economists have used, on interest rate cuts.

The coffee shop next to the Reserve Bank produces the best coffee in Wellington. Bar none. It is strong as well as having a well rounded flavour. Often you get strength but not such a balance: such coffees have their place but they’re a bit like heavily peppered and chilli-ed curries.

This is like a vindaloo with ample flavours, or perhaps the magnificent Railway Cochin Curry in Rick Stein’s India.

I still call this place the Coffee Shop With No Name because they’ve been there for several years but there is no sign on the frontage. It seems apt. They don’t need a name.

They do, though, trade under the name of Old George, and sell their beans in the store or online here. 

From 6:30am, especially on monetary policy lock up days, folks are queueing early in that shop.

Junkies, yeah. Junkies with taste, and whole lot of crunchy economic stuff to get through.

If they played Miles Davis over the PA in those 7am RBNZ lock ups, it would be just about perfect.

One thought on “Coffee House Babble

  1. I have a cup of plunger coffee right now, made from freshly ground beans, to accompany the tedium of completing our tax returns.

    The coffee revolution of the 1980s… My mother and I had a ritual treat in the May and August university breaks. I would go home for the two weeks, work in paid employment for the first week, and then in the second week, Mum and I would go to Wellington for a few days before I went further south to Dunedin. Expresso coffee was only just becoming widely available. I recall one day when we went into a coffee shop upstairs in what was then the Harbour City Centre, and ordered two cappucinos. “Two cappucini,” sneered the cafe worker, as he placed our order. We felt thoroughly put in our provincial place.

    I still keep a jar of instant in the pantry, for occasional guests who prefer it, and for cooking.


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