When it comes to New Zealand and Australian coffee culture, I’ve got a fair amount of experience on both sides of the counter.
I was a barista for nearly 10 years of my life — four of which I spent working in the afore-mentioned countries. I’ve been yelled at, lectured to, and relentlessly interrogated about everything from extractions and grinds to, if you can believe it, “cups” vs “mugs.” I’ve probably spent more hours of my life covered in milk splatters and coffee stains than I have sleeping.
And you know what? If, through this blog post, I can help just one person to better navigate the treacherous underworld of the Kiwi or Australian café, it will have all been worth it. (Mostly because I also got paid.)
Before anyone starts, let me state this for the record: Australia and New Zealand are two different countries. I’m not lumping them together because they’re “basically the same place”; I’m doing it because, for most outsiders, their coffee cultures are similar enough to be covered under one guide. If you’ve got a strong differing opinion on this, well, maybe you should start your own blog.
Also, please believe me when I say, you really don’t need to ~master the lingo~ to order a coffee. There is no final exam at the end of this post. If you’re unsure about anything, just ask — most baristas will be able to figure out what you mean. (In my experience, we usually know what the customers want better than they do.)
So, with that all out of the way: here is my tried, tested, and (dare I say) expert advice on how to order coffee in Australia and New Zealand. Take a deep breath — you can do this.
Standard coffee options
The following items are pretty much always offered in any Australia or New Zealand café.
• Cappuccino: Espresso, textured steamed milk, and frothed milk.* Cappuccinos are usually served with chocolate powder sprinkled on top.**
• Flat white: Espresso and textured steamed milk.
• Latte: Espresso and textured steamed milk. Lattes tend to be very similar to flat whites, except they’re usually served in a different kind of cup (sometimes a glass) and contain a bit more milk.
• Short black: Espresso only.
• Long black: Espresso and hot water. Long blacks are usually served in a smaller cup than any of the “milky” coffees, with only a few centimeters of hot water added. If you’d like more, ask for an Americano (or, you know, just ask for extra hot water).
• Short macchiato (or “short mac”): Espresso with a dollop of frothed milk.
• Long macchiato (or “long mac”): Espresso, hot water, and a dollop of frothed milk.
• Mocha (or “mochaccino”): Espresso, textured steamed milk, and chocolate. Some cafes may offer whipped cream on top.
* The amount of froth you will get on a cappuccino varies considerably from place to place — sometimes, it might just be a thin layer, sometimes it will be a third of the cup. If you have a preference, it’s probably a good idea to mention it when you order.
** Cinnamon is often available instead of chocolate upon request. Some baristas may ask, but most will not, so if you’d prefer cinnamon (or nothing at all!) on your cappuccino, make sure to say so when placing your order.
For my fellow Americans:
Looking for “regular coffee”? In my experience, not many cafés in New Zealand and Australia serve filter or drip coffee (AKA, coffee out of a pot). There may be exceptions in the bigger cities, but on the whole, espresso-based options are much more common. The closest thing to what Americans consider “normal coffee” would probably be an Americano, or a long black with extra water.
Want “cream” in that? Just ask for a bit of cold milk to be added.
Drinks without coffee
Chai latte: Textured steamed milk and chai flavoring. Usually comes with cinnamon sprinkled on top.
Hot chocolate: Textured steamed milk and chocolate. May come with whip cream and/or marshmallows.
Ice(d) chocolate: Cold milk and chocolate poured over ice OR cold milk and chocolate poured over ice cream (depending on the cafe in question). Iced chocolates are usually seved with whip cream, chocolate shavings/powder, and other similar “garnishments.”
Teas: How tea is served will vary considerably from place to place, but there will usually be several different types available (“normal,” green, herbal, fruit, etc).
Fluffy/babychino: A few dollops of milk froth topped with chocolate and served in a small cup — a common order for young children.
• Extra shots: The amount of espresso in your coffee will vary from place to place, so it’s best to ask what comes standard before requesting more or less. Extra shots nearly always come with an extra charge.
• Sugar: If you get your coffee as a takeaway, the barista will probably ask if you want sugar(s) and add it for you. If you drink your coffee at the café, sugar will usually be provided at the table.
• Milk: Most cafes will offer regular milk, nonfat milk (also called skinny/skim/trim milk), and soy. Other non-dairy substitues may be available as well. Be aware that non-dairy options often come with an extra charge.
• Decaf: Decaf espresso is usually available. There may be an extra charge.
• Other flavors: Some cafés might have vanilla, hazelnut, or other flavored syrups available, but it’s not super common — most people just sweeten their drink with plain old sugar.
A few other tips
• In Australia and New Zealand, any drink containing espresso is referred to as “coffee,” so going to a café and simply ordering “a coffee” won’t cut it. You’ll need to be more specific.
• If the person taking your order doesn’t ask or clarify something, feel free to do so yourself. (“Will that be a double-shot?” “Is that the smaller size?” “Can I have that in a takeaway, please?”) Don’t worry about seeming nitpicky — coffees are prepared in a fairly standard way in Aus and NZ, and people will assume you want it that way unless you say so.
• If you’re waiting for the barista to hand out your coffee, pay attention and listen for your name, number, or order (depending on what system that café uses). Don’t just assume the first coffee that comes up must be for you, even if you don’t see anyone else waiting. If you ordered a decaf flat white and the barista calls out a hot chocolate, it’s probably not yours.
• Your coffee will be given to you at a ready-to-drink temperature. Don’t expect it to be nice and hot after sitting around for 15 minutes. (This is particularly worth noting if you’re from the US, where coffees are often served at much higher temperatures than people actually drink them.) If for whatever reason you won’t be drinking your coffee straight away, you might want to order it extra hot.
• Tipping is not necessary or expected in Australian or Kiwi cafés. You can certainly do it if you’d like, but there’s not always an obvious way, and you might have to outright ask, “Can I leave a tip?”
• If you’re unhappy with your coffee, bring or send it back right away and ask (politely!) for a new one. This will alert the barista to a mistake they made (if applicable), and also get you a new/better coffee. Don’t choke down the one you’ve been given and then complain about how terrible it was as you leave — this serves no purpose (besides making you seem like a bit of a dick).
• If you spill your coffee, go to the counter and let someone know. For one thing, they’ll want to clean it up so no one sits or slips in it. For another, it’s likely they’ll offer to make you a new one. (If they don’t, it’s fine to ask — just don’t *demand* it. Making you a replacement coffee is a courtesy, not an obligation.)
I hope these tips come in handy on your next trip to Australia and/or New Zealand! As always, feel free to ask questions, share your own experiences, or buy me an espresso machine so I can make my own cappuccinos again. (That last one’s only kind of a joke.)