Rosie Dawson-Hewes: Coffee love - a price to pay

By Rosie Dawson-Hewes

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The need for good coffee is something lots of people can't give up.
The need for good coffee is something lots of people can't give up.

I'm a coffee snob. Always have been, always will be. I like to blame my Wellingtonian upbringing and the fact my first boyfriend was a particularly picky barista. Regardless of how it came about, coffee is something I take very seriously.

I remember my first coffee with fondness, like many other childhood memories. I was 16 and had travelled into Wellington CBD with some friends. My 19-year-old brother agreed to meet up with me afterward. It was about 10pm and he took me to the oh-so-grown-up Midnight Espresso, a long-running institution on Cuba St. He ordered a long black. I'd never had proper coffee before, but was keen to try it, so my brother ordered me a latte - a milky introduction to what would become a life-long love.

Read more: Bay coffee drinkers least likely to cut back

I've since graduated to flat whites, always in a tulip cup. If I'm offered a large cup, I'll usually crack a joke about how I didn't realise I'd entered a time portal to the '90s and you may as well give me caffeine soup. I will sometimes order a long black, but mostly if I'm not sure of the quality of the brew where I'm ordering. (It's harder to muck up a long black than a flat white.)

Nowadays I make the journey from my office, two blocks down the road to my local spot for my morning brew. I'm there so often my colleagues jokingly refer to it as my second office. I'm even friends with my barista on Facebook. We send each other coffee memes and joke about our pickiness when it comes to how our bean is served. The staff at my local know me by name but, come to think of it, that's not actually exclusive to my weekday coffee spot. I also have a few select weekend coffee spots, where I know I'll be served consistently great coffee. Those baristas also know me by name. As a result, out-of-town visitors are always given the impression the Bay is a super-friendly place. I mean, obviously it is friendly, but the familiarity with which my fellow coffee-lovers refer to me has become somewhat of a running joke.

I digress. My point in all of this is to say that I really love my coffee. My non-coffee-drinking husband has started building in an extra 15 minutes whenever we go out on weekends, so we can stop in for my flat white fix. Yes, I could make it at home, and have done so in the past, but for me there is something deliciously indulgent about a really flipping good barista-made coffee.

And it's not something I'm giving up any time soon, despite the reasonably high annual cost - $1404.

I thought when I moved to the Bay that I'd be alone in this regard, but a new nationwide survey reveals that us Bay folk are actually the least likely to restrict our coffee habit to save money - only 35 per cent of respondents said they would.

I have done this in the past. When times were tough, hubby and I both surviving on one miserly journalist's wage, I switched to plunger for my daily fix. And while it was cheaper, I didn't enjoy it as much. There's something luxurious about my morning ritual. It's also a sanity break for me - a friend and I wander down together. It's a chance to collect our thoughts before we really crack into the day. I asked her yesterday if she'd ever give it up and she said it would be the last thing in her budget to go. She'd happily sacrifice other luxuries before her daily almond latte. "If I was to cut out coffees, I'd have to look at everything else in my budget, too," she said.

And when I quizzed another friend about his decision to give up barista-made coffee, his reasons were two-fold. "It's a waste of money," he point-blank told me. Ouch. He went on to say that he gets frustrated with barista-made coffee being inconsistent quality. He's only willing to pay someone else to make it if he absolutely knows it's going to be good. Does that make him even more of a snob than me? I'm not sure.

But the fact he'd rather spend his money on his bike than his morning cup definitely says he has different priorities.

After all, isn't one of the greatest things about being an adult that after all the bills are paid you can choose to spend your money on whatever you like? I mean, $4.50 a cup isn't much too pay for my small cup of happiness.

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