Destination Devonport: Torpedo Bay Cafe

I am an Assam man,’ my beloved tells me

The cafe is in a museum. The museum is in a 19th century torpedo store. And the torpedo store is built into a 50,000-year-old volcano.

Britain’s Royal Navy first raised the flag in Devonport in 1840, and there’s been a connection between the seaside village and our maritime forces ever since.

Torpedo Bay and North Head, as they were.

These days, the Devonport Naval Base, known as HMNZS Philomel after an old Royal Navy light cruiser which became the New Zealand Navy’s first ship, is home port to New Zealand’s fleet and the Navy’s major training base.

The Navy museum, however, is not on the base but in the Navy’s historic buildings at nearby Torpedo Bay.

In 1885, amid fears Russian warships were about to attack, a torpedo base was built inside caverns hollowed into the volcanic rock of Maungauika (North Head).

According to the museum chap, the torpedoes were never fired in anger, which is just as well, because they were wildly inaccurate and sailors had to rush to the other side of the boats to stop them capsizing.

Cups from the ward room.

The museum’s exhibits cover everything from delicate teacups found in the ward rooms of old-time ships to the stream anchor for SMS Adler, an Imperial German Navy gunboat destroyed in a cyclone in Samoa. The storm that rolled into Apia in March 1869 was vicious and the only ship that survived was HMS Calliope, whose captain managed to get out her out of the harbour and into open seas, a feat attributed to a well-built ship and outstanding seamanship, and, according to the ship’s engineer, the superior properties of the West Coast coal that fired the boilers. The story is remembered in Banjo Patterson’s poem The Ballad the Calliope.

My own connection to the naval base is my great uncle who was in the Navy from 1928 until 1945 and was based at HMNZS Philomel when World War 2 broke out in 1939.

He served on both HMNZS Leander and Achilles. two light cruisers originally in the New Zealand Division of Britain’s Royal Navy and transferred into the Royal New Zealand Navy when it was established in 1941. The museum’s evocative exhibition gives me a glimpse of what he went through.

HMNZS Achilles name plate
Crew quarters on HMNZS Achilles
Recreation of the ward room on HMNZS Achillies.
A sailor’s “ditty” box from HMNZS Achilles. This man, who had been married just two weeks before sailing, didn’t make it home.

Uncle Os was not on Achilles during the Battle of the River Plate in December 1939, when three smallish British vessels took on the Germany battleship General Graf Spee in the South Atlantic near Argentina, but he was on board Leander when she was holed by a torpedo in the Battle of Kolombangara in the Solomon Islands.

Uncle Os in his Navy uniform

I didn’t know about this battle until our visit to the museum. The details of what happened when a Japanese torpedo slammed into Leander’s hull are disturbing. My uncle was part of the crew that had to patch up the hole to stop the ship sinking. I won’t go into the gruesome details here, but you can read about it if you want to.

A torpedo crew on HMNZS Leander
HMNZS Leander coming into drydock at Devonport, Auckland, after the Battle of Kolombangara. My uncle is on board.
Repairing the hole a Japanese torpedo left in the side of HMNZS Leander.
A burial at sea.
HMNZS Leander’s nameplate, now in the Navy museum at Torpedo Bay, Devonport, Auckland.

But back to tea. Will the cafe at the Torpedo Bay Naval Museum prove ship-shape when tea-time comes around, or will it be the cat-of-nine-tails or a spot of keel-hauling for whoever made this slop?

My marks out of 10

CUP 1.5: Acme, but a bonus half-point because the cups have been heated.

TEA 8: NZ Live loose-leaf in pots. This is Bell Tea’s premium tea and I haven’t had it since I visited Piccolo Cafe in Taupo back in 2017. My beloved says his Breakfast Assam is full-bodied and refreshing. “But then, I am an Assam man,” he says. I push the boat out with a Kowhai Ceylon. It’s a bit lighter than the Assam, but still a good brew; excellent for afternoons. On the food front, we go for a late lunch, and are very happy with our filo, savories and caramel slice.

Playground with a big gun.

SETTING 8: Few cafes in Auckland would be more waterfront than this. The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly and the French tourists at the next table are practising their English by saying “no worries” to everyone. After our late lunch, we wander around the museum, which is free.

Twelve-year-old Shelley makes her self comfortable at an outside table.


Open every day from 8am until 5pm, except Christmas and Boxing Days.

OPEN AFTER 3PM? Yes. Cabinet food-only from 3pm, but there’s till plenty to choose from. And you can get tea until 5pm.

Torpedo Bay Cafe, 64 King Edward Parade, Devonport, Auckland.

Destination Devonport – baked@devonport

Determination and an early start mean we have breakfast tea after all.

Heaven is a hole in the wall

Day 9 of our summer holiday in the Auckland suburb of Devonport dawns and our situation is desperate. We’re down to the last of our tea and last night I discovered the dairy at the end of the road doesn’t sell bread.

For a couple of hours I try to ignore the lack of breakfast by lying on the couch and reading, but action can be postponed for only so long. While my beloved and his wee friend Billie sleep, and fortified with the last of the tea and two wine biscuits, I set out with Jess for the bakery Google says is an 11 minute walk away.


It’s a long 11 minutes. Jess stops often to investigate smells or collect pats and I take a couple of wrong turnings. At one point we stop for a rest on a delightful mosaic couch. Eventually, as we walk down Devon Lane, Google Lady tells us we have arrived at our destination.


But we haven’t. The row of shops includes a Post Office, a real estate agent and a cafe, but no bread. An elderly black spaniel-poodle stops to talks to Jess, and his walker tells me that my choices are either the bread from the supermarket across the car park (“it’s not too bad”), or to drive about half a mile up Lake Road to Belmont where there is a very good bakery.

“Or you could keep going around this corner and try the little hole-in-the-wall place, if it’s open”, he says.

We take option 3, and that’s how, just in time for me to be restored to health with a cup of tea and a sugar doughnut, we discover the baked@devonport bakery.

My marks out of 10


Cup 2: Paper, doubled up. At least it’s not Acme.

Tea 6: Dilmah English breakfast bag. Made and served in the cup. Possibly a higher mark than it might have got if this tea wasn’t saving my life. And if you’re going to make tea this way, Dilmah isn’t a bad option. Extra point for charging only $3.

stone oven

Setting 7: In an earlier life, I spent a lot of time in this street, drinking coffee (it was during the phase when I didn’t drink tea out for fear of poor quality) in the cafe across the road. In those days, the food at the Devonport Stone Oven Bakery & Cafe was great, the company cheerful and I always left with my arms loaded with delicious breads. So it was high on the list of must-visits for this trip. But two days’ earlier we’d poked our noses in and walked out again. It felt different, and there was no sign of bread. It turns out that the person who owned the Stone Oven back in my day now owns and operates baked@devonport.

Baked is not a cafe, and is so small that we didn’t notice it on our earlier visit to the street (in our defence, it was closed; today there are so many people coming in and out that it’s hard to miss). Recently, though, they’ve installed a coffee machine, bought some tea bags (though obviously it would be better if they got some teapots and loose-leaf tea) and put some seats out on the footpath. And it’s next to an excellent fruit shop selling South Island apricots.

Dog-friendly? No water bowl, but lots of posts to tie Jess to when I go inside. She gathers a circle of admirers while I’m gone.

Open after 3pm? Yes.

*This piece was written in January 2019. For reasons I can’t now remember, it wasn’t posted at the time.

baked@devonport, 12c Clarence St, Devonport, Auckland



Destination Devo … Manuka Cafe

What better way to see out the old year than with a good cup of tea?

The first cup of tea on our summer Odyssey in the seaside suburb is at a bustling corner cafe.

We choose it on impulse; it’s hot, we’re thirsty and it looks friendly. It’s New Year’s Eve and they’re busy, but a waiter finds us a table on the street (they can seat 100) and doesn’t look at all put out when we tell him that all we want is a cup of tea (the food – especially the ice cream – looks good, but we’re still suffering from the excesses of Christmas).

Manuka Cafe is a typical Devonport cafe, in a rennovated old building.

My marks out of 10

CUP 1: Acme. Not a good start. My beloved is drinking coffee today, but he picks up my cup and recoils. Too heavy and he can’t get his finger through the handle. “Welcome to my world,” I say.

Tea with good colour. Pity about the cup.

TEA 7: Harney & Sons English breakfast, bag in pot. Things pick up when I taste the tea. Harney & Sons is a British blender, and describes its English breakfast as having an “ancient pedigree”. I describe it as strong, with good colour and taste.

Top tea on the menu

SETTING 6: Victoria Rd is the main drag through Devonport. It’s full of cafes, restaurants and boutiques, as well as a few “ordinary” shops like a chemist and a stationer. Manuaka Cafe is in an old building on the corner of Victoria Rd and Clarence St.

Corner cafe.

DOG-FRIENDLY? Plenty are walking past but none are stopping.

OPEN AFTER 3PM? Yes. We’re there until nearly 5pm, and as Manuka is open for dinner, it’s a safe bet you can get tea until late into the night.

The ice cream looks good on a hot day, but unfortunately, we’re not hungry.

Manuka Cafe, 49 Victoria Rd, Devonport, Auckland.

Destination Devonport

Water and sand – quintessentially Devonport.

Devonport’s pioneers knew how to make “irresistible” tea. But does the seaside suburb’s modern cafe culture run to a good cupPA?

Talk about swimming against the tide: as Aucklanders migrate north for the summer, we’re heading south for a week or so in the Queen’s City.

But not just any part of Auckland; this tea-finding mission is hyper-local; we’re Doing Devonport, and have high hopes for some good brews in the seaside suburb.

Semi-tropical gardens, popular in Devonport.
Others take a more hardy approach, especially on south-facing seafront sections.
And then there are the public gardens.

We are not total strangers to the place; my beloved lived there in the 1980s, I lived in neighbouring Bayswater in the 1990s, and in the 2000s, our son went to school in Devonport.

We were fond of the place then, but more than a decade of life in the semi-tropical, laid-back, uncongested North has given us an aversion to cities.

The Devonport library looks like a treehouse.

Still, if you’re going to do it, January is the time, when Aucklanders evacuate to experience a bit of what we have every day. And so we are taking up residence in an old wooden villa and making forays out into the village’s cafes, restaurants and hotels.

Grave of Eruera Maihi Patuone (Ngati Hao) on the lower slopes of Mt Victoria. Patuone, the brother of Ngapuhi chief Tamati Waka Nene, witnessed the arrival of HMB Endeavour in 1769, the Declaration of the Independent Tribes of New Zealand in 1836 and the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi in 1840. He lived his later years in Devonport and was an influential figure in fledgling Auckland.
Devonport’s original cemetery.
Graves from the past.

Devonport wears its history on its sleeve, from 50,000-year-old volcanic cones (Mts Victoria and Maungauika aka North Head; Mt Cambria has been quarried out of existence) to military fortifications. The houses are either renovated working-class cottages or elegant villas, and evidence of the area’s ship-building and farming past are not hard to find.

Old buildings renovated into cafes and boutiques
The old Post Office and the old bank have new lives as cafes and pubs.

For centuries, the summits and slopes of Victoria (Takarunga) and Maungauika  have provided Maori and pakeha warriors with the high ground. Both peaks were pa, and in 1840, after the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi, Maungauika, with it spectacular views of the Hauraki Gulf and Waitemata Harbour became a lookout station for the colonial government. During the Russian Scare of the 1880s, heavy guns were installed, and the site continued service as a strategic defence post in World War Two.

Windsor Park and flagstaff, marking the spot where the Royal Navy came ashore in 1840.

Like its British namesake, New Zealand’s Devonport is a naval base, home to HMNZS Philomel (the Navy’s administration base) as well as training facilities. What was the Navy’s dry dock, the historic stone Calliope Dock, is now privately operated.

Big waterfront houses in Devonport have a hefty price tag. This beauty is on King Edward Parade, Torpedo Bay.

Once a largely working-class suburb, Devonport’s white-sand beaches and the fact that it’s just a short ferry-ride away from downtown Auckland has seen it gentrified, and the  average house price is now $1.5 million.

Devonport has been selling tea for more than a hundred years.
“Irresistible” tea is a big claim.

But expensive houses and a cafe culture aren’t guarantees of high-quality tea. Can you get good tea in Devonport? To find out, we are about to put six cafes through their paces. First up is Manuka Cafe.

Tea in style.

The Bach Alehouse, Auckland Airport

the bach outside.jpg
The Bach – good for dinner, but what about breakast?

Hilda Ogden, where are you when I need you?

It’s a desolate feeling to realise that breakfast – and therefore breakfast tea – is going to be at Auckland Airport.

The world brightens, though, when, strolling through the domestic terminal, I spot The Bach Alehouse.

It’s a place usually associated with night-time travel. You know, burgers and wine. Which are usually pretty good, by airport standards.

For some reason,  I’ve never thought of having tea here. Inside, I scan the menu, and order poached eggs to fortify me for a hard day conferencing.

What about the tea though? Will this be the  outlet that finally challenges the supremacy of Freshbites in Wellington for New Zealand’s best airport tea?

My marks out of 10:

Cup, Acme, 2: This is more than I am inclined to give my old nemesis, but the fact that an airport cafe is using something other than a paper cup makes me generous. Thanks to repeated exposure to this range of heavy-duty coffee cups, I immediately recognise this one as the Tulip Cup (Grey) featuring “a tall, narrow design meaning the crema is retained for longer when serving a long black.”

Tea, Pickwick English breakfast teabag, 2.5: Crazily, that’s a high mark for tea in at Auckland airport. Initially I gave it a 3, but just couldn’t go through with it. It’s served as a pot of hot water and I’m left to make the tea myself. I do this immediately, and, in an effort to get a decent brew, leave it to draw while I eat my eggs. It doesn’t work.

the bach ducks
Retro decor, including the classic Crown Lynn white swan, and Hilda Ogden-style ducks on the wall.

Setting 4: Given this is an airport, The Bach Alehouse at least offers weary travellers a chance to escape the crowds for a bit. The decor is designed to be reminiscent of a typical Kiwi bach, complete with 70s modular wall units, a Crown Lynn swan and ducks on the wall. Hilda Ogden where are you; I bet you’d give me a better cup of tea.

Dog-friendly? No

Open after 3pm? Yes.

the bach flowersThe Bach Alehouse, Domestic Terminal, Auckland Airport.


Down Under Cafe, Auckland airport

down under lights
The decor at Down Under Cafe gives a nod to the 70s, with breeze-blocks and those shades.

The missing angle in the Shane Jones-Air New Zealand affair – what are tea-drinkers from the provinces supposed to do when stranded at Auckland airport?

Regional development minister Shane Jones is right; we northern provincials can no longer fly directly to the Capital.

down under me
Travelling outfit.

Any trip to Wellington now involves changing planes in Auckland, and with connections being what they are, that often means a mad dash from one departure lounge to another (a former colleague was amused to see me running through the terminal recently in a fur coat and hat, but that’s another story).

Or we can face a long period cooling our heels.

Tea at the domestic terminal is a desultory affair, so if it’s a nice day, I often walk over to the international terminal, where things are marginally better.

This is one of those days, and with three whole hours to kill before my next flight, I order a pot of tea and settle down in a seat in the sun to do some reading.

Concentration eludes me though, because a chap at the next table (his name is Henry) is talking tea. “I’m a tea drinker, preferably white tea,” he tells the coffee-drinkers at his table.

down under man
Henry recommends white tea, a large cup and pyramid tea-bags.

I go over and we talk tea. Henry has asked for a bigger cup, and says the cafe should be using pyramid-shaped tea bags , as they give the tea leaves room to brew.

“And you really should try white tea,” he tells me. “I think you’ll like it.

My marks out of 10:?

Cup 2: Coffee cup. Say no more.

Tea 3: Dilmah classic teabag in pot. Well, it’s in the pot once I put it in there. And the pot is only half full of water. Sometimes there’s a woman behind the counter who drinks tea herself and makes a reasonable fist of making a good brew with what she’s got. Sometimes there’s a young woman who has never drunk tea. There’s a special tea menu on the counter and a wide range of teas – although no white tea.

Setting: The trend for ’70s fashion has got as far as the airport. It’s not an unpleasant place to be as far as airports go, and the 10-minute walk over is a change from all that sitting.

Dog friendly? No.

Open after 3pm? Yes

down under sign

Down Under Bar & Cafe, International Terminal, 1st Floor, Ray Emery Dr, Auckland Airport.

Econo Lodge City Central, Auckland

econolodge glass
Stained glass in the lobby lifts this budget hotel above the ordinary.

Hot water from a coffee pot on a warming plate is NOT the way to make tea. Especially the first cup of the day.

My marks out of 10:

Cup 3: Standard hotel cup, the sort you’ve had at every conference you’ve ever been to.

Tea 3: Dilmah English breakfast teabag: What would have been a dismal mark, based on the complete lack of understanding of why water for making bog-standard black tea should be HOT, is boosted slightly by the fact at least the teabag is Dilmah.

econolodge reception
The glass frontage and ceiling dome were imported.

Setting 5: I’ve stayed here before, and the memories aren’t good – based largely on the fact that back then there was a building site across the road with jackhammers that started long before anyone should be awake. This trip there were no jackhammers, and the stained glass in the reception lifts this budget hotel above the crowd.

Dog friendly: No

Econo Lodge Central City Auckland, 37 Wellesley St West, Auckland.


Sky Cafe, Auckland

sky cafe teresa
Tea is a serious business for Sky Cafe’s Teresa Reiferscheid.

Two years ago, Sky Cafe turned its back on Sri Lankan tea heavyweight Dilmah in favour of a local blend.

And while we’re Dilmah fans from way back (it’s been the principle brew in our house since the early 1990s), there’s no denying that the tea being served in the Sky Cafe is darned good.

My marks out of 10:

Cup 6: Accolade, Southern Hospitality catering ware. Described as chip-resistant, long-lasting and designed for continuous use, it makes sense to use it in a high-traffic place like this. And while it’s not fine-bone fancy, it is a good teacup shape,  large, reasonably light (for what it is), and has a lip – all qualities to endear it to the discerning tea-drinker.

sky cafe signTea 8: Tea Total extra-strength loose-leaf English breakfast. You know you’re in a place that takes tea seriously when the menu bothers to describe the tea as an Assam-broken orange pekoe blend. Tea Total is a New Zealand company based on Auckland’s North Shore. I’ve had their tea once before, an Irish Breakfast at Loretta, in Wellington’s Cuba St, when I described it as having “interesting notes”.

Today, it’s brought to our table by Sky Cafe assistant manager Theresa Reiferschied. An Irish woman who has also lived in Germany for many years, she is the type of woman who takes tea seriously.

“We changed (from Dilmah) a couple of years ago,” she tells me. “I felt we needed something a more, and Tea Total actually took me to their factory and showed me how they blend the tea.”

There are four black teas on the Sky Cafe menu (including, appropriately, because of the volcano that dominates the view out the window, Smooth Rangitoto Blend) as well as green and fruit teas.

My only criticism is that if I had been given a jug of hot water, I could have more than one-and-a-quarter cups.

sky cafe view
A view from the Sky Cafe, down Auckland’s Nelson St to Princes Wharf (where the sailing ship Tenacious waits to take my friend Fran around Cape Horn), across Waitemata Harbour to Bayswater and out to the Hauraki Gulf.

Setting 7: When you’re 182 metres in the air, the view is, of course, fantastic. It’s a bonus to have a table with a view of Princes Wharf and the sailing ship Tenacious my friend would be joining to sail around Cape Horn.

Dog friendly? No.

*The Sky Tower is the 23rd tallest building in the world. Completed in 1997, it is 328 metres from the ground to the top of the communications mast, and was built as part of the Skycity casino.

Sky Cafe, Level 50, Sky Tower, corner Federal and Victoria Streets, Auckland. 

Jamaica Blue, Auckland Hospital

Finding a decent cuppa in a hospital coffee shop

Hospital visiting is all very well, but there is a limit to my charity, and we reach it when the tea trolley comes around.

jamaica me pouring
Plenty of tea for all.

Fortunately, there’s a Jamaica Blue cafe two floors up, so we skedaddle off there for a late lunch (lasagne for me, fish burger, or “slider” as the menu has it, for him) and a pot of tea. Or two.

My marks out of 10?

CUP 4: Tea-cup shape but heavy. Lost a mark for bragging about coffee on the side of it (this place is all about coffee).

TEA 6: Elmstock loose-leaf English breakfast – an Australian brew of Ceylon tea, which comes served in two substantial pots. Plenty of tea for all (I have three cups, he has two). Good hearty flavour and nice and strong.

SETTING 4: that’s a high mark, given this is a hospital. They’ve made an effort, with plants and comfy seats and even a double swing seat (though it’s bolted to the floor; health and safety is big in hospitals).

DOG FRIENDLY? What do you think?

jamaica cafe
Jamaica Blue. They do go on about coffee.

Jamaica Blue, Auckland Hospital, 2 Park Rd, Grafton, Auckland.


The Lunchroom, Auckland CBD

lunchroom siteri
Lunch in The Lunchroom with NatureFiji-MarequetiViti scientist Siteri Tikoca.

“Meet us at The Lunchroom,” said the women from the Ministry, and so we did, riding the escalator to the atrium in the first floor of a downtown-Auckland highrise to find them.

There we drank tea and talked about important things, and when it was time for the women from the Ministry to return to their office on a floor somewhere above us, Siteri, who came all the way from Fiji to talk about the important things, and I decided we could fit in lunch before our next important meeting.

lunchroom owner 2
Owner JJ Holland and his pies and burgers. I can vouch for the burgers.


Lunchroom tea
My third cup of tea at The Lunchroom, with the fourth waiting in the pot.

siteri and i
Gratuitous picture.


My marks out of 10?

CUP 5: Proper shape. Quite heavy though. I discuss this with owner JJ Holland, who says he would love to use fine china teacups – he went as far as pricing them – but what with the inevitable breakages that would occur in a busy cafe and restaurant, the economics didn’t stack up. I suggest using mix-and-match secondhand china cups, JJ says they wouldn’t go with The Lunchroom’s aesthetics.

TEA 8: Loose-leaf Forage and Bloom English breakfast. Good. Strong. I had four cups.

SETTING 8: Spacious, filled with light, and with an outlook over downtown Auckland.  Described in Metro magazine’s 2016 Best Cafe awards as the best in the central city for “a smart lunch in an oasis of inner-city calm”.

DOG-FRIENDLY? Is anywhere in the CBD?

The Lunchroom, Level 1, 45 Queen St, Auckland.

Delissimo Delicatessen and Cafe, Eden Terrace, Auckland

delissimo 1
That’s me on the left in the reflection, leaving after a good lunch.

Lunch at Delissimo is one of the perks of visiting the Auckland office.

It’s a short walk from the Forest & Bird base, up Charlotte St and along New North Rd, and by the time I get there I’m always more than ready for my cup of tea. And often cake as well.

On this day, my colleagues Rebecca and David are with me. Rebecca (the same Rebecca who discovered the wonderful high tea at the Prince’s Gate Hotel in Rotorua with me) is also an out-of-towner, and it’s her first visit. David is a regular.

delissimo 2
Once again, I give in to the temptation of cake.


My marks out of 10?

CUP 6: Crown Lynn willow pattern. Although it’s not fine china, it scores highly in the nostalgia stakes; not only is it Crown Lynn (shout-out here to my old pal Val Monk, who literally wrote the books on this lost and lamented New Zealand pottery), but it’s also identical to a set I had about 10 years ago (there’s one cup left. It has no handle, and lives in the flour bin).

TEA 5: English breakfast, unknown brand. It’s a bit weak. The owner tells me he would have made it stronger for me if I’d asked. In fact, he offers to make me another one now. Unfortunately, I haven’t got time, so I’ll take him up on his offer next visit.

SETTING 7: The courtyard out the back is a little haven in an otherwise drab slab of New North Rd.

DOG-FRIENDLY? As Jess wasn’t with me, I haven’t put this to the test, but the answer is probably no, as there are no seats out the front, and the courtyard is small and has to be reached through the cafe itself.

Delissimo Delicatessen and Cafe, 48 New North Rd, Eden Tce, Auckland.

Mezze Bar, Auckland

mezze 1
Mezze Bar – serving tea and tapas for 25 years.

Taking tea down memory lane.

A day of drinking conference tea is enough to drive anyone out into the night in search of drink, and so 9pm finds me ordering tea in the Mezze Bar, one of the few decent eateries within walking distance of my uptown Auckland hotel.

The Mezze Bar and I both arrived in Auckland in the early ’90s. In those days, she was on the corner of Queen St and Mayoral Dr, and I was not too far away, in a newspaper office on Wyndham St.

We’ve  moved on, me to a dozen different tea-drinking lives, and the Mezze Bar to a bolt-hole upstairs on Durham St East.

At first I didn’t realise where we were going when one of my climate-change-conference companions suggested this place to a group of us. But it was good to see her again, even if my tea wasn’t served on the wonderful tea-tray in this video.

mezze 2
By candlelight, the tea looks better than it is.

My marks out of 10?

CUP 7: White with blue flowers, not fine-bone, but a good shape, promises much.

TEA 6: English breakfast of indeterminate origin. Sadly, the tea doesn’t live up to the promises of the cup and the cool blue-enamel teapot. Still, it’s way ahead of the conference tea.

SETTING 8: Comfy cushions, relaxed atmosphere. It might not be the original Mezze Bar, but it still scores on the nostalgia stakes.


Mezze Bar, 9 Durham St East, Auckland.


Roadrunners Cafe, Dairy Flat

Tea that is genuinely on the road.

Sometimes, low expectations can be a blessing.

Sometimes you order tea knowing it will be bad, but you do it anyway. This is one of those times.

Finding a decent teahouse at this time of night (7.30pm) might be theoretically possible if

roadrunners me
It’s time for home.

I’m willing to come off the main road, hunt about among restaurants and the sort of cafes that open at night, and spend lots of time waiting for my order. But I’m not, so I ask for tea alongside my order of hot chips when I stop for petrol, and I find it’s not as bad as I think. Sometimes, low expectations are a blessing.

My marks out of 10?

CUP 2: Yes it’s a paper cup, but it’s really big (big enough for two cups of tea) and the thoughtful woman who makes it doubles the cups so I won’t burn my hands while I’m drinking.

TEA 6: Dilmah English breakfast teabags, made – get this! – in a teapot. The woman behind the counter brings it to me on a tray, with a pot of hot water, and the aforementioned paper cups, with instructions to allow it to brew and to then pour it into the paper cup. Full marks to her for doing her best under the circumstances.

SETTING 4: It is a motorway roadstop, but Roadrunners Cafe is tucked around the back and there are potted plants

Roadrunners Cafe, State Highway 1, Rodney (at the BP Service Station complex at Dairy Flat).

Wayfarer Cafe, Auckland Airport


auckland airport
I’m desperate, what can I say?

A foggy Auckland airport, hoping my flight home will take off. I really need tea.

My marks out of 10?

CUP: Am I allowed negatives?

TEA 3: Dilmah, so would get a good score if I could taste it properly in this cup, but I can’t. They deserve credit for giving me a separate cup of milk so I can put it in myself.

SETTING 2: 0utside with the buses and smokers because there are no seats inside. I am under shelter so not a 1.

Wayfarer Cafe, domestic terminal, Auckland airport. You don’t need a map.