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.

DOG-FRIENDLY? No.

Mezze Bar, 9 Durham St East, Auckland.

 

Roadrunners Cafe, Dairy Flat

roadrunners
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.