Ron Laughlin The Ultimate New Zealand Travel Coffee Guide
Let Us Introduce
Ron's introduction to coffee was at the young age of six or probably before. Coffee was a part of every meal and on through the day in his Ohio home. In fact it is hard for him to remember his mother without a cup of coffee. It was a stable part of life as he grew into adulthood. As they say
"it was in the blood".
It was the time of coffee houses during University. Many hours were spent debating philosophy and other extremely important subjects over a cup of coffee. Then there was the hippie time in Haight-Ashbury and Berkeley where coffee was what kept one alive and awake. A time of peace and harmony and lots of black coffee watching the Diggers.
Later in the beach communities of southern California there was a strange phenomena occurred when all the bars served Irish coffee. Strolling from bar to bar passing the shed where Evel Kneivel hung out and past the seaside home of of the legendary John Wayne.
The exciting days of hanging out with the writers and poets of New York's Greenwich Village who had escaped to Cape Cod outside of Boston. Coffee again was a main ingredient in the society and in Ron's life. Morning round tables at the chosen cafe that sometimes lasted all day as new entrants to the debates sprang forth to join in.
Later a move to the Florida Keys put him directly in the middle of Cuban society where the short blast of Cuban coffee was treated with the same reverence as in Italy. Life at the small coffee shops was where everyone gathered to tell tales and enjoy the companionship. Here he had the opportunity to meet the son of one of the great Columbian coffee estates who came to Miami on business trips selling their coffee. A background of the life of a Columbian coffee empire was revealed. Ron also owned and run a restaurant in the Florida Keys and was known for his coffee. He also had his own espresso machine at home wherever he lived.
Ron also lived in Central America and spent time in Panama where coffee was considered a very important part of life. Sailing the Caribbean each winter for a number of years Ron spent a lot of time in Jamaica where the famous Blue Mountain coffee was considered the best. A visit to Europe rounded out his coffee education even more.
Ron met Paula in New Zealand on a trip through the Pacific in 1989 and invited her to the US upon his return. They have been together and happily married ever since. Paula introduced Ron to the style of coffee that she made - Turkish. Ron always waits to see what Paula's opinion is on a cup of coffee since she has the more acute taste and smell.
The couple moved to Mexico for a few years and during this time Cuba opened up to visitors. Paula was the first Kiwi to be in Cuba for the new era. Thanks to understanding Spanish Ron and Paula snuck away from the guided tours in Havana and went off to the real cafes and back streets to enjoy authentic Cuban food and especially their coffee.
While in Mexico they also spent a lot of time visiting the ancient Mayan ruins throughout Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Here they had first hand experience with the coffee plantations of Guatemala and enjoyed the superb coffee of the region's highlands.
From Mexico Ron and Paula returned to New Zealand in 1992 via South America spending some dedicated time in Buenos Aires for the food, wine and, of course, their fabulous coffee.
When Ron first visited New Zealand in 1989 and toured the country he was desperate for a decent cup of coffee. He had been weeks going through the Pacific and nowhere was a decent cup of coffee made except, of course, the Kona coffee in Hawaii. Much to his surprise whenever he asked here if the cafe had an espresso all he ever got was standard coffee.
He searched high and low but for two months never once saw an espresso machine. The majority of the time he was given a hot cup of water and a jar of instant Nescafe. For his great love of the country he had just discovered he was disappointed in how far back they were in the world of coffee. After all it was a tea country wasn't it?
Quite obviously there were probably great espresso makers somewhere in Auckland and Wellington and Christchurch but since the time spent as a tourist in the major cities was limited they were not located.
When he and Paula returned in 1992 much had changed and from that point on there is nowhere in the world that can beat the coffee created now in the New Zealand cafes. As usual when a Kiwi finds a good thing they are quick to adopt and improve upon it to be the best in the world.
Living north of Auckland for several years gave them a chance to search out the best cafes and restaurants. Then they moved to Wellington where for eight years they relentlessly trialled every cafe in the city. Ron even worked writing the Dining Out column for City Voice. He also won the Top Shop award from the Retailers Assn. in his job as manager of a retail shop so he is qualified to understand customer relations first hand.
It is said there are more cafes per capita in Wellington than in New York. Ron has been to New York and almost every city in the US many times and knows for a fact the coffee here is better.
Paula and Ron went on the road in a seven metre Hino bus they called home constantly visiting all the cafes they could to determine the ones that meet the standards to become a part of this New Zealand Coffee Guide website.
Where they stayed the night was determined by where the next cafe is they wished to try out. So for these past years Ron and Paula had been to a new cafe each morning and one each afternoon. They have a coffee on the bus for breakfast then off to the morning cafe. Somewhere along the way they visit another. By virtue of this over the years on the road they have consumed thousands of cups of coffee each per year and visited hundreds of cafes.
Now Ron lives in Oamaru where he has found three extremely good cafes......which ones? Ask him.............
Here is to all of you who love coffee and enjoy the cafe scene. How else can one begin a better day than being presented top quality service and coffee and time out to peruse the morning newspaper?
Cheers to all you coffee lovers,