The Coffee Countdown: The Best Cafés in Rarotonga

Rarotonga is the biggest and most populous of the Cook Islands, which are located in the central South Pacific. If you’re seeking to escape the busy and bustling sound of the metro – or just seeking a tropical island getaway – then this little paradise is what you’ve been looking for. There is so much to see and do here, whether that be hiking the cross-island (it only takes three to four hours!), enjoying some beach therapy, shopping at the local markets, or attending the cultural night shows. And if your stomach starts to rumble or you just want to sit and sip, indulge yourself in the best cafés Rarotonga has to offer…

LBV (Le Bon Vivant) Café

Do you like pastries?

If you happen to go to Muri Village, there is a very popular café that you cannot miss – especially if you are a bread lover!

LBV – or Le Bon Vivant Café is a delightful bakery that serves wonderful French-inspired bread and cakes that everyone truly adores. LBV’s location is familiar to the local villagers because the original historic dwelling used to home the Muri Village Chief, but now it has been restored and remodeled to become one of the most well-liked destinations in the village community.

If you are searching for the best coffee on the island, you will find it here! Aside from bread and coffee, your taste buds will also be satisfied with their succulent salads, gourmet sandwiches, donuts, piquant pizzas, pies, and quiches (just to name a few).

The café is open daily, but if you’re wanting to dine in the evenings, make sure you pay a visit from Tuesday to Friday only. The dinner menu is always being updated, making use of the seasonal produce and delectable harvest. Booking in advance is recommended.

Find Le Bon Vivant here!

Photograph courtesy of LBV’s Facebook page

Café Salsa

If your kinda thing is pizzas with a twist and Pacific Rim cuisine, Café Salsa is the ultimate hang-out place.

This stylish storefront cafe in downtown Avarua serves all-day breakfast and lunch. They are open from 7:30 am until 3 pm on Monday through to Friday, and 7:30 am to 2 pm on Saturdays. Café Salsa offers bistro-style dining that is ideal for catching up with friends and family.

Café Salsa boasts a diverse menu combining Mediterranean and Asian flavors. In my opinion, the stand-out dishes are the wood-roasted mahi-mahi fillet with slow-roasted tomatoes, pine nuts and feta, and their Thai-style octopus curry. Café Salsa is also the home of Rarotonga’s only wood-fired pizza oven, baking gourmet pizzas made from fresh and healthy local ingredients. Their coconut pancake is particularly divine, and I could not resist consuming it in under a minute!

The friendly and efficient baristas can whip up an affogato, iced coffee with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, or double shot of espresso with some frothy hot milk on the side in an instant. If you’re after a pleasant dining experience in relaxing surroundings, look no further.

Find Café Salsa here!

Photographs courtesy of Café Salsa’s Facebook page

Coco Latte

Have you ever had a BLT with an iced mocha for breakfast?

At Coco Latte, this is the most in-demand food combination and is the reason why visitors keep coming back. This extremely beloved cafe has a distinguished menu for breakfast, brunch, and lunch. You can eat an eggs benedict with salmon together with their famous coconut milkshake, or if you prefer refreshing and dairy-free homemade juices, Coco Latte’s got your back. I thoroughly enjoyed the portion sizes and presentable, scrumptious meals.

You’ll find this favourite breakfast spot in Vaimaanga with outdoor seating and picnic tables with umbrellas for shade. The café is open six days a week from 8am, Sunday to Friday. Coco Latte has hands-on owners that personally welcomed us, and the remarkable friendliness of their staff is part of what made our visit unforgettable.

Find Coco Latte here!

Photograph courtesy of Coco Latte’s TripAdvisor page

Charlie’s Café & Bar

Water sports, entertainment, and tasty meals can all be found at Charlie’s Café and Bar at Akapuao Beach in Titikaveka.

Charlie’s gives visitors a great workout with kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and snorkel equipment for hire. Going by water is simply the best way to explore and travel around the lagoon. When you grow tired, it’s time to reward yourself with fish burgers, cheese-melt paninis, pan-fried chicken and fresh salads. The fish sandwich especially will not disappoint.

Sip their perfect blend of espresso coffee or try their island-infused smoothies to quench your thirst. If you’re still craving sweets, whet your appetite with some cakes, scones, and muffins for dessert 😋

Charlie’s Café and Bar is open on weekdays from 11 am to 8 pm – and don’t miss their live music every night from 6:30 pm! Last but not least, if you plan to visit over the weekend, bear in mind that they are only open on Saturday from 11 am to 3 pm.

Find Charlie’s Café and Bar here!

Photograph courtesy of Charlie’s Café and Bar Tripadvisor page

Deli-Licious Café Ltd.

Wi-Fi on an island? Impossible!

Nope… not anymore.

Enjoy an awesome meal whilst checking your email with another excellent cafe on Muri Beach. Though Deli-Licious Café Ltd. is right across the road from the Le Bon Vivant Café, this inexpensive coffee shop and internet café is slowly establishing itself as an island staple. Their home-style cooking is sating their customers, and I highly recommend devouring their Denheath custard square, passion fruit cheesecake, or cream leamington!

Deli-Licious has an all-day breakfast menu and is open six days a week, Sunday to Friday from 7 am to 3 pm. Their customer service is superb, their prices are very reasonable, and their coffee will have you visiting again and again and again.

Find Deli-Licious Café Ltd. here!

Photograph courtesy of Deli-Licious Café Ltd.’s Tripadvisor page

✈   ✈   ✈

I had a wonderful experience traveling to Raratonga, and I will definitely be returning to experience what other pursuits this island has to offer. I find it fascinating to visit places I’ve previously never heard of – that’s the true essence of adventure, right?

Author Bio

Samantha Rosario is a blogger at Pound Coffee, a mother, and a resident of the greatest city in the world: New York City. When not working at a Manhattan publishing house, she’s spending time with her family or putting pen to paper for her own personal pursuits. She is also an avid runner and swimmer, and aims to complete an Ironman in 2018 💪

A note from the Ginge…

Kia orana! I sincerely hope you have enjoyed Samantha’s delightful little piece about the five best cafés to visit in Raro. It certainly made me nostalgic for my trip there way back in 2015. While you’re here, be sure to watch 30 Seconds to Convince You to Travel to Rarotonga, a (literally 30 second) clip of personal footage that I threw together of some of the island’s unbelievable beauty…

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The Ginger’s Guide to New Zealand Coffee (WTF is a Long Black?!)

“It doesn’t matter where you’re from, or how you feel… there’s always peace in a strong cup of coffee.”
Gabriel Bá

Consistent with my tendency as a Kiwi to regard my country with vague deprecation, I never considered New Zealand to have a noteworthy coffee culture. But from the moment I walked into a Spanish café and tried to order a mochaccino, I realised I had well undermined our efforts.

If you’re not from down under and have ever found yourself in a New Zealand cafe, you’ve probably found yourself wondering: what on earth is a long black? Is that the opposite of a flat white? Is a fluffy even a thing?

If so, you’re not alone. Overseas, drinks such as Americanos, viennas and ristrettos dominate the cafés. Much like Australia, New Zealand does it’s own thing when it comes to coffee. So without further ado, here is a crash course on how to order a coffee in the land of the long white cloud…

Long Black

A long black is the most basic kind of coffee you can order in a Kiwi’s eyes. It’s basically two shots of espresso in hot water – very similar to the Americano (which you are unlikely to find advertised here). Long blacks are very strong, and not for the faint of heart.

Flat White

A Kiwi/Aussie creation – and my personal favourite – the flat white has creamy, steamed milk poured over a single shot of espresso. If you ask me, it’s a bit kinder than the long black first thing in the morning.

Latte

Although I have deep affection for coffee, I would by no means consider myself a connoisseur. And that is why I can say that I don’t really see the difference between a latte and a flat white. Apparently the only difference is that a latte has a little blanket of foam on the top, but essentially, it’s the same drink.

Cappuccino

Although the cappuccino is traditionally Italian, it is also very popular in New Zealand. The easiest way to conceptualise a cappuccino is as comprising of three different layers; the bottom layer is a shot of espresso, the middle layer is a shot of steamed milk, and the final layer is frothed milk. It is also common to sprinkle chocolate or cinnamon shavings over the top 😋

Mochaccino

Here, we return to the rule of thirds as with the cappuccino. This time, we have a third of espresso, a third of steamed milk, and a third of cocoa. A mochaccino is a convenient way to develop an appreciation for coffee without jumping in the deep end and scaring your tastebuds. I mean, let’s be realistic; it’s just a bitter hot chocolate.

Macchiato

Yeah… I still don’t really understand the difference between a macchiato and a long black (except for the fact that a macchiato sounds pretty damn fancy). From what I’ve gathered, a macchiato is ‘stained’ with frothed milk.

Fluffy

We can’t forget the fluffy! A fluffy is essentially a minuscule cup of foamed milk. I loved them when I was a little girl. They’re what small children get from cafés to feel adult-y and sophisticated when their caregiver stops off for a caffeine hit. If you’re lucky, they might come with a marshmallow or chocolate fish on the side.

If you’re a long-time reader of the Ginger Passports, you might remember that I published a post way back in March called You Can’t Buy Happiness… But You Can Buy Vietnamese Coffee. To this day, this remains one of my favourite all-time posts, and I highly recommend that you check it out to learn just what makes Vietnamese coffee special, and to discover a life-changing iced coffee recipe.

Alternatively, you might like to read some reviews I wrote about two of my favourite coffee haunts in my home town of Dunedin. The first is for Starfish Café and Bar, a seaside joint that I used to hit up on a near-daily basis when I was back in the motherland. The second is Nectar Espresso Bar and Café, which is slightly more urban and located closer to the middle of town.

P.S. I apologise on behalf of all Kiwis for the price of our coffee 🙈

All photographs courtesy of Unsplash.

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You Can’t Buy Happiness… But You Can Buy Vietnamese Coffee

(verb.) to delay or postpone action; put off doing something until you’ve had coffee.

As a third-year university student, I think that it is fair to say that coffee is my best friend. In saying that though, my love affair with coffee did not fully begin until I travelled to Vietnam in late 2016. I had experimented with caffeine early in the year as part of am attempt to demonstrate my transition into official adulthood, but had conceded defeat after I realised that drinking coffee was like drinking burnt charcoal. Nevertheless, it was impossible to travel around Vietnam – one of the coffee hotspots of the world – without trying the stuff.

Whilst coffee was only introduced to Vietnam in 1857 by the French, it has become one of the country’s biggest exports. In fact, Vietnam is the second-largest producer of coffee in the world! Didn’t expect that from a wee nation tucked away in Southeast Asia, did you? If you’re interested in learning more about how Vietnam transformed into one of the globe’s leading coffee giants, you might be inclined to check out this BBC article.

Vietnamese coffee is prepared by coarsely grinding Robusta beans through a French drip filter known as a phin. While the beans are weighted down, hot water is added and slowly trickles down through the phin into the cup. Voila! It’s as simple as that.

Whilst I do not consider myself a caffeine expert by any means, I do enjoy a bit of good old fashioned research, and the consensus is clear: Vietnamese coffee is some of the best coffee in the world. What makes Vietnamese coffee — or ca phe, as it is called — so iconic is its incorporation of sweetened condensed milk. Think think and dreamy with “notes of nuttiness” to throw your tastebuds into a stimulated frenzy. I’m not going to lie; condensed milk certainly provides a helpful hand for developing an appreciation for coffee for those who are put off by the traditional bitter taste. This is especially convenient in this case, as the Vietnamese like their coffee strong.

One of the reasons I decided to visit Vietnam — or Southeast Asia in general — was the low cost of travel there. Consistent with this, you will not find yourself emptying your pockets to purchase a cup of joe. Depending on the quality of the Robusta beans and the overall price of the venue, you’ll probably find yourself forking out between 20,000 – 70,000 Vietnamese dong for a glass. This roughly approximates to NZD$1.25 – $4.40 (or USD$0.90 – $3.00).

How to Make Vietnamese-Style Iced Coffee

Ingredients

22g of finely ground medium-dark coffee

140ml of hot water

30ml of sweetened condensed milk

100g of ice (crushed or cubed)

Method

1. Pour the condensed milk into a glass to line the base of the cup

2. Load a stainless steel phin with the coffee grounds

3. Place the coffee-laden phin on top of the glass

4. Wet the coffee in the filter with 20 ml of hot water

5. Pour another 120ml of hot water over the coffee grounds

6. Wait approximately 8-10 minutes until all of the water has drained through

5. Mix the coffee with condensed milk and enjoy!

Which country do you think produces the best coffee? Share your thoughts, and I’ll be sure to put it up to the taste test when I travel there! Furthermore, if you are intrigued by the different foods and drinks cultures have to offer, you might want to check out my blog post on 5 Foods That Will Make You Go WTF (and 5 Foods That Won’t) 👌

All photos sourced from unplash.com

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