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

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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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26 Grains: the London Café Bringing Back Porridge

Hello, my name is Dani, and I am a porridge addict.

My morning is not complete until I’ve devoured soy milk porridge with sultanas, raspberries, and a drizzle of honey. Some people have yoga, some people have meditation – and I have my porridge. It’s calming to stand over the stove stirring the oats and contemplating my day, and I don’t see myself adopting another breakfast choice anytime soon.

When I was organising a day trip to London, I was ecstatic to discover that there is a porridge café there. Yes, you heard right: a porridge café. Much to my boyfriend’s inconvenience, I planned the whole day around visiting to this café, and I must say, I was not disappointed.

Photograph courtesy of Time Out

Tucked away in the whimsical little courtyard of Neal’s Yard is 26 Grains.

Porridge isn’t exactly what you might call a fashionable food, but 26 Grains – founded by Alex Hely-Hutchinson – is helping it make a comeback. Perhaps what I like best about 26 Grains – aside from the porridge, that is – is that the café really captures that Scandinavian atmosphere of cosiness. It’s exactly what you need first thing on a London morning; in fact, I would go as far as to describe my experience there as though my stomach had been cradled in a warm, delicious hug.

Photograph courtesy of 26 Grains

I’m reluctant to call 26 Grains a minimalist café, but they certainly illustrate the philosophy of ‘less is more’. The only form of clutter is a selection of cookbooks dotted around the place, and a plant wall on the garage doors. As far as customers go, some are bent low over their morning newspaper, steam from their cappuccino curling into the air. Two sit opposite one another, heads together in hushed chatter over a bowl of banana cacao, on what might even be a first date.

“Nothing in this world is as it seems. Except, possibly, porridge.”

Stephen Fry

Photograph courtesy of Amazon

The one drawback to our experience was the café’s insane popularity. This meant that our only option for dining was to be seated up at the bar, which wasn’t the most comfortable and relaxed setup. In saying that, we were lucky to even get this option, and it did give us full view of the kitchen. We also had the choice of dining al fresco, but considering we were visiting the capital in late December, that alternative wasn’t wildly appetising.

Photograph courtesy of Retail Design Blog

26 Grains really nails the craft of artisan porridge. To cite their menu, we’re talking about Nordic pear porridge with coconut yoghurt and cacao crumble… rhubarb and cardamon granola with compote… even their famous avocado and dukkah on sourdough rye for those who decide that porridge isn’t their thing. While you’re there, why not energise with a turmeric latte or smoothie? You can check out their affordable, healthy and seasonal menu here. Oh, and p.s. – they’re vegan friendly 🐮

“26 is just a number that I like… it’s one of those numbers that seems to come around a lot; there are 26 letters in the alphabet, 26 miles in a marathon, 260 weekdays in a year, it just fits.”

Alex Hely-Hutchinson in an interview with Suitcase Magazine

Photographs courtesy of About Time, Healthy Hotspots and Pixie 

About five minutes after we had ordered, we were served with beautifully-presented porridge; a feature which is very important in the day and age of social media where nothing really happens unless you Instagram it. Served in quaint ceramic bowls, I drooled over the dish that was too beautiful to eat. Then – if it were even possible – I discovered that it tasted even better than it looked.

The Ginger’s Recommendation

  • Hazelnut and Butter Porridge with Almond Milk Oats, Cinnamon Coconut Palm Sugar and Apple
  • Fresh Mint and Ginger Tea

26 Grains isn’t just for the porridge lovers; photograph courtesy of Pinterest

If you are planning a trip to London, I strongly recommend you make time to visit this café. 26 Grains really makes you appreciate the simple things in life. Now, excuse me whilst I book another trip to London to feed my porridge addiction.

The ‘Deats

Name: 26 Grains

Website: Here (seriously, you should check it out)

Location: 1 Neal’s Yard, London, WC2H 9DP

Hours: Monday to Friday (8am-5pm) and Saturday to Sunday (10am-4pm)

To bring the oat-y magic to your kitchen, check out the 26 Grains Cookbook on Amazon. Furthermore, to read more café reviews on the Ginger Passports, allow me to introduce you to Brew-tiful: Nectar Espresso Bar and Café, and my personal favourite, Starfish Café: Your Sunday Morning Fix.

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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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Brew-tiful: Nectar Espresso Bar & Café

“As long as there was coffee in the world, how bad could things be?”

Cassandra Clare

It’s been a while since I reviewed a café. You might remember my blog post on Starfish from way back in January, where I discussed the thriving café culture in the New Zealand city of Dunedin. I was determined to bust the camera out at least once more before buying that one way ticket out of here, and my nose led me to Nectar.

I don’t consider myself a coffee maestro, but in saying that, I know a good cup of joe when I see (…drink?) one. Nectar Espresso Bar and Café specialises in brewing high quality coffee roasted right here in Middle Earth. The barista also scores brownie points for going out of their way to concoct an iced coffee for me that didn’t pre-exist on their menu – and they served it in a mason jar. It made all my hipster dreams come true.

The Nectar philosophy towards food is free-range, gourmet and delicious. They also cater to vegetarians, gluten free-ers… you name it. They’re also open to special requests and will go out of their way to accommodate your wants and needs. Oh, and did I mention the presentation of the food is insane?! Honestly, I feel like I’m dining in some five star Parisian restaurant. It’s pretty awesome considering the menu here won’t break your budget.

Nectar offers a warm and inviting environment that embraces you like a warm hug – especially during the depths of winter. A make or break feature for me when it comes to cafés are their design. It doesn’t matter how divine the food is; if the aesthetic doesn’t tell a story, I’m not convinced. Fortunately, Nectar passes this test with flying colours. A palette of white, yellow and green sweeps through the interior, and the rich motif of plants keep things fresh and natural.

This is a sublime place to celebrate special occasions. For a more industrial Tuscan atmosphere, venture out onto the landing at the top of the steps. There is also a sun-drenched bench at the front of the café decked out with the latest newspapers and magazines. As Nectar is located in the business district, I always see workers pop in for a morning caffeine hit or lunch break and enjoy their takeaway coffee upon the stools, taking in the sights of the bustling street outside.

My Nectar Brunch Order

  • Iced Coffee
  • Poached Free Range Eggs w/ Mushrooms, Grilled Vine Tomato and House-Made Hash-Browns
  • Birdseed Slice

Tip: Ask for your iced coffee with ice cubes sans cream. I’ve found that different countries take very different approaches to this cold beverage, and – if your taste buds are anything like mine – that is either a very good thing or a very, very bad thing. In New Zealand, an iced coffee is more like a Starbucks-esque frappuccino than, y’know, a coffee with ice. It always pays to take the time to clarify what you are actually ordering with your barista to avoid disappointment.

The ‘Deats

Name: Nectar Espresso Bar and Café

Websitewww.nectarespresso.co.nz

Facebook: @nectarespresso

Location: 286 Princes Street, Dunedin, New Zealand

Phone: 03 477 8976

Hours: 8am – 3pm

If you are a coffee enthusiast like me, then be sure to check out my blog post: You Can’t Buy Happiness… But You Can Buy Vietnamese Coffee ☕

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Starfish Café: Your Sunday Morning Fix

Could this possibly be the best café in Dunedin?

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Having lived in this city in southern New Zealand my whole life, I think it is fair to say that I have done the café rounds. Coming from a family with a passion for food (and being a high-functioning teaholic), it is hard pressed for me to find a café here that I have not dined at.

And so we arrive at the Starfish, the eclectic seaside café on the St. Clair esplanade.

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It’s hard to define Starfish, but maybe that’s the beauty of it. From the electric swing playing over the speakers to the David Bowie posters pouting down at you from the wall, from the vintage swan wallpaper to the Pacific Ocean right outside the front door… and I haven’t even gotten to the food yet. Think coconut turmeric lattes as you sit outside and enjoy the sun on a lazy Sunday morning. Think a glass of wine as you wind down to an acoustic set on a Friday evening. Think fresh seafood sourced straight from the Otago harbour. Mouth watering yet?

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I think the best thing about Starfish is that every time I go there (and believe me, it’s an embarrassing amount), it’s a whole new experience. I never tire of the ever-changing menu, and there is such a huge array of options to choose from and I don’t think I could ever sample everything. For all you social media enthusiasts (*raises a guilty hand*), do not fret; everything at Starfish is Insta-worthy. And for all you difficult dietary chums (*raises another guilty hand*), they’ve got you covered. Dairy free? Gluten free? Vegetarian? Look no further.

If there is one place you should go to experience the essence of Dunedin’s café culture on your travels, Starfish is the one. Perhaps one of the only stale points is that it is not within walking distance of the town centre, limiting it to those with access. However, if an outing to St. Clair is not already on your to do list, then I honestly don’t know what you’re doing here. Nestled in a plethora of boutique shops and restaurants – not to mention the most photogenic beach in New Zealand (am I biased? …probably), just one visit will be enough to convince you to ditch your return ticket home. Just make sure you’ve packet a scarf and gloves in your suitcase. Brr.

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My Starfish Breakfast Order

  • Pics Poles Smoothie
  • Blueberry, Coconut & Lemon Hotcakes
  • Citrus Slice

(note to self: don’t complain when you no longer fit your jeans)

Also, a handy tip; if you’re eyeing up one of their famous smoothies (I recommend the Pics Poles; possibly the best peanut butter creation to ever grace the earth), make sure you get in there before 3pm or else the blender gets put away for the day. Believe me, I’ve made this mistake many times; tears were shed.

The ‘Deats

Starfish Café, Restaurant & Bar

240 Forbury Road, St. Clair, Dunedin, New Zealand

Sunday-Tuesday 7am-5pm

Wednesday-Saturday 7am til late

03 455 5940

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