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Coffee Is Really Expensive In New Zealand 

There is probably only one thing I can complain about in New Zealand.

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KATIKATI, New Zealand- So I have to have one — and probably only one — complaint about this country.

I can’t bash the scenery, the people, the travel experience, or even the cost of food and accommodation (free camping places everywhere), so I guess I need to delve into deeper waters: coffee.

Coffee at cafes, convenient stores, and gas stations is insanely expensive in New Zealand.

For even a small cup of the stuff from a dubious side of the road shack you’re looking at three to five dollars US.

Oddly, I believe Starbucks has the cheapest coffee around.

Prices in all countries are relative to many factors, and you can’t really start complaining until the cost of something stands out in contrast to either local wages or the price of everything else.

You can fill your gut with a delicious meat pie for same amount of money that a cup of coffee costs here — for a little more you can get a full meal.

Why should a cup of coffee cost as much as food?

I really don’t understand this point of retail economics. In some Asian countries that don’t have a deeply ingrained tradition of drinking coffee it makes sense why it’s pricy — it’s a premium beverage for the international or intellectual class. But New Zealand is a country of coffee drinkers, and I would have imagined the drink to be proportionately priced in a way that is common in Europe or the USA. But it’s not.

I have a coffee issue. I’m kind of locked-in to the stuff, which in countries like Ukraine — that have cheap coffee stalls everywhere — this isn’t a problem, but when a significant portion of my daily budget goes towards feeding an otherwise useless habit then I need to start thinking about what I’m doing.

In a way, I despise what could be called this minor addiction — I can go 28 hours without coffee before the headaches start — on the other hand I really enjoy drinking it. I’m not going to give it up just because it’s disproportionately costly. Instead, I’m going to come up with a new strategy.

So the coffee that I have been drinking in New Zealand has been instant mixed with cold water and cold milk. It takes a lot of stirring …


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Filed under: Coffee, Food, New Zealand, Travel Diary

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. I’ve been traveling the world since 1999, through 91 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China and have written for The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3722 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: New York City

2 comments… add one

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  • Lyn June 16, 2020, 10:14 am

    You’re travelling in a campervan so just buy a jar or refill packet of Nescafe and ask at the cafes for a cup of hot water ( usually free ) and make your own. Otherwise do it yourself in the camper. Much cheaper than buying the stuff from tearooms etc.

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    • Wade Shepard June 19, 2020, 11:11 am

      Thanks, but Nescafe isn’t really what I’d consider coffee. But I guess this is a marked departure from what I’ve written about on this blog years ago.

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