There’d been a bit of tooting over on Twitter about Customs Brew Bar, a new cafe from Coffee Supreme, so when it opened the Wellingtonista paid a visit.

It’s not your run-of-the-mill cafe – as well as a lush woodern interior, Customs also sells a range of single-original coffee beans and uses less than ordinary methods of brewing the beans.

So I had a chat to Coffee Supreme’s Justin, who kindly explained the concept behind Customs Brew Bar.

Their nine beans are all single origin. Most coffee used in cafes is a blend of beans from different places (nothing wrong with that – it means you get a consistent cup, every time).

Single origin beans, however, come from the same geographic region. Customs has beans from such exotic locales as Sumatra, Ethiopia, Nicuragua and Guatemala. And you’ll get variation with single-origin beans – the flavour will differ from roast to roast, from season to season. But that’s part of the fun.

Also fun are the brewing methods that Customs uses. As well as a familiar espresso machine, they also use two non-espresso methods – the old-school Chemex Coffeemaker and the newfangled Clover machine.

The Chemex was invented by chemist Peter Schlumbohm in the 1930s, and is considered a design classic. It uses a special glass beaker with a paper filter designed to let the flavour drip through. Aw yeah.

The Clover machine is a more recent invention. The coffee grounds are added into the top of the machine where they’re mixed with hot water and stirred, then that mixture is sucked down through a filter.

It’s probably better to actually watch the Clover in action – it’s ridiculously entertaining watching the (actually quite simple) process.

The machine’s settings let the barista precisely control the amount of water, its temperature, and the time the coffee is brewed. It’s geeky and scientific but makes a really good cup.

The Clover has a cult following in North America, but curiously the company was bought out by Starbucks, so now Clover machines can’t be purchased wholesale any more. Coffee Supreme got in there early.

Justin said that by using the Chemex and the Clover, they would hopefully show people that brewed coffee is not an inferior method to espresso. Lots of people feel a little ashamed of making coffee in a plunger at home, but a good coffee plunger can make a really good cup because it’s so simple to get right.

But if you like a good old espresso, Customs have an awesome Slayer espresso machine. Yeah, that’s right – it’s called a Slayer. Coming straight outta Seattle, the Slayer lets the barista adjust the pressure of the steam, perhaps starting out with a low pressure, then cranking it up higher.

These three coffee-making methods combined with the beans on offer mean that you can get to know a bit more about what you’re drinking rather than just requiring that it wake your brain up. It’s not unlike what we already do with wine – caring about the flavour and the region, not just its effect on the body.

Also worth a look is the lovely interior of the cafe. It’s been decorated in a Modernist style (ooh), with lots of gorgeous recycled wood (from the Coffee Supreme owner’s old farmhouse), and a style harkening back to the post-war era when science was our friend, coffee was a fancy new thing, and the future seemed so bright and full of promise.

Customs Brew Bar is an absolute coffee nerd’s paradise, but it can also be enjoyed by those of us who just want a good flat white, and maybe to learn a little bit more about what’s in that lovely cup. 

  • Customs Brew Bar – 39 Ghuznee Street, Te Aro