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Café Exchange: from phones to coffee

May 14, 2010

Something I love about rural café life in New Zealand is the side order of nostalgia you get with your coffee. Often it’s the generous portions of homestyle cooking but it’s also the place itself. Café life has become large part of New Zealand life to the point that no matter where you are, your nose will sniff out a café. Even in the smallest of towns.

Coffee and tea are being brewed in old wooden villas, limestone social service centres, post-offices, even renovated bath houses. In Taihape, coffee and food can be found in the town’s historic telephone exchange rightly called — The Exchange.

Over the last decade The Exchange has ground, pulled and poured Italian coffee, baked and cooked a selection of waist-enhancing goodies — and salads — in style.

by Cate

When I first checked out this place, not long after it opened, I didn’t do it on the recommendation of a friend but on the complaint of my well-travelled brother, who claimed that “The espresso there is dearer than Milan!!!!”. He did use a few exclamation marks and expletives to get his view across.

Naturally I had to see the place for myself. He was right. It was dear at that time. Since then other cafés have opened up and competition has kept The Exchange’s prices fairly decent.

On a recent visit back around Christmas, it was good to see the food and coffee had retained its quality, although the interior was looking tired in need of a fresh coat of paint and some new chairs.

by Cate

Being an old telephone exchange gives the place some character which modern cafés lack. A small booth in the corner suggests it was designed for something else, although I’m not sure what. On the walls are turn of the century heaters and the switches look just as ancient. In the back is a small courtyard, at the front is a lovely wooden verandah shaded in summer with rambling white roses. This café was designed with care; replicating a home away from home, offering customers a place to come in from the region’s extreme temperatures.

Currently The Exchange is up for sale, who knows how it will look the next time I visit this area. Will the food be just as good, the coffee just as strong? Maybe a new roaster, a different interior, or perhaps it could close down as cafés often do.

Just like its predecessor, times change.

Caffeinated Traveller

  1. May 15, 2010 1:05 am

    Sounds like this was a charming place. I love cafes, they really demonstrate the pulse of a place. Not the big chain ones but the independent ones with character, which The Exchange obviously had.

  2. May 15, 2010 2:10 am

    Wow, this cafe looks gorgeous!!

  3. travelforaircraft permalink
    May 16, 2010 8:26 am

    It is hard to beat an older building when one wants an atmosphere.I’m glad to see NZ repurposes its older buildings — it happens in the USA, too, but more commonly a building goes up even though empty buildings are around.

  4. May 16, 2010 5:31 pm

    Even though we toyed with and eventually ditched the idea of opening a small cafe in Cape Town last year, when I hear of a really cute available space like that, something in my mind perks up and I start imagining menus and interior make-overs… -X

  5. Catherine permalink
    May 16, 2010 8:51 pm

    I love cafe culture and these look great places to hang out – mexico city has a fair few great hangouts but my favourite city for cafes has to be Buenos Aires – I hear they are relaunching the literary bohemian cafe with books to read – sounds great…

  6. May 17, 2010 12:59 am

    Sad that it’s for sale. I hope it retains some of its history.

  7. May 17, 2010 11:47 am

    Atmosphere is a great flavor enhancer. Enjoyed this post, Cate.

  8. May 17, 2010 6:50 pm

    Loved this post. I enjoy visiting cafe’s and I am glad to see how popular they’ve become eveywhere. Fun you are finding them in unexpected places. This one looks cozy.

    • May 19, 2010 12:17 pm

      Rosalind – nicely said!!

      Liz – pretty colours, the outside was just as cute

      Joe -I’ve found the south i.e Florida likes its strip malls, chain cafes and other take outs. There is nothing in the way of small cafes and good food, something I can’t quite get my head around.

      Xander – I have always like the idea of a cafe but I’ve heard it’s very hard. Worth revisiting don’t you think?

      Catherine – thanks for the tip on BA, I did see a post on Trourist about an old opera house/cafe/bookstore, is this the same one?

      Heather and Gourmantic – history and atmosphere, you can’t go wrong with these two ingredients.

      Arlene – Welcome and thanks!


  9. May 30, 2010 12:34 am


    That was one excellent article. Well done.
    I was born in New Zealand, and had travelled the whole length of the country with my girls way back in the We loved every second of it.

    I don’t know if you had noticed, but once you were out of the city areas completely, you were literally in ‘old country’, and the breathtaking scenery begins. And that air, OMG, fresh (and really crispy in the winter

    The country cafes were uniquely NZ’s downgraded version of the ‘pitstop diners’ in the US back in the day. Nothing flashy about it. A little rustic room, functioning as a multi-purpose post office, drug store, ice cream outlet, and generally a hang out place for the locals. I just loved it, and still do to this day. Cafe lifestyle suits country life.

    Whenever I go home to visit my folks, my first priority is to get out of the city, and ‘go country’. It’s good for the soul, and the country towns with their quaint lifestyles always reminds me that life is good and wonderful, and so worth living.

    You really get around. That is awesome. Keep up the great work, Cate.


  10. June 2, 2010 7:53 pm

    Very atmospheric shots and an interesting story. What a joy to read your blog 🙂

  11. June 3, 2010 8:44 am

    Mags — it is always good to hear people enjoy my writing and who can tell me something about the place where Ive been. I do remember those coffee shops with the stainless steel teapots that ALWAYS leaked when poured, and the cheese and onion style sandwiches on thinly sliced white bread. Thankfully times have changed.

    Chris – Thank you I’m happy your happy ! Have a great day everyone.

  12. June 7, 2010 10:48 pm

    I added your blog to bookmarks. And i’ll read your articles more often!

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