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Letter from America: Kiwis giving statesiders a coffee lesson

How spoiled with good coffee New Zealanders are is never more apparent than when you set foot in North America, with its unlimited refills of burnt, bitter, brown stuff mixed with the abomination that is non-dairy creamer.

Thank the Arabica gods, but Americans are finally evolving taste buds and coming to embrace espresso.

Los Angeles is at the forefront of this coffee revolution, and in some small part that’s thanks to the two Kiwis behind Two Guns Espresso – Andrew ‘Stan’ Stanisich and Craig Oram. I’ve taken to stopping by whenever I’m in the area for a two-shot taste of home.

While Two Guns obviously owes a lot to New Zealand – evident in the tiki on the wall, the outline of Aotearoa on the staff T-shirts and the flat whites on the menu – it’s a very international space. You’re just as likely to hear Aussie and American accents as Kiwi on any given day – and Stanisich says he’d say the feel is Kiwi inspired, not themed.

Still, the Kiwi heritage is an important part of Two Guns. “I haven’t tried to blend in at all. I’m proud of where I’m from and New Zealand will always be my home. And in the coffee industry, New Zealand has a very good name.”

Customers seem to like it, too, and whenever I visit there are lines out the door, table space is scarce, and customers chat amongst themselves.

That’s another bit of New Zealand that Stanisich is happy to have imported, winning over the normally “insular” Americans to a more open and friendly cafe style. He says the spot has become well-known in the local community thanks to its active profile at local and sporting events around Los Angeles’ South Bay region. And he reckons they are slowly winning loyal Starbucks customers away from the dark side.

As a writer in the US, I do plenty to convince editors I speak their readers’ language. I studiously omit Kiwi idioms and superfluous vowels from my writing in order to blend in – and I’m hardly the only expat to assimilate. But while there’s certainly validity to learning how the Americans do business in America, it’s nice to see them embrace New Zealand ways – and caffeine habits – for once.

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