One Question Quiz

KaiApril 19, 2024

All of the Raglan Roast cafes in Wellington, ranked from worst to best


Raglan Roast is a staple of Wellington coffee culture. But with five branches across the capital, which one is the best? 

I am a die-hard Raglan Roast fan. It’s consistently the most affordable cafe in Wellington, and one of the only places you can get a coffee after 3pm. So, in the name of serious journalism, I hit the streets and visited every Raglan Roast branch in the city in one day, to figure out exactly which Raglan Roast should be crowned the best Raglan Roast.

Because this is an important piece of scientific research, the controlled variable will be an Oat Flat White. Not just because this is my order, but because this is the most frequently ordered coffee in Wellington (source: trust me).

Chaffers Dock

Chaffers Dock Raglan Roast

The best location, but the worst coffee I had all day. The Chaffers branch is tucked behind a carpark on the ground floor of an apartment building facing directly onto the harbour. You might expect a seaside cafe to have some charm, this branch felt hollow and a bit lifeless. There were some thriving plants and flowers in vases scattered around the place, but the ultra-modern space itself made the branch seem cold. The view of the harbour definitely helped make up for it, though. A handful of young professionals were working on laptops, but it all felt a bit meh. Maybe I just went at the wrong time – I’m sure it’s super busy on a Sunday morning with the dog-walker/run-club crowd.

The food had been cleared out, so I opted for an ice cream instead. I had a scoop of “brown lightning” in a small mug. It was delicious, a really strong, pure espresso ice cream that wasn’t overly sweet. The coffee, however, was a disappointment. It was beautiful to look at, served in a very nice Acme mug, and the barista made the effort to include a cute latte art heart. But no amount of cute art or expensive mug could make up for this oat flat white. It was sour, burnt-tasting and bordering on cappuccino with the amount of foam on top. C’mon Raglan, you can do better than this! Maybe the barista was having a rough day, but I was let down.

Coffee: 1/5

Snack (“Brown Lightning” Ice Cream): 5/5

Ambience: 3/5

Music: Unidentifiable Surf Rock

Time of visit: 2.48pm

Holland Street

The Holland Street Raglan Roast

After four years in Wellington, I didn’t even know that the Holland St store existed. The store is barely noticeable, tucked away in the empty laneway. It’s a hole-in-the-wall, but maybe a bit too in-the-wall. The store itself is equally ghostly. Besides a lone customer sketching on a back table, it was completely empty. 

The layout of the shop is utterly bizarre: the skeletal remains of an industrial kitchen take up half the space of the cafe, leaving little to no seating. The barista told me it used to be a pizza restaurant, and Raglan no longer had any use for the kitchen. Holland Street tries to lean into the classic Raglan plants/plywood/paintings combo as an attempt to distract from the oddness of this ex-pizza-restaurant-coffee-shop situation, but to no avail.

The very friendly barista made up for the strangeness of the interior. The coffee was by far the best I’d had all day. It was super creamy, with the perfect amount of foam and just the right temperature. This was my fourth coffee of the day, so I was starting to hit my limit, but I was really impressed. The barista even drew me a rabbit in the foam, which later morphed into a ghost/jellyfish.  For a snack, I opted for a spinach and feta muffin. It was an unfortunate let down. Even though the barista heated it up for me, it was dry, bland and pretty doughy.

Ghost/jellyfish latte art from the Holland Street Raglan Roast.

Overall, the coffee was great, but I couldn’t shake the strangeness of the interior. 

Coffee: 5/5

Snack: Spinach and feta muffin, 2/5

Ambience: 2/5

Music: Breaking Ground – Daniel Koestner

Time of visit: 2:05pm

Willis Street

Inside the Willis Street Raglan Roast.

I arrived at the Willis Street branch during the mid morning rush, and the room was packed with a well-dressed corporate crowd. My sister and I, final year uni students and still half asleep, felt very out of place in the long queue. 

Maybe because of the aforementioned corporate crowd, Willis lacks a bit of the character that makes Raglan Roast so iconic. The cafe itself is clean and shiny, more like a Mojo than a Raglan. The seating is mostly laid out in tables of two; perfect for a client meeting or an awkward Linkedin networking date. The clientele was upbeat and chatty, reflective of the mostly private sector crowd – cheerful, employed and expensive looking. It’s not too close to parliament or any major media outlets, so everyone seemed to be ‌in a good mood. The baristas were friendly, efficient and like Willis Street, laser-focused.  

I sampled a cheese scone. Although the staff didn’t offer to toast it, the scone was really damn good as is: super cheesy and crispy on the top. However, the coffee was a bit of a letdown. The milk was verging on burnt and a bit flat, but overall it was drinkable. Willis St made up for its average coffee with a banging playlist though. 

An excellent cheese scone from the Willis Street Raglan Roast.



Coffee: 3/5

Snack: Cheese scone,  5/5

Ambience: 3/5

Music: ‘Aimatines Skies Apo Apostasi’ – Lena Platanos

Time of visit: 9.35am

The Terrace

A busy line at the Terrace Raglan Roast

I was not expecting to enjoy my visit to The Terrace as much as I did. It was just after half ten, and the cafe was pumping with house music on full blast. This is not the place to meet a recruiter for a consolation coffee after you’ve been made redundant from your policy job. 

The baristas at the Terrace treat coffee-making like a competitive sport, and for good reason. All the seats were taken up with crisply suited professionals and tiny-beanie-wearing public servants, and a long line was snaking out the door. The four baristas on shift were the coolest people I have ever seen: tattooed, bleached-browed people bobbed their heads to the music while pulling 10 shots of espresso a minute. An extremely chill employee took my order while simultaneously taking a payment and pouring milk into a mug on the front bench. I was impressed and a little bit intimidated.

The oat flat white was very hot once again, but creamier than Willis’, impressive for how busy they were. The rhubarb and custard tart was buttery and perfectly sweet.

Then all of a sudden, a rush of adrenaline. Maybe it was the four espresso shots I’d drank in the space of an hour. Maybe it was because I was sitting next to the huge speakers blasting a Boiler Room set. I found myself scrolling on Linkedin and looking up jobs on Seek. I just needed a blazer, and I was ready to take on the world. 

Although the store was busy and anxiety-inducing, I found myself striding out of The Terrace with the latest Charli XCX blasting in my headphones. I felt ready to head to a rave and simultaneously crush a marketing presentation. The corporate girl-bossery of The Terrace is electric.

Coffee: 3/5

Snack: Rhubarb and custard tart, 3/5

Ambience: 4/5

Music: Unidentifiable house music

Time of visit: 10:36am

Abel Smith Street

Taking the well-deserved crown for Best Raglan Roast in Wellington is Abel Smith Street. 

There’s a lot of great (and expensive) coffee that Raglan Roast has to compete with in the Cuba Street precinct, but the Abel Smith branch has no problems bringing in a crowd. Tucked away in an unassuming garage, the store stretches out in a cosy, airy warehouse space. It’s warm and inviting, like stepping into a friend’s living room. 

Every Raglan has its niche, and Abel Smith’s is the interior design. The store was covered in beautiful art and mismatched furniture with huge plush sofas and armchairs. The mismatched clientele adds to its charm. There was truly everyone there: trendy millennials having a catchup, a couple playing chess, a lone suited man working on his laptop, and a group of law students flipping through case notes. It’s clearly a branch that favours a more arty crowd, being just a quick walk from Massey. I felt like I should have had a cigarette tucked behind my ear and a strong opinion on Marx. I thought I was blending in, until my jacket caught in the army climbing net hung on the wall next to me and I nearly yanked the whole thing down. 

Mismatched art and furniture at the Abel Smith Street Raglan Roast.

Unlike Willis or The Terrace, Abel Smith is clearly designed to prioritise community and socialising, although it does have an efficient grab-and-go service as well. As for the coffee itself, it was a solid, good flat white. A bit too much froth for my liking, but overall it hit the mark. The chocolate chip cookie was delightful; super buttery and very nice to dip into a coffee. I love an obnoxiously large biscuit. 

Coffee: 4/5

Snack: Chocolate chip cookie, 4/5

Ambience: 5/5

Music: PTSD – Nemzzz

Time of visit: 1:13pm

Special Awards

Best Coffee: Holland Street

Best Music: The Terrace

Best Snack: Cheese Scone, Willis Street

Keep going!