When Mr Hiorns, hotelier, felt the chill wind of competition from a mobile coffee stall, he succeeded in getting the coffee cart removed.

A coffee drinker wrote to The Star in protest:

“Coffee stalls, Sir, and peripatetic institutions for the sale of trotters and such cheap delicacies to those whose business or pleasure may require them to be in the streets at night, are common enough in London and all large cities in England ... and their establishment should be encouraged rather than regarded as a nuisance.”

That was February 1878; a taste for coffee is nothing new in Christchurch, it seems.

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This month, a decent cup of coffee could be the perfect complement to a slice of history. Heritage New Zealand is placing postcards in central city cafes, as part of the Beca Christchurch Heritage Festival.

Each postcard features an intriguing image and a message about past events that occurred in or around the site of a present-day café. “We’re helping people to encounter the history of places they frequent their daily lives,” says Dr Christine Whybrew of Heritage New Zealand.

“I imagine people picking up a postcard then reading the full story on their mobile while waiting for coffee,” says Dr Whybrew. “They are lovely images, too, so hopefully some will make their way onto work pin-boards or the fridge at home.”

A simple website will tell the story behind each postcard, for example: What’s behind an old fob watch? a roller skate? dozens of pipes? Where did homeless men seek shelter from the winter snow? Who tried to defend Chinese migrants from police harassment?

 Dr Whybrew says the postcards all relate in some way to findings from post-quake heritage research and archaeological investigations. “Heritage New Zealand has amassed a lot of information over the past nine years, and we want to share that with as many people as possible in Christchurch. We are reaching beyond the usual heritage enthusiasts, but for history buffs, we’ll be posting relevant links to our archaeology digital archive, Papers Past and other sources.”

In case you’re wondering, the ‘coffee’ brewed in 19th century Christchurch was not always coffee, but a hot beverage made from chicory-based syrup.  

We’ll have a double-shot flat white with our history, thanks.


www.ccc.govt.nz/heritagefestival: full festival programme, 7–28 October (Christchurch City Council)

HeritageJoshua Brosnahan