No matter how big the world may seem, one thing that makes it feel a whole lot smaller is the mutual appreciation for coffee that people of all nationalities share. From Austria to Australia, we can’t get enough. But like any international cuisine, the cultural idiosyncrasies are what make coffee around the world so great.
The concept of “the best cup of coffee” is as subjective of a topic as it can be touchy, so instead of narcissistically assembling a global coffee guide based off of my experiences and opinions, I took to the world wide web, researching on travel websites and major news sources.
Based off of lists put out by Thrillist, CNN, TripAdvisor, Condé Nast Traveler, Travel + Leisure, MSN, BBC, US Today and more, below are the top ten cities that every caffeine connoisseur must visit to smell, taste and experience the culture through a simple cup of coffee.
It should come as no surprise that Seattle is frequently noted as a world capital for coffee roasting – after all, Starbucks opened their first roast house and espresso bar in Pike Place Market. With Starbucks, Seattle’s Best, Tully’s and other big name coffee retailers headquartered in Seattle, coffee roasting flows throughout the very veins of the city. Although Seattle is home to numerous coffee powerhouses, the quirky, indie hole-in-the-wall coffee shops can hold their own in the city that has earned the title of highest concentration of coffee houses per capita in the United States.
Coffee is more than just a culture in Vienna, but rather, it is a spiritual experience. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization has described Viennese coffee houses as places “where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill.” A rather unsung addition to this list, Vienna is constantly recognized as the city that equates coffee consumption with grandeur. Viennese coffee houses are often luxurious and beautifully furnished, offering a multitude of espresso drinks to patrons.
San Francisco, California
If you’re searching for the city that treats coffee production as an art form similar to that of wine-making, look no further than the Bay Area. The third wave of coffee, a movement that considers brewing high-quality coffee an artisanal endeavor, left the city of San Francisco with some of the most innovative practices in global coffee culture, such as deliberate one-size only cups and iced coffee that’s brewed for thirty six hours. San Francisco is home to Blue Bottle Coffee, Ritual Coffee, Sightglass and other roasters that are known for their industrial vibe.
Melbourne is acknowledged to be the coffee capital of Australia. With quaint open-air coffee shops throughout the streets and alleys, coffee is subtly intertwined with the city. Many ascribe the well-roasted beans to the immigration of Italians and Greeks during the 20th century. With them they brought their passion for espresso and roasting methodologies, which seem to serve as the foundation of the coffee scene throughout Melbourne today.
Two words: Kona coffee. With beans cultivated atop the dormant volcano of Hualalai and the active Mauna Loa, coffee-lovers must experience the rich and creamy blends and beverages hailing from the Big Island of Hawaiʻi. If you’re looking to try a Kona coffee drink with a twist, Island Vintage Coffee and Honolulu Coffee Company are great places to start. Honolulu may get their coffee beans from Kona, but the island-meets-metropolitan atmosphere of the local cafes give the island of ʻOahu its own unique coffee culture.
As the birthplace of the iconic Americano, espresso, and latte the word coffee is just about synonymous with Italy. Naturally, the Italian capital is a must-visit for those interested in tasting the heritage of caffeine. It is rumored that many cafes in Rome have been accused of resisting modern techniques. To be fair, the very first European coffee house opened in Rome in 1645, so the Italians surely must know what they’re doing with that history behind them. At any rate, Italy has been one of, if not the biggest influencer in the world of coffee, and you can expect a cappuccino in Rome to taste like a piping hot cup of history.
Thrillist says, “As Portlandia proclaimed, the dream of the ’90s is alive in Portland, and one of the decade’s biggest aspirations was better coffee.” With a coffee scene that’s been described as “the country’s most intimate” by The New York Times, independent roasters and their customers are constantly engaged in coffee chatter, discussing the origins and flavors of their espresso drinks. Coffee is serious business in Portland, but this intensity for coffee all stems from passion for the stuff.
Another dark horse on the list is Taipei, popping up on nearly every travel guide for coffee. While the hot beverage most commonly associated with East Asian culture is tea, Taipei is actually one of the biggest names in the worldwide coffee scene. While some attribute Taipei’s coffee to mid-1600 Dutch colonizers, others believe that while under Japanese influence in the 19th century, siphon-brewed coffee became prevalent in Taiwan. Taipei has been known to pull practices from both the east and west, which has fostered Taipei’s distinctive reputation as a destination for coffee.
Served at the end of nearly every meal and consumed on any occasion big or small, to drink coffee in Havana is to join in on the rich flavors of Latin America. A must-try is the world-famous Café Cubano, which is essentially an espresso shot with sugar. For an authentic Cuban coffee in the United States, Floridians are in luck thanks to the sunshine state’s close proximity to Cuba.
New York, New York
Dubbed the capital of the world, New York City is a melting pot of ethnicities, nationalities, cultures, and of course, cuisines. In alignment with the plethora of international restaurants and eateries the city has to offer, NYC serves as a liaison between its inhabitants and the coffee capitals of the world. In addition to hosting outposts of coffee shops from Melbourne to San Francisco, the city’s originals are not to be counted out. Whether it’s an upscale, chic espresso bar in the upper east side, an earthy establishment in Brooklyn or coffee on foot served in the iconic, blue Anthora cup, New York City is where the blends and flavors of the world come together.