Grabbing a cup of coffee whilst traveling around is often associated with eye waveringly expensive brews from tourist cafes, a quick instant coffee from the hotel before you start your day in endless visits to generic chain stores akin to the ones you see back home and almost anywhere in the world but it doesn’t have to be that way.
For the coffee fanatic, grabbing a java can be the most fulfilling and uplifting part of the day (depending on the day and the coffee) and for some of us out there the obsession goes beyond brewing but also growing and cultivation of the plant. Here we look at some of the best places to travel to if you really, really love coffee and why.
1. Brighton, UK
This South Coast city of England has long been associated with alternative cool, a bit like the UK’s San Francisco. The country’s capital of London has many coffee shops and roasters but what is striking about its Southerly neighbor is its distinct lack of national and global chains, which is made more impressive when you find out that Brighton’s population spends an average of £177 ($220) a year on coffee. That’s £25 ($31) more than Londoners!
In fact, Brighton has its ver own local chain called Small Batch Coffee Roasters, and the name says it all as that is exactly what they do as well as training their baristas to the highest standard of any independent shops. There are a wealth of amazing independent coffee shops on almost every corner with places like Coffee at 33 and Redwood both roasting their own beans, whilst hip paradise of Bond Street Coffee produces stunning drinks that you can enjoy whilst listening to the best of artsy folk music and classic rock n’ roll.
2. Doka Estate, Costa Rica
Costa Rica is known as a relaxed country and it’s dedication to ‘pura vida’ or the pure life seeps into everything, including their coffee. In fact, since 1986 growers have only been allowed to cultivate high-quality Arabica beans, rather than the cheaper Robusta. As such, growers have become obsessive about getting the best quality out of their beans and they are only too willing to impart this knowledge to others interested in the bean.
The Doka Estate sits on the slopes of the Poas Volcano which makes its soil incredibly fertile and rich pickings for the coffee plants. Visit the impressive 478-acre estate and you can learn to carefully hand pick the beans and follow them right through the roasting process, which makes use of a 121-year-old water mill for extraction, before picking up one of the best single origin roasts at the end of the deal.
3. Hanoi, Vietnam
The world’s second largest coffee producer (just behind Brazil), Vietnam has long been associated with the cheaper, more durable Robusta coffee bean but in recent years, the country’s coffee scene has been booming and so more and more producers are turning t the higher quality Arabica bean. However, with such vast amounts of coffee flowing through the country, the nation’s own unique takes on the drink are rich, sweet concoctions that you will not often find elsewhere and the capital is the best place to find them.
The traditional drip filtered Vietnamese coffee is usually topped off with condensed milk making it an extremely sweet treat but venture into the labyrinths of the Old Quarter of the city and you can find bespoke coffee shops such as GiangCafe serving up a variation on this with the egg-coffee which takes a yolk, butter, cheese and a dash of milk and whisks them into the coffee to create a taste sensation like no other.
4. Yunnan, China
China is a country more associated with growing and drinking tea but the global upsurge in coffee consumption has seen many growers realize they can make a greater profit out of coffee and so regions of the country may be the most surprising parts of the world where you will find coffee growing which sees 98% of coffee coming from the Yunnan province in China’s deep South.
With lush, verdant rainforests, massive corporations like Nestle have moved in to make the most of the boom as well as independent growers getting a foothold and selling to the high-end cafes of Beijing and Shanghai including the Sumerian cafe in the latter where you can drink single origin coffee from the Southerly region.
For a country that does not grow its own coffee, it is surprisingly integral to the culture and running of day to day life here and this dates back to the Ottoman empire and the silk road where Turkey became a vital stop-off in the trade routes from East to West. Turkish coffee is often incredibly bitter and served with water and heaps of sugar but what makes it a unique experience is the ritual around the drink.
Coffee beans are finely ground and simmered in cezve, a special metal cup with a long handle, whilst making sure the brew is absolutely never boiled. Poured, unfiltered, into a cup the coffee is allowed to settle, grounds and all, before foam is added to the top of the brew. If you finish your cup, make sure you let it cool under a saucer, as locals believe you’ll be able to read your fortune from the grounds left in there.
6. Gesha, Ethiopia
Supposedly the birthplace of coffee when a goat herder in the area noticed his animals seemed perkier and more alert after eating the berries of the coffee plants that grew there, it is arguably one of the most beautiful places on Earth to sup on a cup of coffee as it sits just North of the Omo National Park in the tribal lands of the Omo Valley.
Despite coffee’s ancient origins in this region, the Gesha Village Coffee Estate has only been around since 2011 it still manages to conserve the best coffee plants in the world, using seeds from the nearby Gori Gesha wild coffee forest whilst also using traditional farming practices.
7. Melbourne, Australia
Due to big Italian and Greek communities that emigrated to the region in the 19th and 20th centuries, Australia has an amazing coffee culture where only the best of the best is acceptable and nowhere is this more evident than in Melbourne. The fact that two of the city’s best-known cafe’s still argue over who brought the first espresso machine into the city says a lot.
The locals have an immense knowledge about their morning beverage and this is, in part, due to the annual Melbourne International Coffee Expo alongside shops like The League of Honest Coffee who will explain every one of their single origin coffee’s in great detail whilst Market Lane Coffee will guide you on how to get the best out of your brewing technique.
One of the three highest coffee consuming countries in the world, Sweden has a cultural affinity to coffee with a notion called ‘fika’. This is literally just a break time where coffee and cake are consumed but so ingrained into the national psyche is it, that people will quite often make time in their working day for it and it helps communities bond as locals will often discuss events and goings on during fika.
Anyone who has read a Stieg Larsson book will know how often the Swedes take to the drink as there is nearly a mention of it on every page, which is unsurprising as they drink 1.357 cups of it per day per capita.
A recent report from Nordic Coffee Culture found that 6% of Finnish women and 14% of men drink more than 10 cups of coffee per day and with the average being between 4 and 5 cups a day for a coffee drinker, it does explain why the rate of consumption comes in at 1.848 per day per capita. In fact, Finland is the only country in the world where it is mandatory that workers be allowed a coffee break.
Fin’s have been obsessed with coffee since it made its way to them in the 1700s with some proclaiming it as a medicine that could cure headaches. Often ranked as the highest coffee drinking country in the world, it competes with the Netherlands for this title every year.
10. New Zealand
Like Australia, New Zealand saw an influx of Greek and Italian immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries that gave them an immense respect and love for coffee and their coffee culture is one of the best in the world with independent, artisan coffee shops and cafes on the corner of almost every street.
What is striking is that this is one of the few countries in the world where, coffee chain giant, Starbucks has failed to gain a foothold and this is evidence of how little time Kiwis have for super fast takeaway coffee, the ideal being ‘do it properly or don’t do it at all’.