Living in: The world’s top coffee cities
In many of the world’s top coffee cities, the cafe is more than just a place to get a warm drink – it is also a hub of culture and conversation for locals and visitors alike. And while each city defines its coffee culture in a different way – whether it be by their classic drink style or by the sheer concentration of independently owned coffee houses – these six cities, taken from “best of” lists in publications including Travel and Leisure and the USA Today, have one thing in common: the cities are filled with people who live for the craft of coffee.
Taipei residents are known for being extraordinarily friendly and extremely polite. Since the island was once a Japanese colony, it is not uncommon for shop employees to smile and bow in unison when someone walks through the doors. And nowhere is this friendliness more apparent than in the city’s surprisingly unique cafes. Topo Cafe, in northern Taipei’s Western-style Tianmu neighbourhood, is so offbeat it has a miniature, gold-fish filled river running through the middle of it.
Allister Chang, an American from the Washington DC area, lived in Taipei for a year, documenting his favourite coffee spots on his blog, Taipei Cafes. He said he especially loves the establishments near the Zhongxiao Dunhua transit station in southern Taipei’s Da’an district. “These cafes are a little bolder,” he explained in an e-mail. “Homey’s Cafe, for example, requires you to walk up two unmarked, sketchy cement stairs to find, while the Barbie Cafe is exactly what the title suggests: completely pink.”
Apartments near the station range from studios to three-bedrooms, and are modern with no extra frills, though they can still be on the expensive side. With no shortage of entertainment options, the Da’an district has lots of shopping, restaurants and is famous for the Tonghua and Shida night markets, where street vendors serve up budget-friendly snacks and gadgets.
There’s a particularly strong cafe culture near the National Taiwan University in Da’an. “This movement to create independent cafes in Taipei has really been driven by the younger generation,” Chang said. One of the district’s more popular spots is The Puzzle Cafe (022-362-0859; number 28, Lane 44, Tàishùn St), where friends can catch up over cappuccino and a 500-piece puzzle. Housing here caters to mostly students, so apartments tend to be on the smaller, simpler and more affordable side.
Australia’s second largest city has the reputation for being friendlier than Sydney or Perth, and offers plenty of activities without having the frenetic energy of many other big cities. “We don't chortle 'good morning' at each other, but we're not afraid to make eye contact either,” explained Lou Pardi, a writer for the Melbourne Review newspaper.
The city is broken up into areas called “villages”, each of which has its own vibe. “Fitzroy is traditionally edgy and grungy, Richmond has a Vietnamese and Greek influence, Coburg is Lebanese and Turkish and Brunswick is the hipster capital,” said Mike Dundon, owner of Seven Seeds Coffee in the village of Carlton.
No matter where you live, though, it is easy to find great coffee. Pardi recommended stopping by Sonido, a South American-themed cafe in Fitzroy, a village known for having cafes with highly skilled baristas. Housing in Fitzroy is as quirky as the district itself, and includes everything from traditional Victorian-style cottages to modern converted warehouse lofts.
Also filled with creative types, Collingwood is one of Melbourne’s oldest neighbourhoods, with many 19th-century buildings still in use as retail and apartment buildings. The village often puts an artistic spin on space, including the Collingwood Underground Theatre, which is housed in an abandoned car park underground.
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Cuba’s capital city is in the middle of a seismic economic shift, with the expansion of private enterprises and a boom in international tourism. Locals are proud of their national identity and happy to share their culture with travellers and expats alike.