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.
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
example, requires you to walk up two unmarked, sketchy cement stairs to find,
while the Barbie Cafe is exactly what the title suggests:
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.
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.
Related infographic: The cost of living in the world's top coffee cities
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.
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
Much of the
local energy seems to be underpinned by “cafe cubana”, the full-bodied espresso
served with sugar that accompanies nearly every meal. “It is very easy to find
really good cafe in Havana. Most restaurants and
all paladares [privately owned
restaurants] know how to deliver on cafe,” said Malia Evrette, the founder of
social tour operator Altruvistas, who splits her time
between Havana and California. And if you happen to be staying in a hotel for a
few days while you get your bearings, she recommended that travellers seek out
the espresso bar that most hotels will have in the back instead of settling for
the bland, Cafe Americano-style coffee often served with breakfast.
Dedicated coffee drinkers should look for apartments in
La Habana Vieja (Old Havana) alongside some of the country’s most historic
buildings. Located on the eastern edge of the city, La Habana Vieja is filled
with colonial-era houses and mansions situated alongside plazas and parks.
Despite its name, this area of the city still buzzes
with young energy. With lots of bars and clubs, especially along the main drag
of Calle Obispo, the nightlife runs into the early hours and the dancing
sometimes even spills out into the streets.
As a one of
Europe’s smaller capital cities, Vienna offers the best of both worlds: the
cultural amenities of a big metropolis with the affordable, well-kept housing
of a smaller city. This environment also leads to a low-key, often independent
vibe. While locals usually like to keep to themselves, they are friendly to
visitors and often appreciate an outsider’s view on culture and current events.
The city’s cafes
make ideal spots for these types of conversations. “The Viennese value the
fresh air of meeting visitors, including the musicians, conference attendees
and those working for the UN,” said Eugene Quinn, an expat from London who
organises monthly, English-language Vienna Coffeehouse Conversations.
The grand old
coffee houses (such as Cafe Central, Landtmann, Griensteindl and Demel) may be a draw for tourists, but locals like
to gather at lesser known spots, such as Cafe Frauenhuber, Braunerhof or Sperlhof. “At least half of the customers will be regulars,” said Christina
Pritz, who lives near Vienna’s Augarten Park.
Both Pritz and
Quinn said they like Cafe Phil in central Vienna’s artsy 6th
district, where books for either buying or borrowing line the walls and free
concerts featuring groups with classical instruments or rotating DJs take place
in the evenings. They also mentioned Cafe Hawelka, in the 1st district, where the
small space often requires strangers to sit next to each other and meet.
For those who want
to be in walking distance of coffee shops, boutiques, restaurants and bars,
Pritz recommended living in the 5th, 6th, 7th or
8th districts. “These areas are populated by families
with kids as much as students, graduates and couples,” Pritz said. Families who prefer to live further out in some of the
quieter areas can benefit from the city’s comprehensive network of affordable public transportation.
Seattle, United States
No list of
coffee cities would be complete without including the city that launched the
world’s largest coffee chain. But even though Seattle is known globally for
Starbucks, many locals prefer the independent spots that feature local art on
the walls and fair trade coffee in their cups.
While Washington state residents are polite, outsiders say they often
experience the “Seattle Freeze”, a
quality that makes it hard to strike up spontaneous conversations with
strangers and even harder to develop deeper relationships, even after living
there for years. That said, there is an underlying sense of community. “The
successes of one group in the city are seen as the collective success of the
entire city,” said Dayl Eccles, who lives in the University District in Seattle’s
northeast. The sense of shared identity and pride most recently was evidenced
when the city’s residents came out in droves to celebrate the Seattle Seahawks
winning the 2013 Super Bowl.
Much of Seattle’s social life somehow revolves around the city’s
numerous cafes. “The sense of community in Seattle is housed where the coffee
is brewed,” Eccles said. “That's where you go for dates, for meetings, to end
and begin a night on the town, to end and begin your day, to study or to people
watch.” Her personal favourite place is the University District’s Cafe Allegro, the city’s first
espresso bar (established in 1975) and the birthplace of Starbucks’ signature
roast, developed by Cafe Allegro founder and roaster Dave Olson.
While any neighbourhood will have plenty of coffee options, Seattle residents
feel very loyal to their particular district and tend not to move far once they
have found their niche. Some of the more famous neighbourhoods include the
funky Fremont (famous for its massive, under-the-bridge troll), the
hip-but-family-friendly Ballard, and Queen Anne, named for its stately
Words like “latte,” “cappuccino” and “espresso” are all Italian, so it
should come as no surprise that the country’s capital overflows with cafe
culture. While locals can seemed rushed and always on the go, most will slow
down for their morning coffee ritual. “There is no such thing as
coffee to go,” said Elizabeth Minchilli, who
blogs about her experience living in Rome over the past 25 years. “Even
while enjoyed standing up at the counter, drinking espresso is when you stop,
enjoy what is in front of you, and chat with friends, the barista or the next
One of the
most atmospheric areas to experience that temporary slow-down is in the centro storico, or historical centre. “Sitting down in an outdoor cafe, watching the people go
by, has got to be one of the great luxuries of living in Rome,” Minchilli said.
The chicest citizens congregate in Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina, near
Parliament, while the more hip and laid-back flock to the Piazza Madonna dei Monti.
The rione (neighbourhood) of Monti is
especially known for its ever-changing line up of trendy boutiques, cafes and
the cafe of choice, Italians share an unspoken rule of what drink to order
when: cappuccino in the morning and only a caffe
(espresso) after eating. “Italians will poke
fun at Englishmen or Americans who order a cappuccino after a big plate of
pasta on a full stomach,” said Tess Amodeo-Vickery, an American singer-songwriter who has lived in
Rome full-time since 2009. Later in the evening, the drink of choice is caffe corretto, an espresso served with
a shot of grappa or brandy – the perfect way to wind down for the night, or get
a head start on the Roman nightlife.
Related infographic: The cost of living in the world's top coffee cities