MILAN, ITALY – In honor of International Coffee Day – not that you needed a reason – I would like to rise a cup.
The world’s best coffee comes from all over the world. The origins of coffee are global, of course: 15th-century Arabs were the first to cultivate coffee and a Frenchman was behind the 1843 debut of the world’s first commercial espresso machine.
There have been a few leaps forward since then, and we don’t mean the advent of the Frappuccino.
“People are more and more interested in where the beans come from, and how they’re harvested and roasted”, says New Zealand coffee producer Nick Clark of Flight Coffee Unlimited. “There are so many variables involved in producing a great cup of coffee these days, and the industry has to evolve to meet growing consumer expectations”.
Go get a refill, then read on for where to get the best coffee around the globe.
WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND
While the ubiquitous flat white – sort of like a latte with less milk –was purportedly invented in Sydney, the drink was perfected in Wellington, New Zealand, where it’s become the nation’s unofficial national beverage.
“Wellington-ites really know their coffee, and there is a very high standard being severed around the city”, says Clark. “Wellington is also a small city. There’s a lot of interactions between consumers and professionals, which helps our industry to improve and grow”.
Local order: Flat white. It’s a religion.
Top shops: it’s tough to find a bad coffee in New Zealand.
Some of Wellington’s best coffee shops include Flight Coffee Hangar and Lamason Brew Bar.
“The coffee culture in Melbourne is just incredible”, says former World Barista Champion Pete Licata, from the United States. Coffee is such an integral part of the Melbourne lifestyle that the city even host an annual coffee expo.
Local order: Piccolo Late
While lattes, cappuccinos and flat whites remain popular, piccolo lattes (made with less milk so the espresso tastes stronger) are the drink du jour.
Top shops: “It’s nearly impossible to find a bad cup of coffee in Melbourne”, says Licata.
For coffee purists, there’s Axil Coffeehouse Roasters in Hawthorn, Auction Rooms in North Melbourne and Dead Man Espresso in South Melbourne.
Coffee is deep in the DNA of Vietnam, and the country is one of the biggest producers of the beans in the world.
When Vietnam was a colony of France, the French established coffee plantation across the country in the late 19th century, and, if you’re in the capital, Hanoi, you don’t have to go far for a fantastic cup.
Don’t expect a flat white or an Americano here, though.
Coffee is brewed in a traditional filter, dripping into a single cup below (this may predate the pour-over so popular at hipster cafes in the U.S.), producing a thick, intense brew that is sipped black, or enjoyed with the traditional sweetened condensed milk. It’s something the Vietnamese became accustomed to when fresh milk was in short supply.
Popular on Instagram and with locals is ca he trung, the egg coffee – in which a creamy, meringue-like egg white foam is placed on top of black coffee. Café Giang makes one of the city’s best known.
Local order: caphe den (thick black, slow brewed), or caphe sua (black with sweetened condensed milk) or coconut coffee (frozen coconut milk mixed with rich black coffee topped with shaved coconut ice – like egg coffee, it’s more a dessert than a drink).
Top shops: Café Dinh, Loadin T, Café Duy Tri and XOFA Café & Bistro for a coconut coffee.
Aussies and Kiwis famously opened the city’s first espresso-focused coffee shops about 15 years ago – bringing along their beloved flat whites – and modern cafes have been popping up across the city ever since. Tea many still be king in England, but Londoners have some bloody good coffee on offer now too.
Local order: Flat white or cappuccino.
Top shops: East London boasts the highest concentration of quality coffee shops and cofes. Allpress, Climpson &Sons and Caravan are standouts.
After the Dutch, Scandinavians have the highest coffee consumption per capita in the world. While Finns drink the most among Scandinavians, Icelanders are also coffee – crazy. One Generation ago, coffee and cake was a standard afternoon break, but people focused more on the quality of the cake than the coffee. That’s changed dramatically; now you can hardly walk a city block without passing a coffee shop.
And with Iceland’s lack of commercial coffee behemoths, smaller businesses have had a chance to flourish.
Local order: Latte or cappuccino.
Top shops: White seven coffee shops and a roaster to its name, Kaffitar is the closest thing Icenland has to a coffee chain. Stofan and Reykjavik Roasters and hipster faves.
Coffee is so much a part of Italian culture that you’ll rarely encounter a local who doesn’t drink it. But believes it or not, it’s not always that easy to find a decent espresso in Italy, with critics whispering that Italians have been resistant to adopt modern barista techniques.
With the best of the nation’s baristas calling it home, Rome is your best bet for a quality cup.
Local order: Espresso.
Custom dictates that milky coffees can only be consumed at breakfast.
Top shops: Rosati in Piazza del Popolo, Sant’Eustachio by the Pantheon or Giolitti, a few blocks west of the Trevi Fountain, are crowd favorites.
They’re such an important part of Viennese culture that the city’s coffee houses were listed by UNESCO in 2011 as an Instangible Herritage. But modern coffee connoisseurs such as Vienna coffee blogger Lameen Abdul-Malik of From Coffee With Love admit that the standard of coffee in these beloved institutions, which act as public living rooms where come to chat, read newspapers and eat strudel, are lagging in the terms of coffee technology and service expectaions.
That’s changing since Vienna hosted the World Barista Championships in 2012, and new-style independent coffee shops have opened, says Abdul-Malik.
Local order: Espresso or cappuccino in a new style café. Or a Weiner melange (similar to a cappuccino, but usually topped with cream) in a traditional coffeehouse.
Top Shops: Abdul-Maliuk recommends Caffee Couture or Coffee Pirates. Demel serves traditional coffee and marvelous cakes.