Mornings without coffee are quite rough for me so I try to avoid them as much as possible. When I am on the road I am always sampling various coffees from the local cafés to find the best to bring home. After years of traveling here is a list of some excellent cafés- each with something unique that makes them stand out. Comment below if you know of others that should be added or send me a message to meet up for a cup of coffee!
1) Café Paella- Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
While exploring the little museums and following the winding streets to visit each of the key sights in the historic barrio of Colonia del Sacramento was fascinating, my favorite part of the city was the numerous open air cafés and restaurants. Directly adjacent to the lighthouse in Colonia on the De San Francisco street corner was an adorable open courtyard lined with twinkle lights and filled with flowers called Paella. It was the perfect place to people watch, sitting under the orange tree and leisurely sipping a cappuccino. This small adorable café has a laid back and friendly atmosphere welcoming the locals and random passerby to stop and try some delicious treats while enjoying the best view in town of the Colonia Lighthouse.
2) Café Tortoni- Buenos Aires, Argentina
Located on the popular Avenida de Mayo in Buenos Aires, sits this historic and charming Parisian Café established in 1858. Although there are numerous cafés throughout the city, Tortoni has remained one of the most popular meeting places over the years for artists and politicians alike. This is evidenced by the numerous pictures of the many celebrated visitors that have been added to the art decor lining the walls. The gorgeous Tiffany glass ceiling and marble-top tables made it feel like I was stepping back in time into one of the old photographs. Not only does Café Tortoni offer a mouth watering spread of deserts and coffee, but it still also has evening tango performances on their famous stage.
3) Kopi Luwak- Ubud, Bali
After reading on several small café signs that they offered Kopi Luwak coffee, I finally had to stop and ask someone what exactly that was. The barista described it to me the same way that I now use to explain to everyone- it's the coffee from the movie the Bucket List! It is super fancy and expensive coffee that has been eaten and processed by a small cat like animal, the luwak or civet, found in the trees of Indonesia. Obviously one of the first questions is why anyone would want to drink a coffee that was sifted from animal droppings and how was that discovered? The short version is that the native workers on the Dutch East Indies coffee plantation were not allowed to pick and consume the coffee fruits themselves. However, they were able to bypass this rule when they discovered that the luwak ate the beans and passed them through undigested so they cleaned off the beans and used them to make their own coffee. Eventually some of the plantation owners sampled some of this dung coffee and realized it was far more delicious than the original beans so they began marketing it. During the digestive process, the luwak adds enzymes to the coffee fruit resulting in a smoother, richer, and more full bodied coffee that people around the world are willing to pay premium prices for. There are several tours offered in the area that provide the history of the origins and allow you to see the step by step process of how this rich and expensive coffee is made. Due to the limited production (and the effort to produce) kopi luwak is extremely expensive and can cost up to about $700 a kilogram. In Bali it is significantly cheaper and offered in most cafés for reasonable prices. Since it is considerably cheaper to purchase on the island, it is also an excellent gift to bring back for friends and family to offer them a chance to sample the deliciousness!
4) Street Cafés- Paris,France
The idyllic scene of sipping a latte at a corner café while gazing out onto the lively streets in Paris is even more lovely than it sounds. There are numerous spots around the city, from the gardens outside of the Louvre over to the Champs D'Elysee, each offering their own postcard view of the city. These are open all year, but are perfect for slow summer mornings to watch people bustling by. There is something magical about relaxing at one of these beautiful Parisian cafés while slowly enjoying a coffee and croissant as the city comes to life.
5) Grande Café & Bar- Zurich, Switzerland
As in many European cities located on a river, Zurich offers numerous small shops and restaurants throughout its old downtown with river views. However, this particular coffee shop (which only offers drinks and pastries), was consistently filled every time I passed. My final morning in Zurich I decided to stop by and try it out and was pleased to find that it was as good as it seemed even if it was a bit pricey for standard drinks. The outdoor terrace offers a great view located directly across the street from the Muhlesteg Love Lock Pedestrian bridge or inside the coffee shop are small cozy nooks to sit back and relax. It is worth the wait for one their strong coffees or tasty cocktails. Alternatively for fans of hot cocoa, only a few blocks away is Café Schooner which serves up extremely rich and delicious mugs of the chocolatey beverage in their historic shop.
6) Tryst- Washington DC, USA
DC is one of my favorite cities along the East coast and offers an abundance of restaurants and bars throughout its many districts. Adams Morgan is one of the most popular for nightlife, but also offers a variety of eateries and cafés with Tryst being one of its most prominent and quite the popular brunch location. The ambience is low key as people meet up for small businesses meetings, to study, or to catch up with friends. Not only does Tryst offer an excellent cup of aromatic fresh brewed coffee, but also a fantastic spread of breakfast options from a salmon bagel spread to death by chocolate waffles which is as every bit as decadent as it sounds. I spent many a weekend with my study group in Tryst during my Marine Corps training pouring over publications and working my way through their entire menu.
7) SALT Galata- Istanbul, Turkey
Grab a coffee at the Bank turned Café near the Bosphorous river on the Europe side in Istanbul. SALT Galata is an old Ottoman Bank that has been converted into a library, research center, and café. It is a beautiful building to explore with a massive library and study center in the downstairs and the café upstairs which offers an excellent view over Istanbul. This is a unique opportunity to see the city above the busy streets while enjoying a cup of coffee in peace and quiet.
8) Coffee in Costa Rica
Central America is home to some of the most award winning coffee in the world and Costa Rica often leads the way. During a trip to Arenal Volcano, I stopped along the way to sample numerous types of locally grown coffee that have earned an excellent reputation. Coffee from the region is known for being full bodied and having a rich but crisp taste. It is no surprise that they source many of Starbucks origin coffees and that coffee remains one of Costa Rica's leading exports. After getting a strong caffeine buzz from trying numerous types of coffee I bought several bags from different brands but all originating from the Tarrazu region which is considered the best growing region in the country, producing the highest quality beans.
9) "Coffee Shops"- Amsterdam, Netherlands
It is common knowledge that the coffee shops are one of a kind in Amsterdam so I feel that I would be remiss not to add them on this list. They offer a variety of products (including but definitely not limited to coffee) in small typically bizarrely decorated cafes. When I was backpacking through the area, I stepped into one that resembled a Willy Wonka dream with large colorful mushroom tables surrounded by tourists lounging and relaxing. I was a bit taken aback by the directness of the weed sales in the front of the store, but thanks to the Netherlands policy of allowing sales but taxing heavily, these coffee shops are sprinkled throughout the city. I only had a small cup of coffee which was quite frankly nothing to write home about, but it was interesting to see how accessible this part of the city was to tourists wandering through the neighborhoods.
10) Original Starbucks- Seattle, USA
While local cafes will always provide the unique experience and generally are sourced from more homegrown farms, there is something special about visiting this corner coffee shop where this industry giant started in humble beginnings. Located in the central district, the first Starbucks still proudly displays its original mermaid icon over the entrance welcoming the crowds of tourists flocking in. If you do not feel like standing in a long line though there are plenty more to choose from since Seattle has the most Starbucks per capita located in the area not to mention the numerous other coffee vendors filling Seattle's streets.