Skip to main content

8 of the world's great coffee cities

By Sarah Reid, for CNN
July 21, 2014 -- Updated 1906 GMT (0306 HKT)
Coffee culture is so ensconced here that you can take a cafe culture walk with Hidden Secrets Tours. Coffee culture is so ensconced here that you can take a cafe culture walk with Hidden Secrets Tours.
HIDE CAPTION
Melbourne
Rome
Singapore
Vienna, Austria
London
Reykjavik, Iceland
Wellington, New Zealand
Seattle
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • After the Dutch, Scandinavians have the highest coffee consumption per capita in the world
  • Coffee culture in Melbourne "just incredible" says reigning World Barista Champion
  • Singapore is Asia's coffee capital
  • Seattle? Of course!

(CNN) -- Fifteenth-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.

"People are more and more interested in where the beans come from, and how they're harvested and roasted," says New Zealand barista champion Nick Clark of Wellington's Flight Coffee.

MORE: How cappuccino conquered South Africa

"There are so many variables involved in producing a great cup of coffee these days, and the industry has had to evolve to meet growing consumer expectations."

The world's best coffee cities are those where the coffee isn't just good -- it's great.

Have you got a favorite coffee city? Top coffee shop? Share your coffee love in the comments below.

London

Aussies and Kiwis opened the city's first espresso-focused coffee shops (such as Flat White and Kaffeine) a decade ago and they've been popping up across the city ever since.

"London still has a long way to go with café service, but in the past five years there's been so much growth, which is a great thing to be part of," says Estelle Bright, head barista at London's Caravan.

MORE: 5 hottest new coffee spots in the U.S.

Local order: Flat white or cappuccino.

"London is still in the grip of the flat white craze, but cappuccinos are similarly popular," says Bright.

Top shops: East London boasts the highest concentration of quality coffee shops and cafes. Allpress, Climpson & Sons and Caravan are standouts.

MORE: 10 of London's oldest, greatest pubs

Melbourne

"The coffee culture in Melbourne is just incredible," says reigning World Barista Champion Pete Licata, from the United States.

Coffee is such an integral part of the Melbourne lifestyle that the city even hosts an annual coffee expo.

Local order: Piccolo latte.

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 real coffee purists, there's Axil Coffeehouse Roasters in Hawthorn (322 Burwood Road), Auction Rooms in North Melbourne and Dead Man Espresso in South Melbourne.

Hidden Secrets Tours runs café culture walks.

MORE: 40 dishes Australians like to call their own

Scandinavians drink more coffee per head than anyone else.
Scandinavians drink more coffee per head than anyone else.

Reykjavik, Iceland

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.

"Not too long ago, cafés in Reykjavík were more about the food," says Kristin Thora, a barista at Icelandic institution Kaffitar and reigning National Cupping Champion.

"You'd have coffee and cake and didn't mind how the coffee was as long as the cake was good.

"Then, about 25 years ago, people started to care about how their coffee was served."

With Iceland's lack of commercial coffee behemoths, smaller businesses have had a chance to flourish.

Now you can hardly walk a city block without passing a coffee shop.

Local order: Latte or cappuccino.

"Drip coffee is popular in the home, but Icelanders tend go to coffeehouses for espresso-based drinks," says Thora.

Top shops: With seven coffee shops and a roaster to its name, Kaffitar is the closest thing Iceland has to a coffee chain. Stofan and Kaffismidja are hipster faves.

MORE: Extreme Iceland images by daredevil photographer

Rome

Coffee is so much a part of Italian culture that you'll rarely encounter a local who doesn't drink it.

But believe 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.

But 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, anyway.

Top shops: Rosati in Piazza del Popolo, Sant' Eustachi by the Pantheon or Giolitti, a few blocks west of the Trevi Fountain, are crowd favorites.

MORE: Rome's 15 best coffee bars

Where coffee art is as important as the taste.
Where coffee art is as important as the taste.

Singapore

"Coffee has always been an integral part of Singaporean life, but we've only recently embraced modern espresso technology," says Jovena Loon of Café Hopping Singapore. "Locals have become so obsessed with latte art that it has become a basic criteria for a good café."

Local order: Latte, mocha or cappuccino.

Top shops: Jovena recommends Strangers' Reunion in Chinatown, Dutch Colony in Pasar Bella marketplace, and Bukit Timah and Chye Seng Huat Hardware in Little India.

MORE: Best Singapore rooftop bars

Seattle

If there's one American city that's consistently ahead of the game, it's Seattle.

The green mermaid is only a small part of the hometown coffee scene.

"Coffee is our liquid sunshine in Seattle," says Joshua Boyt from Victrola Coffee Roasters, one of the city's best cafes for coffee geeks.

"Passion for the product, coupled with the sheer number of coffee shops across the city, has created a culture of constant improvement through competition and camaraderie."

Local order: Espresso, cappuccino or a single-origin pour.

Top shops: Victrola Coffee Roasters in Capitol Hill, Empire Espresso in Columbia City and Seattle Coffee Works downtown are all solid picks.

MORE: Things expats love/hate about returning home to the United States

Fixations on cake have turned to coffee.
Fixations on cake have turned to coffee.

Vienna, Austria

They're such an important part of Viennese culture that the city's coffee houses were listed by UNESCO in 2011 as an Intangible Heritage.

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 people come to chat, read newspapers and eat strudel, are lagging in terms of coffee technology and service expectations.

Perhaps not for long.

"Since Vienna hosted the World Barista Championships in 2012, and new-style independent coffee shops began to open up, the quality of espresso drinks is steadily improving," says Abdul-Malik.

Local order: Espresso or cappuccino in a new style cafe.

Or a Vienner melange (similar to a cappuccino, but usually topped with cream) in a traditional coffeehouse.

Top shops: Abdul-Maliuk recommends Caffe Couture, Essenti or Coffee Pirates. Demel serves traditional coffee and marvelous cakes.

MORE: Insider Guide: Best of Vienna

Wellington, New Zealand

While the ubiquitous flat white was purportedly invented in Sydney, the drink was perfected in Wellington, where it's become the nation's unofficial national beverage.

"Wellington-ites really know their coffee, and there is a very high standard being served around the city," says Clark. "Wellington is also a small city; there's a lot of interaction between consumers and professionals, which helps our industry to improve and grow."

MORE: NZ South Island's 13 most beautiful photo ops

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, Memphis Belle and Lamason Brew Bar.

Have you got a favorite coffee city? Coffee shop? Share the coffee love in the comments below.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 1200 GMT (2000 HKT)
A foreign language can be the best aphrodisiac, so we traveled the world in search of the hottest accents.
September 19, 2014 -- Updated 0735 GMT (1535 HKT)
Hidden from the rest of the world for decades, Myanmar's Lethwei boxing is experiencing a revival globally.
September 17, 2014 -- Updated 1117 GMT (1917 HKT)
This aging cargo work whale makes more than 60 flights each week, carrying parts for all of the Airbus programs.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 1132 GMT (1932 HKT)
Vikings, vicious politics and vindaloo curries -- Scotland isn't all tartan and bagpipes.
September 15, 2014 -- Updated 0026 GMT (0826 HKT)
Former brothels, public toilets and war bunkers now provide eccentric watering holes for those willing to drink deep.
September 18, 2014 -- Updated 0304 GMT (1104 HKT)
Ushaka Marine World, Durban, South Africa
Joburg is trendy, Cape Town is glamorous, but Durban has style -- and a restaurant inside a shark tank.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 0756 GMT (1556 HKT)
Tirana's nightlife
Former Tirana stronghold of a totalitarian leader now home to a pulsing clubs and bar scene.
September 12, 2014 -- Updated 0338 GMT (1138 HKT)
Whether filled with electric blue sulfur flames or hissing lava, these mega mountains offer incredible vistas.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 0040 GMT (0840 HKT)
This once-a-year luxury cruise visits untouched islands and never-snorkeled reefs.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 1305 GMT (2105 HKT)
Peter J. Goutiere was just shy of 30 years old when he piloted a Douglas C-47 from Miami to Kolkata, India.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 2247 GMT (0647 HKT)
Breathtaking scenery, championship design -- many of the courses dropped into the Canadian Rockies are among the most memorable in the world.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 1306 GMT (2106 HKT)
A floating hippo in the Thames river designed by artist Florentijn Hofman
Why Florentijn Hofman is sending a giant beast into London's River Thames.
September 2, 2014 -- Updated 1607 GMT (0007 HKT)
Scrap all those other bucket lists you've been compiling and start saving -- these memorable-for-a-lifetime trips don't come cheap, or easy.
September 6, 2014 -- Updated 0042 GMT (0842 HKT)
A squabble over a device that limits how far a seat can recline has brought inflight etiquette into the spotlight again.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Thirst for victory competes with thirst for booze in event where competitors raise their glasses long before they cross the finish line.
ADVERTISEMENT