A Coffee Culture Worth Travelling For: The Java Lover’s Travel Bucketlist

15 Countries With a Coffee Culture Worth Travelling For

Here’s another take on coffee to-go... because you’ll have to book a flight to get a taste of these brews.

There are many things that beckon to travellers to visit one place, but for loyalists of the aromatic brew, a bangin’ coffee culture is one of them. (I plead guilty.) And since most coffee monsters — I mean, lovers — I know only become human when you give them what they want (one ginormous cuppa joe, of course!), I won’t dilly-dally.

coffee culture

If travel is the balm that soothes your soul and you spend every waking morning with the love of your life (coffee), this list was made for you. Here are countries with a coffee culture we promise is worth travelling for. I swear on my Chemex and trusty pour-over. And all the fair trade coffee beans in the world.

1. Albania

Even I was surprised when I found myself including Albania on this golden list. This, after a good friend and fellow coffee cohort forwarded a video of world-famous travel blogger Nas Daily (aka Nuseir Yassin) featuring Albania as “the country with no Starbucks”.

Astoundingly, Nas confirms that even while Albania is not a coffee-producing country, it houses “the highest number of coffee shops per capita in the world”… and none of them are Starbucks. Imagine that! Money-savvy travellers would also do well to note that coffee in this underrated European country is cheap at an average of US$0.50 per cup.

Also read: The Albanian Alps: An Underrated Destination That Deserves More Travellers

2. Australia

This one needs no introduction at all. The brunch-and-coffee culture of Melbourne in Australia is so popular that they host an annual coffee expo! They also have a publication dedicated to the beloved brew and it’s aptly titled the Melbourne Coffee Review.

In other parts of Australia, coffee is just as popular. Sydney is home to a café called Frankie’s Beans which devotes its time to crafting out-of-this-world coffee concoctions. Choose between the Fractional Atmosphere Brew (called FAB by those in-the-know) and the Komboffe, an intriguing hybrid of kombucha and coffee.

Also read: Sydney & Melbourne Cafe Guide: 12 Quaint Places To Visit

3. Austria

Coffee culture is so prominent in Vienna, Austria that the Viennese coffee house culture was listed by the UNESCO in the country’s national inventory for intangible cultural heritage in 2011. That said, you’ll notice that the city is dotted with coffee shops. In fact, in between touring its streets on foot, locals will usually recommend taking a break in one of these well-loved cafés.

Our top picks? Order the verlängerter if you like it black, the Melange if you love your cappuccinos (except this one is topped with whipped cream instead of foamed milk), or the Café Maria Theresia if you’re in the mood for something spiked (with orange liqueur).

Also read: All About Vienna, Austria & Why You’ll Fall in Love with It

4. Brazil

Andrea Illy, author of Aroma of the World: A Journey into the Mysteries and Delights of Coffee, gives us an idea about coffee’s significance to this next entry. “Flying over the country, it is easy to see what coffee means to Brazil”. Illy was pertaining to the vast coffee plantations you’ll see across Brazil from a bird’s eye view.

coffee culture

A country where the coffee bean is revered as “Brazilian gold”, the place has been tagged time and time again as the world’s largest coffee producer. At one point, it was responsible for a third of the world’s coffee beans — and that is A LOT! Since they do produce tons of coffee, it comes as no surprise that the coffee industry also provides quite the number of jobs for Brazilians. Ain’t it grand when something you love helps people too?

If you find yourself in the country, try the cafezinho, a traditional Brazilian coffee drink mixed with sugar and served at “boiling hot temperatures”. Black coffee loyalists think it’s sacrilege, but hey, nobody likes culturally insensitive travellers. To each his own, my friend.

5. Colombia

It’s quite difficult to peg Colombia’s allure down to one thing: the Carribean’s cerulean waters paired with sandy beaches, its dense jungles teeming with life, a colourful culture that’s known all over the globe. Colombia is an overlooked paradise, and perhaps the cherry on top (because coffee starts out as coffee cherries  — get it, get it?) is how Colombians love making and drinking coffee.

Here, coffee is grown at high altitudes — in jungles thick with greenery. This results in beans that are rich in flavour and body. Colombia also has a respected association for coffee farmers called the Federación Nacional de Cafeteros, which was established in 1927. And if that doesn’t prove enough how deeply rooted coffee is in the country’s culture, then you must know that Colombia is also home to a National Coffee Park. Yes, you heard that right. It’s a theme park dedicated to Colombian coffee. Need we say more?

6. Ethiopia

Welcome to Ethiopia, recognised worldwide as coffee’s ultimate land of origin. Legend says the first coffee plant was discovered here when a goatherd named Kaldi found his animals prancing and kicking about with excessive energy after munching on some luscious, red berries. It turns out they were none other than Ethiopian coffee berries. The rest, as they say, is history.

The Ethiopian coffee ritual | Image credit: Steve Evans

There is much to be said about Ethiopia being the place where coffee originated. Aside from coffee farms that have been passed down from one generation to the next, the country is also known for the so-called coffee ritual. During this occasion, female members of the community take their sweet time making coffee in a gentle, graceful manner from roasting to brewing. The ritual is concluded once the coffee is shared among participants. In between preparing the brew and serving it, though, there is a flurry of activity: chatting, chores, and even the expulsion of evil spirits. This all happens in the confines of a bunna-bet, which in Amharic, literally translates to “coffee house”.

7. Iceland

I bet you didn’t expect to find Iceland on this list. I know I didn’t. But surely enough, even with a single Google search, you’ll discover that Icelanders are big coffee drinkers — especially in downtown Reykjavik! Here’s the thing about Iceland’s coffee culture: They may not be known as a coffee-growing nation, but when it comes to housing a gazillion cafés, they win.

In fact, Icelandic brewers and baristas are known as some of the most competitive and innovative in the world. If something new stirs in the global coffee scene (say, a new roasting or brewing technique), mark our words, it will be in Iceland before you can even finish a single shot of espresso. So if you travel to Iceland, make sure to step into one of their famed coffee shops. For Instagrammable interiors, head to Caféú Babalu. For an educational java experience, visit Reykjavik Roasters. Or you could always try out the country’s biggest coffee chain, Te og Kaffi (in English, Tea and Coffee).

8. Indonesia

Indonesia is known all over as the premium source of Sumatra coffee and Kopi Luwak or Civet coffee. If you don’t know what this is, prepare to be a little grossed out at first. Civet coffee is made by having Asian palm civets (commonly called civet cats) gorge on coffee cherries. This results in the animals defecating partially digested coffee beans. In other words, the coffee cherry is somehow  “roasted” to particular perfection in the mostly nocturnal and elusive civet’s tummy and is then, for lack of a better word, pooped out for farmers to collect, clean, and sell.

kopi luwak

Image credit: shankar s.

Let not those (literally) shitty beginnings fool you, though. Civet cat coffee is considered gold in the global coffee scene. In any coffee culture, it is deemed premium, hence it also comes at premium prices. It is, in fact, among the world’s most expensive coffees. Some say it’s an acquired taste, but coffee lovers can’t deny it’s a must-experience. Don’t worry, we assure you the brew is aromatic… in a good way.

9. Italy

Ahh, Italy — where coffee culture is governed by unspoken, puzzling laws. These rules may not apply to tourists, but if you want to drink coffee like a true-blue Italian, it’s best to be guided by what I like to call Italy’s java triumvirate. As Italian magazine Eataly tells us, “The day is defined by coffee rituals: a cappuccino with breakfast, a caffè macchiato or two as an afternoon pick-me-up, and espresso after dinner”.

With these internationally-acknowledged coffee terms being Italian, we can’t deny that caffeine runs deep in this country’s veins. In fact, while the coffee plant may have come from Ethiopia, many would say Italy is the birthplace of cosmopolitan coffee culture in which cafés are abundant and baristas are masters of their craft whatever bean they brew.

10. Netherlands

Historically speaking, the Netherlands played a big role in the spread of coffee toward the East. The Dutch were supposedly responsible for bringing the coffee plant to Indonesia (known then as the Dutch Indies) from Yemen, after all. But that was eons ago. Now though, the Netherlands still holds a special place in the coffee scene, being one of the world’s largest coffee consumers. 

There are countless coffee shops you can visit in Amsterdam like Coffeeshop Paradox, The Bulldog, and Barney’s Coffeeshop Amsterdam. (Be careful what you order, though… especially if you’re NOT looking for a high time. Just so you know, some of these cafés offer to add a dash of something else into your brew.) Aside from speciality coffee shops, you can also try Dutch Coffee, which is similar to cold brew. They say it tastes better and bolder, but we’ll let you be the judge of that.

11. Philippines

Of course, I just had to show some love for my motherland! But I promise you it’s as underrated as it is undoubtedly rich in coffee culture. First off, the Philippines is one of the few places where all four types of commercially distributed coffee beans grow — Arabica, Liberica, Robusta, and Excelsa. We also produce world-class beans that fall under at least two of these varieties, Sagada or Benguet arabica and our beloved Barako, which is a species of Liberica. Beyond these, though, is a wide spectrum of java goodness comprised of beans cultivated in the Philippines’ other regions: Mt Apo, Mt Matutum, Kape Alamid (our version of Kopi Luwak), Bukidnon, among others.

Also read: 10 Must-Visit Places in the Philippines for Speciality Coffee

Our country is also home to international coffee chains and local coffee shops and roasters that are dedicated to speciality coffee grown and roasted in the Philippines. Here, you can even check out some accommodations that offer coffee tours such as Coffee Heritage House in Sagada and the Coffee Farmhouse in Cavite. In Davao, there is even a movement called Coffee for Peace, which advocates fair-trade coffee as well as the role of the local coffee industry in peaceful nation-building. Being a java junkie, there are so many things I could share about coffee in my country (which also happens to boast of tropical paradises). But I’ll stop myself there before I geek out any further. If you’ve reached this part of the article and you find yourself in the Philippines someday, hit me up. Let’s talk travel over a cuppa joe — my treat!

Also read: 5 Perfect One-Week Itineraries for Your Ultimate Vacation in the Philippines

12. Turkey

The two words alone will define Turkey’s vibrant coffee culture, which is known across the globe: Turkish coffee. This unique brew is prepared using traditional techniques and paraphernalia like the cezve, a small pot that’s typically made of copper. Syrians first brought coffee to Istanbul in the 1500s, and since then, Turkish coffee culture has flourished — from being a staple in the Ottoman court to the well-loved coffee houses we see in the country today.

turkish coffee

Image credit: Müslüm Baybers

The process of making Turkish coffee was so deeply ingrained in the local culture that it was inscribed by UNESCO in the country’s prestigious list of intangible cultural heritage in 2013. From the one-of-a-kind preparation methods to its speciality brew and the communal spirit that comes with it, there’s no doubt Turkey hosts a rich coffee culture that has stood the test of time.

13. USA (Hawaii and Seattle)

Home of international coffee giants Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and Seattle’s Best Coffee, it comes as no surprise that the US has earned a spot on this list. From the roasters that dot Seattle to the coffee beans harvested from Hawaii’s rich volcanic soil, it definitely is a haven for coffee lovers no matter which state you travel to. Head to the US, and we assure you there will be no shortage of your go-to brew.

When in Hawaii, though, take a sip of the best Kona coffee you can find. Seattle offers quaint, third-wave coffee shops; drop by Analog Coffee or Milstead & Co. to tap into your inner java nerd.

14. Vietnam

vietnamese coffee

Image credit: Frank Fox

I’ve been to Vietnam and I must say that one of the highlights of my trip was its bang-for-your-buck coffee culture. Coffee was EVERYWHERE and some of the stuff we tried was dirt cheap (not even US$1!!). While there are several variants you have to take note of, the most popular is the humble cà phê sữa đá, or simply brewed coffee with condensed milk. The thick, sweetened milk effectively softens the sharp tang of java made from Vietnamese Robusta beans. The brew tends to be strong, so don’t forget to grab a bahn mi and drink lots of water before you get too caffeinated.

Also read: The Beginner’s Guide to Vietnamese Coffee

15. Yemen

As far as the origin of coffee is concerned, there are only two countries that always emerge on top: Ethiopia, as previously mentioned, and Yemen. While it has long been settled that the first coffee plant was discovered in Ethiopia, people argue that the drink and the culture built around it developed in Yemen. Makes sense since the two equally breathtaking destinations are neighbours.

Since the time of the Ottoman Empire, the coffee trade spectacularly thrived in Yemen. To this day, you’ll find that the crop is still revered in the country and that countless farms are still dedicated to growing coffee. There is even an old Yemeni proverb that tells farmers to “care for coffee plants as you would a child”. No wonder some claim the best beans come from Yemen.

If you find yourself travelling to this country in the Middle East, get yourself a bag of Yemen Mocha beans. They’re said to have singular fruity and chocolatey notes — definitely a must-try.

Phew! That was one long list. I’m sure there are other countries with a coffee culture worth travelling for. If you’ve sipped on an unforgettable cuppa joe from someplace that’s not on this list, tell us about it! We’d love to know. And if you’ve been to one of the destinations above, tag us in your photos so we can share your travels with our travel community. Now to get that percolator running…

 

About Author

Alyosha Robillos
Alyosha Robillos

In Russia, Alyosha is a boy's name popularized by literary greats Dostoevsky and Tolstoy—but this particular Alyosha is neither Russian nor a boy. She is a writer from the Philippines who loves exploring the world as much as she likes staying at home. Her life's mission is to pet every friendly critter there is. When she isn't busy doing that, she sniffs out stories and scribbles away on the backs of old receipts. She is an advocate of many things: culture and heritage, the environment, skincare and snacking, to name a few. She will work for lifetime supplies of french fries and coffee. Or yogurt. Or cheese, preferably Brie.

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