It’s cheap, available all over the world, wakes you up, and can cool you off or warm you up—coffee is truly a traveler’s best friend.
The Best Coffee in the World
If you’re willing to travel the globe in search of the best coffee in the world, here’s where you should head.
There are so many coffee shops in Portland, Oregon, that there are entire tours dedicated just to taking tourists around to sample the artisan scene. Lora Woodruff, owner of Third Wave Coffee Tours, writes: “I usually break down our cafes as follows: 876 coffee shops, 152 Starbucks and around 60 individuals or organizations that are roasting coffee—some individual espresso bars, some large wholesale roasters, represented multiple times around the city in roaster-owned cafes, as well as restaurants, bakeries, and businesses around the city.”
Why has Portland become such a hot spot for coffee? In this famously rainy city, there’s nothing better than ignoring the weather by curling up inside with a hot cup.
“We seem to have an insatiable need for coffee, perhaps because of our many days of rain, and we are able to support a lot of local roasters as many of us are probably considered ‘regulars’ at more than just one shop,” says Lauren Lathrop, Coffee Educator at Portland Roasting Coffee. “I think Portland has always been a place where people are encouraged to branch out, take risks, and try new things. In that spirit, a lot of very small, craft-focused coffee shops have been able to maintain a loyal following simply by being consistently great and doing things their own way.”
Where to Stay: The Ace Hotel has a Stumptown coffee shop right in its lobby, so you don’t have to leave the building to get caffeinated. (Many people believe that Stumptown coffee is some of the best coffee in the world, and the roaster started in right here in Portland.)
If you’ve ever ordered a flat white at a Starbucks, you can thank an Australian. The drink, an espresso topped with steamed milk that’s been frothed into a creamy consistency, originated there. Australia has a huge coffee culture, with cafes being seen as social spaces to linger and relax instead of a spot to grab a to-go coffee or use the Wi-Fi, and focus on quality drinks.
“It’s almost impossible to walk around a corner in Melbourne without the familiar scent of a perfectly brewed espresso lingering down a laneway,” Visit Victoria Chief Executive Officer Peter Bingeman says. “The coffee culture here remains fiercely independent, with coffee chains a rarity to be seen in Melbourne.”
Where to Stay: Coffee and sweets go together perfectly, so book a night at the world’s only dessert themed hotel, the Adelphi.
Finland is a nation of dedicated coffee consumers. In fact, Finns drink the most coffee per capita in the world. According to the Helsinki Tourism Board, “Finns buy almost 22 pounds of roasted coffee per person, per year, and drink an average of three to five cups of coffee per day.”
Finnish coffee is usually served up with a sweet treat on the side—so commonly that there is even a Finnish word for it. Kakkukahv translates to “coffee and cake.”
Where to Stay: The Radisson Blu Seaside Hotel is within easy walking distance to plenty of cafes.
For being a small city, Portland, Maine, has an outsized coffee scene, with some of the best coffee in the world found in this New England hot spot.
“The most unique thing about the Portland coffee scene is that many of the shops here roast for themselves, creating their own style and vibe,” Kathleen Pratt, co-owner of Tandem Coffee Roasters says. “For a small city, this feels super special and makes it exciting for Portland residents and visitors alike to find the spot that best suits their tastes.”
Where to Stay: Journalists are known for their love of coffee, so stay at The Press Hotel, the former printing plant of the Portland Press Herald, now a boutique hotel.
Espresso was invented in Milan, so head to its birthplace if you want to experience the best coffee in the world in its purest form: The world’s first espresso machine was unveiled at the 1906 Milan Fair. Don’t expect to take it to go or to linger though—espresso in Italy is meant to be drunk quickly, while standing up at a counter.
Where to Stay: The Allegroitalia Espresso Linate has espresso in its name.
Vietnamese coffee is its own special subset of coffee—one that’s traditionally served iced and mixed with condensed milk in order to simultaneously cool you off and get you amped on sugar and caffeine.
Vietnam has more types of coffee than Starbucks has themed concoctions, so visit Hanoi if you want to try everything from egg coffee (egg yolk whipped with condensed milk and added to coffee) to yogurt coffee (yogurt topped with a splash of black coffee).
Where to Stay: The Conifer Boutique Hotel is inexpensively priced and centrally located, so you can save money on your caffeine.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
Ethiopia is considered to be the birthplace of coffee, with historians estimating that the harvest of the bean began here around 800 B.C. Get it straight from the source at the capital city’s first coffee roaster, TO.MO.Ca Coffee. Try an Ethiopian macchiato, which is very small and concentrated. If that’s too strong, a spriss (half coffee and half tea) will be a little less intense.
Where to Stay: The Addissinia Hotel is a quiet oasis in the middle of Addis Ababa, where you can relax with your coffee of choice.
More from SmarterTravel:
- How Dirty Is Your Hotel Room Coffeemaker?
- America’s Best Coffee Shops
- SmarterTravel Shopping Guide: The Foodie
Caroline Morse Teel is obsessed with espresso and on a quest to find the best coffee in the world. Follow her on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline.
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