Asking someone about the best place to get a cup of coffee while traveling can be a perilous venture. For every coffee lover, which a great deal of people consider themselves to be, there are a thousand stories of coffee abroad, from intimate Parisian cafes to grabbing a cup ‘o joe before riding the A Train uptown. Seattle, Bangkok, Rome, and Amsterdam are all famous coffee centers, known for their dedication to elevating the art of steeping or running hot water over roasted and ground bush berries and creating a beverage loved worldwide.
Now synonymous with mass-marketed chain products, Starbucks began as a coffee bean roaster in Seattle’s Pike Place Market. Soon after its founding, Starbucks shifted its focus and became one of the first North American purveyors of European coffee, importing the style, strength, and creativity of French and Italian Cafes into the Pacific Northwest region of the United States and Canada, opening locations in Portland and Vancouver. While Starbucks no longer has the cultural cache it once had, a visit to the original Pike Place Starbucks is an entre to a simpler, less coffee-soaked, time.
Getting a café to go in Bangkok isn’t difficult, and an iced Thai coffee can be the perfect accompaniment to a lengthy Saturday perusal of the street food offerings at the Suan Lum Night Baazar. Coffee in Thailand is traditionally iced and served in a paper cup, but according to Xander at Primitive Culture, you’re just as likely to find vendors serving this beverage of strong brew and sweetened condensed milk in a little plastic bag with a handle – perfect java to go!
Going to Rome and not having an espresso is practically a sin – the Italians take their coffee culture very seriously, and though it may not seem like it, there’s a certain art to drinking it in the first place. A warning to those used to the watery North American interpretation of this caffeinated beverage: Italian coffee comes in a small cup but packs a huge punch. The most Italian way to enjoy your espresso is to stand with it at the bar, chat with your neighbors, let it cool until you notice you’re late, slam it back and leave in a hurry. For those who prefer milk in their coffee, be aware of what time of the day it is. Cappuccinos are perfectly acceptable with breakfast, but ordering one past 10 AM instantly screams ‘tourist!’ – grab one in the morning before traipsing about Trastevere.
In Amsterdam, going to a Café has different connotations than in other places. While you’re able to order a beverage in most of the “Coffee Shops” of Amsterdam, be aware that they don’t only have donuts with their lattes, if you catch my drift. A pungent smell unlike any roast you’ve ever ingested may greet you at the door… a sure sign you’re not in Kansas any more. If a caffeine fix is all you’re in the market for, best to order alongside a Dutch pancake at Pannenkoeken Upstairs.
Where’s your favorite coffee destination? Have a fond coffee-fueled travel memory? Leave ‘em in the comments!