Coffee on the road doesn’t have to mean eye-wateringly expensive cups in tourist cafes or a quick mug of instant before a long day’s sightseeing. If you live for the caffeine buzz, you can base an entire trip around the world’s favourite drink.
Whether it’s sipping single-origin brews by the English seaside or trekking through plantations in Africa, these destinations are guaranteed to make any coffee fanatic reach for a refill.
Baristas perfect their skills at the underground training lab at Small Batch Coffee Roasters' outlet in Seven Dials, Brighton © Small Batch Coffee Roasters
Perfect city for the coffee-obsessed: Brighton, UK
Brighton’s population spends an average of £177 a year on coffee. That’s £25 more than Londoners. The south coast city, long synonymous with alternative cool, is home to the best cafe scene in the UK, with dozens of roasters and coffee shops serving up delicious blends and brews.
Local chain Small Batch Coffee Roasters (smallbatchcoffee.co.uk) has seven locations, offering barista training for those who take making their own morning espresso seriously. Ultra-hip Bond Street Coffee (bondstcoffee.co.uk), in the pretty North Laine area, serves coffee roasted up the road in Horsham to a soundtrack of Van Morrison, Grizzly Bear and Four Tet. Trafalgar Street, which runs into town from the main train station, is home to Coffee at 33 and Redwood, which both roast their own beans and serve tempting snacks to keep you lingering over another Long Black.
Workers on the Doka Estate, one of Costa Rica's premier coffee plantations © Joe Raedle / Getty Images
Where to learn about the coffee-making process: Doka Estate, Costa Rica
Laid-back Costa Rica might be renowned for its devotion to ‘pura vida’ (pure life), but nowhere on earth takes coffee more seriously than this little Central American country.
Since 1986, Costa Rica’s coffee growers have only been allowed to grow high-quality Arabica beans, rather than the cheaper Robusta. The result is a nation of coffee obsessives willing to impart their knowledge to visiting caffeine fiends. The stunning Doka Estate (dokaestate.com), on the fertile slopes of the Poas Volcano, grows and roasts some of Costa Rica’s finest coffee on its 478-acre estate. The tour guides here are true experts, taking you through every stage of the growing process. Learn how to harvest the fruit carefully by hand, marvel at the 121-year-old water mill used to extract the all-important beans and pick up the best single-origin coffee going direct from the source.
A mug of Highlands Coffee in Hanoi, where the coffee scene is developing fast © Brent Winebrenner / Getty Images
Best for trying different blends and brews: Hanoi, Vietnam
Vietnam is the world’s second-largest coffee producer. Only Brazil makes more. The wet, lush Northern Highlands and the plateau at the top of Annam Region in the country’s narrow centre offer the perfect conditions for growing first-rate coffee.
Vietnam mainly grows the chocolatey Robusta bean, although more and more growers are turning to the higher-quality Arabica variant as the country’s coffee scene booms. The capital Hanoi has a superb spread of coffee shops where you can try traditional drip Vietnamese coffee topped with ultra-sweet condensed milk. Highlands Coffee (highlandscoffee.com.vn/en/home) is a must for this local treat. Giang Cafe (giangcafehanoi.com), in the labyrinthine Old Quarter, is renowned for its egg coffee, an off-kilter classic that sees coffee topped with a yolk, butter, cheese and a dash of milk. Vintage-styled Maison de Tet Decor (tet-lifestyle-collection.com) serves blends of local coffee with beans from as far away as Colombia and Tanzania.
The coffee bean harvest in full swing in Yunnan, China © China Photos / Getty Images
Most unlikely place you’ll find coffee grown: Yunnan, China
Swilling cups of tea in Beijing’s backstreet hutongs (alleyways) remains one of the best ways to see Chinese culture up close. But as western trends continue to infiltrate this rapidly changing country, coffee is booming, especially among the hip young crowds in major cities.
But it goes beyond Starbucks opening up in Shanghai’s Yuyuan Temple. Far away in China’s deep south, coffee growers in Yunnan have found they can make more money from this lucrative crop than tea, and have adjusted accordingly. In fact, 98 per cent of Chinese coffee comes from the province. The lush, vertiginous rainforest makes the area around the town of Pu’er ideal for growing coffee. Nestle has even opened a research centre there. If you’re more independently minded and can’t make it down south, you can sip single-origin Yunnan coffee in Shanghai’s ace Sumerian cafe (sumeriancoffee.com).
Turkish coffee is steeped in tradition © Danita Delimont / Getty Images
Hotspot for coffee rituals: Turkey
Turkey may not grow its own coffee, but there are few countries where the black stuff is so integral to day-to-day life. Kahve is a daily ritual here. Beans are finely ground and then simmered (never boiled) in a cezve, a specially designed pot that holds just one brew. The coffee is then poured, unfiltered, into a cup, with the medium- or dark-roasted grounds allowed to settle at the bottom before being topped with a thick, rich foam. Once drained, locals believe they can read their fortune from the sludgy sediment at the bottom, but only after it’s been allowed to cool underneath a saucer.
Pull up a pew at Fazil Bey, Istanbul’s best kahve spot, and let Turkey’s coffee-obsessed citizens tell you how your future’s going to pan out. It certainly beats slurping a tepid latte from a paper cup.
Coffee is big business in Ethiopia, home to some of the world's best beans © Reza / Getty Images
Most beautiful place to drink coffee: Gesha, Ethiopia
You don’t need a strong cup of joe to get geed up in Southern Ethiopia. Home to the Great Rift Valley, this is one of the most spectacular places on earth, with astonishing birdlife and wild animals giving way to verdant hills and views unrivalled anywhere else in Africa.
Once you've spent some time exploring the tribal lands of the Lower Omo Valley, be sure to visit Gesha. Just north of the Omo National Park, this is thought to be the birthplace of coffee. Here you’ll find Gesha Village Coffee Estate (geshavillage.com). A new enterprise that only dates back to 2011, Gesha Estate conserves the best coffee plants in the world, using seeds from the nearby Gori Gesha wild coffee forest, as well as fostering traditional practices so that the land doesn’t suffer from more slash-and-burn cattle farming.
Pellegrini's is an essential stop for those exploring Melbourne's sophisticated coffee scene © The AGE / Getty Images
Best for local knowledge: Melbourne, Australia
The fact that Melbourne’s old-school Italian cafes still spar over who brought the first espresso machine to the city should tell you just how important coffee is in this much-loved Australian city. Whether you believe the claims of Grossi Florentino Grill or Pellegrini’s Espresso Bar, it doesn’t really matter; the main thing is that thanks to huge Italian and Greek communities, nowhere else feels as well informed on how to make and serve coffee.
Market Lane Coffee has the inside line on how to rustle up the best brew using the ultra-cheap yet brilliantly effective Aeropress (marketlane.com.au/brew-guide-aeropress), while The League of Honest Coffee (leagueofhonestcoffee.com.au) has staff on hand to take you through every single-origin bean imaginable. Throw in the annual Melbourne International Coffee Expo (internationalcoffeeexpo.com) and you’ve got everything to ensure you come away with enough knowledge to put your local barista to shame.