It inspires passion, opinion and addiction. It's the world's second most valuable commodity (after petroleum), and it will almost certainly play a memorable role in your travels, no matter where you're headed. We're talking about coffee, of course, and the best places to partake…
Some claim that Ethiopia is coffee's birthplace, so it's not surprising that the good stuff is ubiquitous here. If you're invited to an Ethiopian coffee ceremony, don't miss it: it's a unique and elaborate ritual you'll never forget. If not, there's always Tomoca, a traditional Italian-style café that's guaranteed to please.
Cubans love their coffee, which is served strong, black and sweet in small espresso-sized cups. Homegrown in the Escambray and Sierra Maestra Mountains, a fresh brew will be brought out as an icebreaker wherever you go. Coffee houses are sprouting by the minute in Havana, but you can't go past local classic, Café de las Infusiones.
Surprisingly, Türk kahve (Turkish coffee) isn’t as widely consumed in its homeland as çay (tea). But don't worry: you'll have no trouble getting your caffeine fix in Istanbul. Traditional coffee houses such as Etham Tezçakar Kahveci serve a brew thick and powerful enough to put hair on your chest!
Colombia is famous for its rich, aromatic coffee. Unfortunately, it exports most of its best beans, leaving a mainly mediocre brew for its own citizens. One exception to this rule is groovy Le Bon Café in Medellín. You can also visit plantations in the Zona Cafetera and purchase coffee directly from the growers.
Coffee in Melbourne is often trumpeted as the world's best, lovingly prepared with both Italian and supreme local roasts. The café scene is integral to much of the city’s socialising; lingering over a coffee is sacred, whether with a newspaper or with friends. Try stalwart Pellegrini's for it's old school, quintessentially Melburnian experience, or hit one of the many Third Wave spots like Collingwood's Proud Mary for an updated brew.
As befitting the land of espresso, Italians take their coffee seriously. Do as the Romans do, and be precise about what you're drinking: will it be un caffè, un caffè macchiato, un caffè lungo, un cappuccino or un caffè corretto? Famous throughout Rome, Caffè Sant’Eustachio is the perfect place to practise your newfound vocabulary.
Coffee is probably Costa Rica's most popular beverage - you'll be offered cafécitos everywhere you go. Aware of its energising qualities, the country's government even decreed in 1840 that all labourers building roads should receive a free cup every day. Visit Santa María & Valle de Dota for an insight into the Tico coffee industry.
Brazilians like their coffee strong as the devil, hot as hell and sweet as love. In the morning they take it with milk (café com leite). After that, it’s cafezinhos, regular coffee served in either a glass or an espresso-sized cup. Thanks to its Italian heritage, São Paulo boasts Brazil's best cafés, with Café Floresta being one of our favourites.
It’s hard to complain about Seattle’s weather when one of the best forms of rainy-day solace, coffee, is available in such abundance. Trust us, this is one inviting city to get a buzz on. Though Seattle is where Starbucks (and its terrifying 'Trenta') originated, there's no need to go the chain café route: not with one-off gems like Caffé Vita to choose from.
Vienna has a strong claim to the 'Coffee Capital of the World' title. Its Kaffeehäuser (coffee houses) are as famous as its classical music, and an attraction in themselves. The sheer number of coffee houses is staggering, but each has its own flair and flavour. Aida is a 1950s timewarp of a place, with a clientele to match and coffee to sing about.
More on lonelyplanet.com:
- Check out our coffee-related articles
- Where to visit Sumatran coffee plantations
- Witness the battle of the Parisian baristas
This article was updated in Jan 2012.
Nothing like a slug of liquid gold to get a hard day's sightseeing off to a good start! Which city do you think has the best coffee?