Best Cities to Drink Coffee

Lists: Terry Ward takes a look at seven of the best cities in the world to sit and sip

Wellington, New Zealand

No surprise that New Zealand’s arts and culture capital is also the most atmospheric city in the Land of the Long White Cloud for enjoying a classic Kiwi coffee drink such as a long black (New Zealand speak for a double shot of espresso over hot water). In the 1950s, there was a bonafide movement by immigrants and locals in Wellington to promote European-inspired coffee culture as an alternative to New Zealand’s rugby racing and beer leanings. Now windy Wellington boasts a roster of esteemed local roasters, including Havana Coffee Works, Mojo and Peoples Coffee. And Wellington is said to have more cafés per capita than New York City, so finding a good café, as they say in New Zealand, is “easy as.”

World Hum Tip: Like lattes, but fancy more oomph? Order a flat white, the classic Kiwi coffee that’s akin to an American latte, only with creamier milk (New Zealand has a proud dairy tradition) and a bit stronger. Always served in ceramic cups, flat whites are made with 1 part espresso to 2 parts steamed milk.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

With strong Spanish and Italian roots (more than 95 percent of Argentina’s population is of European descent), Porteños are rightfully proud of their coffee and café culture. And Argentina’s coffee culture is the most deep-seated in all of South America. From casual conversations to business discussions, all kinds of gatherings take place over cups of coffee—but never on the run. The concept of coffee to-go has found little acceptance in laid-back Buenos Aires, where coffee drinkers prefer to enjoy their café chicos and cortados in situ in cafes and restaurants. Starbucks didn’t open its first Argentinean store until May 2008 (the Seattle giant was long established elsewhere in Latin America, including Peru, Chile and Mexico), and the corporation is making a nod to local tradition by offering dulce de leche coffee and mate lattes.  Kudos for cultural sensitivity, but we’ll take an obscure San Telmo café any day over the formulaic American behemoth.

World Hum Tip: For something sinful on the side, don’t miss Argentina’s traditional sweets, alfajores—sandwich-like cookies layered with rich dulce de leche. They’re sold everywhere, from bakeries and coffee shops to grocery stores. The Argentinean café chain Havanna (with scores of locations in B.A.) is much-loved among locals and sells boxes of alfajores you can bring home.

Seattle, United States

With its oft-gray and drizzling ceiling beckoning residents indoors for shelter, Seattle is America’s undisputed birthplace of coffee culture. The city is synonymous with Starbucks, which was founded here in 1971 across from Pike Place Market. And the original location draws caffeine-jazzed pilgrims from faraway lands. But residents will tell you Seattle’s true coffee culture lies in the spirit of local roasters such as Espresso Vivace and Zoka, and in independent coffee houses in neighborhoods like Fremont and Ballard. In Seattle, the coffee options are endless, but single-estate coffees (with the beans purchased from individual farms) have become the buzzword for a populace that’s very picky when it comes to procuring the black gold.

World Hum Tip: Visit Lighthouse Coffee Roasters in Fremont for lattes that are the closest thing this coffee-addicted writer has seen to a flat white this side of the Pacific—the baristas even swirl a little flower into the drink’s silky crema. Perch on the narrow benches lining the front of the corner shop and read a newspaper or book and you’ll blend in perfectly with the Fremont locals.

Terry Ward

Terry Ward is a Florida-based writer and a long-time contributor to World Hum.

63 Comments for Best Cities to Drink Coffee

Jerry Haines 03.12.09 | 11:18 AM ET

One of my Italian language teachers declared, “Cappuccino is never drunk with a meal.”

One of my classmates challenged her:  “What about breakfast?” 

She dismissed him with a pitying look.  “Breakfast is not a meal.”

Jennifer 03.12.09 | 11:36 AM ET

Jerry, I’m certainly not from Italy but I don’t like any coffee beverage with any of my meals, breakfast or no!  Food alters the flavor of coffee too much for me!  Oh, but I do love me some coffee!!

It’s a shame that there aren’t more places in the US where coffee is considered an artform!  It can be transcendant when it is!!

Terry Ward 03.12.09 | 12:23 PM ET

Great line from your language teacher, Jerry. Classic.

Jennifer - I would love to hear your favorite US cities for coffee! I’ve heard Portland and San Francisco from other people…and if you’re ever in Orlando, try Stardust, my usual haunt, near downtown.

Thanks for reading!

Cristina 03.12.09 | 12:25 PM ET

I had the best coffee in Vienna; Along Mariahiffe Strasse (spelling) there are plenty of cafes where you can enjoy this great black liquid

Jerry Haines 03.12.09 | 12:35 PM ET

Terry, I would add Istanbul to your list, but I can understand why it wouldn’t make the cut:  Despite inventing something called Turkish Coffee, the Turks themselves seem to prefer tea.  Nevertheless, there is a fine coffee culture in that country.  I believe the saying is, “A cup of coffee is worth 40 years,” meaning that buying someone a coffee is indeed a significant act of hospitality.

Also from a guide who once showed us around Turkey, if the parents of a marriageable young woman select a suitor for her and invite him to the home, the woman may indicate her disapproval by brewing his coffee with salt instead of sugar.  The young man, presumably, drinks it anyway, taking his rejection in stride.

Lola 03.12.09 | 12:45 PM ET

Very cool roundup Terry!

I would add Stockholm to the list because Sweden actually ranks #2 in the world (per capita) when it comes to drinking coffee. It’s part of a social norm called “fika”.

Jessica, WhyGo Italy 03.12.09 | 1:35 PM ET

The reason Italians don’t drink cappuccino in the afternoon is because it’s made with so much milk, and they think that milk screws up your ability to digest food. So, it’s never eaten with meals. Breakfast isn’t a typical meal, in the sense that most Italians will just have a pastry with their morning coffee, if they eat anything at all. In fact, if they take a cappuccino instead of a simple shot of espresso, the cappuccino itself is considered the meal!

Jessica, WhyGo Italy 03.12.09 | 1:37 PM ET

Oh, and as a Portland resident, I’ll verify that yes - coffee is an artform in this town. :)

Vanessa 03.12.09 | 1:38 PM ET

Quote: World Hum Tip: Curb your cappuccino cravings to before 10 a.m. Ordering the frothy drink any time later is sacrilege for Italians, who consider cappuccino solely a breakfast beverage.

Not true!! In Italy, we enjoy cappuccino at noon, at 4pm, all day long- only NEVER after a meal. For more,

Jim Benning 03.12.09 | 2:18 PM ET

Ha. I just knew this would come up. John Flinn wrote a whole column about the cappuccino-after-10 a.m.-or-11-a.m. issue. He found that plenty of Romans drank cappuccinos in the afternoon. But you’ll still find Italians who insist it shouldn’t be done.

My take: I’ve had a cappuccino in the afternoon in Italy before and I’ll do it again.

Julie Ovenell-Carter 03.12.09 | 2:21 PM ET

I think Paris and Montreal should definitely make the cut—such cafe cultures, both. I like how in Montreal, people SIT DOWN to drink coffee. It’s a ritual, a social event. People don’t walk around the streets clutching their paper coffee cups—they savour the experience…

Zack 03.12.09 | 3:33 PM ET

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia needs to be on this list as well.  Ethiopia is the birthplace of arabica coffee and the first place in history to embrace and consume it.  The brew is rich, thick, and energizing - and is generally served with the cultural traditional coffee ceremony and preparation.  This should be a pilgrimage to any serious coffee-lover.  Also try the buttered cinnamon coffee.

Chris 03.12.09 | 8:32 PM ET

Portland’s a great coffee town no doubt, and a more adventurous pick than safe Seattle, but the problem with PDX is that they’re dominated by a single roaster - Stumptown. Not much variety.

OTOH, I’d rank Vancouver, Canada as one of the top global coffee destinations. Several great competing roasters, multiple top six “best baristas in the world” hail from there (world barista championship) and many great cafes.

I’d also rank at least one major Scandinavian city (Oslo, Copenhagen, etc) in the mix as they are also heavily infused coffee cultures.

Mila 03.13.09 | 12:48 AM ET

I miss New Zealand coffee

Jerry Haines 03.13.09 | 9:08 AM ET

Slightly off-topic, but Gourmet magazine has the recipe for, and a thumbnail description of, the invention of Irish Coffee.  (It happened at an airport.)

Barry Foy 03.13.09 | 10:44 AM ET

You can find a respectable amount of good coffee in Seattle (where I live), though not nearly as much as non-Seattleites might think. However, there’s more to a cafe than just what’s in the cup, and that’s where Seattle’s cafes—and America’s in general—fall short. As luck would have it, the cyber revolution was taking hold just as the (Starbucks-triggered) awakening of cafe culture occurred in the USA, and the former ended up short-circuiting the latter. What now passes for a cafe in an American city is what we used to call an office: a room full of computers and telephones, all being used by individuals who are oblivious to what’s going on around them. All that’s missing are the cubicle walls. Very sad.

Brenda 03.13.09 | 11:01 AM ET

What a great article! Hopefully, we’ll be able to use your advice on our travels. I really liked your suggestions for souvenirs.

I hope that these places serve coffee in a mug—coffee in a paper cup just isn’t the same and then there is the environmental un-friendliness of the paper coffee cup. I have just written a page about banning the paper coffee cup at and invite you to visit and leave your opinion! 

Toronto is actually talking of banning the paper cup.  Part of me thinks it is a great idea, although I am not sure if it will work or not.


long island girl 03.13.09 | 11:34 AM ET

i have always loved coffee and still craving on tastes. i hope i can visit all of these places. i have only tried in Seattle US and Buenos Aires, Argentina. They are all terrific.

Zach 03.13.09 | 11:46 AM ET

No mention of Paris? It’s pretty much the best city to do most anything.

Kevin Evans 03.13.09 | 2:54 PM ET

One of my faves is the cafe on the corner of via Cesare Battisti and via del Corso in Rome (near Mussolini’s big wedding cake). Sipping coffee al fresco is good there, but what *really* makes it special is watching the Roman street cops posing and strutting in their pressed uniforms and shiny sunglasses as they direct traffic through that insane junction.

gerald baldwin 03.13.09 | 3:43 PM ET


The most important thing to me is how the coffee tastes.  You seem to suffer from the “It’s better over there” syndrome.  Without quibbling about any of the cities you have chosen, you’ve only chosen one in North America.  I would certainly invite you to San Francisco and its environs for some excellent coffee. 
You may be amused to learn that many from Europe and elsewhere now come to the United States and the Specialty Coffee Association to discover how it is that Americans have taken over coffee leadership of the world.

This is not to say I’m going to turn in my passport with extra pages, but I look forward to coming home to excellently roasted, FRESH from the roaster, properly prepared coffee.

Jonathan 03.13.09 | 4:34 PM ET

Glad to see others puncturing the canard about cappuccino after a certain time of day (and to see the links on the topic).  Anyone observing an Italian cafe in the afternoon will see that it’s false. It is following a substantial meal with a milky drink that is repellent to most Italians.

A city that should be mentioned is Trieste, Italy - a historic coffee importing and roasting hub, and home, of course, to Illy, among other brands.  The pleasure is multiplied by the baroque multiplication of Triestine drink varieties.  A cappuccino (“cappo”) is smaller than elsewhere - served in an espresso sized cup, except when it’s requested in a small glass, or bicchiere - called “cappo in bi (B)”.  They have macchiatos, to, with a bit less milk; not to mention gocciatos (from goccia, drop), with even less….

PhilBucks Dot Com 03.13.09 | 5:06 PM ET

My favorite coffee is from New Guinea, and the best place to drink it is on my couch.

Gabrielle 03.14.09 | 1:13 PM ET

Oh my God, no, Paris definitely shouldn’t have made the cut! While yes, sure, it’s a café culture here, the coffee is—on a whole—terrible: made from greasy robusta beans, very rarely freshly ground, and any milk is usually burned and bubbly.

I know of one place that makes great coffee here: Caffe Kimbo de Napoli. If I can’t have a flat white in Melbourne, then I’ll take a latte at Kimbo (but I’d prefer a flat white!)

Troy 03.15.09 | 4:53 PM ET

What about anywhere in Portugal? Everywhere else seems to get the fame, but a coffee anywhere in Portugal beats anywhere else…hands down.

Lindsey 03.15.09 | 7:01 PM ET

Gotta love the 21st century!
We can enjoy coffee from far flung lands, on soil before never dreamed of!
Today, I brought a bit of the rainforest to my laptop with me as I worked.

Coffee can link people together like a religion!

nAt 03.16.09 | 7:34 AM ET

Great discussion.  If any of you are ever in Maui, Hawaii you should definitely try some Kona Peaberry Coffee its outrageous!

ivona 03.16.09 | 2:55 PM ET

I think if oyu not you should try the turckish caffe whit milk, it is amazing!

Naamiee Showers 03.18.09 | 5:28 AM ET

This might not be an obvious one, but I think Reykjavik in Iceland has a pretty good café culture. Considering its population and area, there are a dense number of cafés and it is not unusual for mini-concerts to be put on at night.

Kisane 03.19.09 | 4:31 AM ET

You should add Singapore and Malaysia for the local brew of coffee beans roasted with butter. There’s no oil floating on the surface, neither does it taste oily. It’s just deliciously thick, dense and usually brewed and poured through a sock! Drink it straight, with evaporated milk or my favourite, a scoop of condensed milk. Guaranteed to have you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for at least 2 days.

Jason 03.19.09 | 5:25 AM ET

Cafes are all over Buenos Aires but the quality of the coffee used is very poor (toasted with sugar to disguise the bitter taste of cheap beans).  What’s worse, virtually every cafe blasts rock music so you can’t relax as you can in Europe.

kriz flake 03.20.09 | 3:51 AM ET

i am surprised the mighty starbizzy hasn’t engineered it’s own version of a flat white for mass production yet.

Maria Guimil 03.28.09 | 8:20 AM ET

In Portugal you also can drink honest coffee :-)

Maria Guimil 03.28.09 | 8:21 AM ET

I must tell that , in Portugal (Lisbon or Oporto) you also can drink HONEST Coffee :-)

Raul Jones 03.28.09 | 12:01 PM ET

The Hub o’ the Coffee Universe…my house. A different blend each week, when I don’t roast my own. Each cup hand-ground in my ancient Zassenhaus (50 turns o’ the crank, if you please), brewed at 205 degrees through the mesh filter in the last of the Braun KF-12 4-cup dripmaster deluxe. And always, without fail, consumed from a 10-ounce cobalt mug with a half a pack of Splenda and a shot of fat-free French vanilla.

Scott-O 03.28.09 | 2:34 PM ET

The best coffee is whatever is in my mug in front of me.

the wilberforces 03.29.09 | 3:46 PM ET

What is it with NY City? When last there a local took us across town to the one ‘real’ cafe he knew of that made real coffee, and run by a French woman. Seemed crazy. The place is awash with insipid slop but no coffee/

Chris 03.29.09 | 6:15 PM ET

The Turks never did capture Vienna. They besieged it three times, and when the last attempt was defeated in 1683, with a Polish force plating the decisive role, coffee beans were among the supplies abandoned by the routed Ottomans. Some of them were taken by Capuchin monks from Italy; hence the cappucino. And the first Kaffeehaus was opened by a Ukrainian deserter from the Polish army.

Robyn 03.29.09 | 7:16 PM ET

Sure glad to see Wellington in there! I used to think French coffee was good until I came back home. What a transformation the coffee here has under gone - yum.

Kirsten 03.31.09 | 7:33 AM ET

I would really love to drink coffee here:
Buenos Aires, Argentina

With strong Spanish and Italian roots (more than 95 percent of Argentina’s population is of European descent), Porteños are rightfully proud of their coffee and café culture. And Argentina’s coffee culture is the most deep-seated in all of South America. From casual conversations to business discussions, all kinds of gatherings take place over cups of coffee—but never on the run. The concept of coffee to-go has found little acceptance in laid-back Buenos Aires, where coffee drinkers prefer to enjoy their café chicos and cortados in situ in cafes and restaurants. Starbucks didn’t open its first Argentinean store until May 2008 (the Seattle giant was long established elsewhere in Latin America, including Peru, Chile and Mexico), and the corporation is making a nod to local tradition by offering dulce de leche coffee and mate lattes.  Kudos for cultural sensitivity, but we’ll take an obscure San Telmo café any day over the formulaic American behemoth. Kirsten Willis

teetee 04.01.09 | 11:13 AM ET

although i live in zagreb, croatian capital, i’d like to nominate the second biggest city in croatia - split. all the tourists who arrive to split are simply mesmerized with the social value of coffee drinking there. it’s as if no-one works; cafes are full all the time (and even though there are literally thousands of coffee shops, it’s hard, really really hard to find a bad cup of coffee in split!) as split inhabitants just adore to sit outside in the sun and gossip about virtually everyone who passes by. it’s a kind of addictive behavior, actually, because all visitors quickly ease into split’s very slow rhythm and sip their lattes and ‘chinos all day long. i drank coffee all over the world but still every time i return to split i’m amazed by its coffee culture. plus, the center of split is actually an ancient roman emperors’ summer palace so you get to drink coffee within 3000 year old city walls. Quite exquisite, i tell you…

WorldHumfan 04.01.09 | 3:50 PM ET

Ok I’m gonna go with New Haven Connecticut
The Coffee House!

john doe 04.01.09 | 4:38 PM ET

i think you’re missing sarajevo,the capital of bosnia…drinking coffe here is a part of culture,and if you don’t spend at least one hour sitting and drinking it,it’s considered rude behaviour…

VUJASINU 04.02.09 | 8:28 AM ET

Vujasine evo vidiš u nikoline nevalja kava a ni u eugena nije na cijeni

Biz 04.02.09 | 12:42 PM ET

What about the worst place for the coffe? My worst coffe was in Ireland. They even do not have esspresso! But moreover, it is difficult to drink cofee in Ireland while they have so good bears.

Janu Tamboli 04.02.09 | 1:49 PM ET

Man wonderful article, can you suggest some good places for the same in INDIA, say that too has interior of the 60’s or something…

jasa 04.02.09 | 3:31 PM ET

You should come to sarajevo, that is best place to drink original Turkey, or other coffe like cappuccino….

Claudia Goffan 04.03.09 | 10:33 AM ET

Thank you for including Buenos AIres.  I currently live in the U.S. but every time I go back, the first thing I do is stop by a “cafe” and relax while enjoying a small cup of coffee.  Another place with great coffee is Delicity and their croissants are out of this world!  Their only drawback is that they do not take credit cards, so make sure you bring some change!

claudia goffan 04.03.09 | 11:46 AM ET

Hi JD,
Nope…  in Buenos Aires, if you ever go there, there’s a very easy way to know if a store or restaurant takes credit cards or not.  Look at the door or entrance or store window of the place and you’ll see several stickers with the logos of the payment types they take.  If they do not have any credit card logos, they don’t take credit cards.  If they have no stickers at all, it’s more than likely cash only.  This is a great tip for Argentina travelers, right?

dannymac 04.10.09 | 12:21 AM ET

Reykjavik, in Iceland has some of the best coffee I’ve ever tasted. I think they take quite seriously their coffee culture since you can get a great tasting cup virtually anywhere it is served, be it an indepentant cafe or starbuck’s-like chain. Just another reason to love Iceland!!!

Erika 04.10.09 | 5:39 PM ET

Rio de Janeiro has some very good cafes and Brazilian coffee is quite tasty! Coffee is very much a part of Brazilian culture and drank anytime of the day—breakfast lunch, dinner and all the time!
Espresso is served frequently, but the “cafezinho” (drip coffee) is served everywhere!  Usually it is very sweet or served black.

You will even see street vendors with thermos of coffee walking around the city selling shots of coffee. I haven’t seen this in any other place in the world… Has anyone?
If you make it to Rio, try to find the organic Santa Clara brand. Delicious!
Let me know if you need tips on where to find amazing coffee in Rio de Janeiro!

Erika 04.10.09 | 5:44 PM ET

Oh yes…You can find me at

Come and taste some Brazilian coffee!

Cate 04.11.09 | 11:26 PM ET

Melbourne does have great cafes. Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin, Queenstown, Wanaka in NZ have fabulous ones as well.

Callie Lorentson 04.13.09 | 12:06 AM ET

I love that Seattle is the only U.S. city to make this list.  May I recommend Cafe Umbria, on the corner of Occidental and Jackson?  Paying 5 bucks after tax and tip for a 16 oz cappucino went against my frugal grain, but I have to admit it was worth it, due to the meticulous care taken by the barista with the froth.  It was certainly one of the smoothest brews I’ve ever chugged. 04.24.09 | 12:43 PM ET

I do enjoy coffee.  This is a great list.  I’m glad to see that Melbourne, Australia is on the list.  I would like to visit Australia and New Zealand in the near future.  I love cafes—my favorite is The Elephant House in Edinburgh, Scotland.  It was very exciting to be in the same coffee house where J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter…Question:  where’s Paris?  I thought they are supposed to have some of best cafes.  I would think that they would have the best coffee :)

Marina K. Villatoro 04.24.09 | 2:06 PM ET

I wouldn’t let any Costa Rican or Guatemalan see this article, they just might have a fit:) They are convinced that they have the best coffees. I personally don’t think Costa Rica should be on that list, it’s very mediocre. But Guatemala can certainly toot their own horn. The most ideal place for a great cup of coffee and also native to the city: Antigua!

Robert Reid 04.27.09 | 10:58 PM ET

I didn’t drink coffee until I moved to Vietnam. And #1, for me, is Ho Chi Minh City. By a landslide. It’s a STARING city. Everyone sit and stares—without apology. And staring is done best with coffee. Cafes with seats looking out to the streets serve ca phe sua da (ice coffee with condensed milk), which comes very strong.

Keith 04.29.09 | 12:12 PM ET

I’m glad Amsterdam is on the list! Besides the ‘brown’ cafés, there are many other places (ranging from homey to uber-trendy cafés) where you can enjoy a delicious cup of coffee. Probably the reason why Starbucks hesitated so long to open a branch in the Netherlands, and when they finally did, it was at the airport! Needless to say, the Dutch weren’t too impressed with Starbucks’ brews.

Tamara 05.01.09 | 8:57 AM ET


Scratch off Seattle (why is it even there?  just because Starbucks is there and they have a couple hipster coffee joints?  that doesn’t count!)


I have actually planned trips to Vancouver for a cup of coffee!

Niamh 05.04.09 | 11:27 AM ET

Kisane mentioned Singapore and Malayisa, could I add the super-fuel of Thailand’s ice-coffee to that? Served in a classy plastic bag , with enough caffeine to power an elephant stampede it’s the perfect antidote to the summer heat over there. It’s made with condensesd milk and instant coffee so it’s far from what you’ll find in Melbourne’s cafes , but perfect for the setting.

Ayn 05.07.09 | 11:52 AM ET

I am horrified that everyone loves the coffee culture of Seattle, and yet no one has said anything about New Orleans. It is not a drink in that city; it is a religion. My parents were flooded out in Katrina, and the first thing they did after coming down out of the attic was find some paper on a dry top shelf and build a fire to boil water and make coffee. Yes, I know Cafe du Monde is a touristy place, but it’s still fun to get “go cups” of cafe au lait and sit in the sun in Jackson Square. We do not need fancy syrups, long names, or complicated permutations of the brew. As an oldtimer in his 80’s in the CDM remarked “If the coffee’s good, you shouldn’t need anything but some milk and a little sugar for the ladies.”

Heather (aka kiwitravelwriter) 05.09.09 | 1:34 AM ET

come and check out out great the coffee with many great barista! where? Christchurch and Wellington new Zealand. 

I live 5 mins walk away from where the first coffee shop started in my city (Chch) and that was in 1860   YES the 1860s - and one hundred years later, with my very first wage, i bought my first coffee grinder in the 1960s in this great coffee city.

email me if you are coming down under and i’ll introduce you to the best of the places.

Angel 05.09.09 | 12:04 PM ET

In Malaysia, the main two coffee brands are Coffee Beans & Starbucks. Or perhaps San Francisco Coffee too is in the list. These are the places to hang out when thinking about coffee.

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