Christine Sarkis, SmarterTravel.com, 2:51p.m. EST November 13, 2012
Maybe it's all that caffeine in their bloodstreams, but talking about the world's best coffee gets people really amped. Countless varieties, roasting techniques, brewing preferences, and adornments yield dramatically different brews around the world , all with avid fans and vociferous critics. We've rounded up this list of 10 places that celebrate the essence of the bean, each in a unique and delicious way. There's a 100 percent chance that we've left off one of your favorites, though, so go to bat for your team in the comments.
Many cities are fiercely proud of their cafe culture, but only Vienna can claim that its has UNESCO status. In 2011, Viennese Coffee House Culture received the organization's rank of Intangible Cultural Heritage. Since the 17th century, cafes full of marble tables and iconic Thonet chairs have set the scene for savoring a cup. With more than 20 coffee drinks to choose from at most establishments, there's a science to coffee in Vienna, but waiters are patient and willing to walk curious first-timers through the options.
Energy-boosting and abundant, coffee is the sun that overcast Seattle revolves around. And love it or hate it, Starbucks is only a small part of the hometown coffee scene. Taste your way through local roasters at independent cafes around the city, and see why Seattle walked away with top honors on Travel + Leisure's list of the best coffee cities in the U.S. And later, as you're lying in bed trying to fall asleep, ponder this: The city also ranked as the most caffeinated city in the U.S.
In Cuba, coffee is basically its own food group. A vital part of each day, steaming little cups of Cafe Cubano—espresso mixed with sugar as it brews—or Coradito—espresso topped with steamed milk—mark the morning, signal the end of a meal, and are a perfect excuse to stop and linger with a friend, new or old. To drink coffee in Havana is to join the rhythm of the city, and after a drop in Cuban coffee production, the country is now rebuilding its growing economy to meet the dedicated demand of its people. Cuban exiles in Miami have made the Florida city another great place for an authentic Cafe Cubano.
Melbourne is Australia's coffee capital, and we suspect it's vying for the world title as well. It may be a long way to travel for a cup of coffee, but with more and more people calling Melbourne's coffee the best, it's also an unbeatable way to fight jet lag. A proud history of independent cafes and innovative brewing techniques makes it worth the journey.
People get seriously poetic about coffee in Lisbon. The irresistible combination of a storied cafe culture and a fantastic cup of coffee can do that to a person. Pour yourself into the experience by heading to a cafe, settling in for a leisurely sit, and ordering a bica. The revered shot of black coffee is longer than an espresso and usually features beans roasted with a traditional low-and-slow technique that yields the drink's signature flavor.
Coming up second on Travel + Leisure's list of best coffee cities in the U.S. is a sure sign that Portland takes its liquid assets seriously. The New York Times calls Portland's coffee scene "the country's most intimate," a place where small roasters and their customers strike up earnest conversations about flavor profiles and taste notes. Whether you're looking for single origin, small batch, or light roast, there's somebody pursuing it passionately in Portland.
In the last decade, Scandinavian countries have come out swinging on the restaurant front, so it shouldn't be a surprise that Oslo is reinventing coffee in a very good way. The signature roast in Oslo is exceptionally light, resulting in an unusual flavor that, for most, takes a little getting used to. But converts say the style celebrates the true nature of the beans, turning a great cup of coffee into a fantastic one.
Sao Paulo, Brazil
Fact: Brazil produces almost 40 percent of the world's coffee. Pair its standing as a major producer with strong cultural influences from coffee-loving countries Portugal and Italy, and you've got the perfect recipe for a great cup. And while the world's biggest coffee-producing countries don't always have a coffee culture to match, Sao Paulo does its home country proud.
This is a city of micro-roasters, bean educators, champion baristas, and countless cafes. As Vancouver leads the way for a new generation of bean-to-cup coffee fanatics, it's staying true to the fuel. Vancouver baristas coax the best flavor out of carefully selected coffee varieties using Clover, vacuum-pot, and cold-brew techniques. Travelers seeking out independent and small-chain cafes get a little something extra with their coffee: the chance to discover many of the city's best hidden neighborhoods.
Yes, Taipei. Other cities in East Asia are known for their cafe culture and coffee drinks, but we're throwing Taipei's hat into the ring because, as surprising as it might seem to the uninitiated, great coffee is part of Taiwan's national heritage. Freshly roasted high-quality beans are standard, and slow, labor-intensive brewing methods pave the way to genuinely good coffee.