Tips for finding good coffee abroad
City breaks or holidays used to mean packing the aeropress or chancing whatever local coffee we might find. Nowadays, with the global spread of speciality coffee, there’s a good chance there may be decent coffee near your destination. So how should you go around finding it?
Here at London’s Best Coffee, we are often asked for coffee recommendations, even for cities we have never visited. Just recently we were asked via twitter for recommendations for coffee in Mumbai. The nature of the internet is that after we had retweeted this, within an hour or two, we had a response from Mumbai. Just today, we had a request for Nottingham recommendations, not so exotic perhaps, but we were soon able to put our friend in touch with @nottscoffee. It makes a lot of sense to ask around on social media.
This is of course the perfect opportunity to plug Blue Crow Media’s printed city maps, curated by knowledgeable locals such as Liz Clayton, Sprudge Associate Editor and author of the ultimate coffeeshop travelogue Nice Coffee Time. They are available for Berlin, New York and Paris. They have the added advantage of course of not being reliant on your mobile data when abroad.
Before travelling, it’s best to research online. Google can help. Ignore Yelp, Tripadvisor and the like as these are often reviews from people not familiar with third wave coffee. Look for key words such as speciality (or specialty in some countries), light roast, v60 or any other specialist terms. Search for lists of recommend places in that city. More than a few coffee fanatics have created online coffee googlemaps too.
Coffee Forums can be a good source and also I might ask baristas from my favourite cafes for recommendations. Dear Coffee I Love You and Sprudge are great resources and Beanhunter and Coffee Guru are international apps although both are user generated and both contain many places we wouldn’t consider visiting.
Some superb new resources are the first places I would recommend you look. Third Wave Wichteln (the international coffee secret Santa scheme) has an extensive user generated global coffee map. Founded by Markus Reuter, André Krüger and Thorsten Keller, originally via instagram and Tumblr, their project has gone from strength to strength and has a huge impact on global coffee education. Their coffee map is also user generated but moderated by a team of volunteers.
In addition, European Coffee Trip’s website must be high on everyone’s list of useful coffee travel resources. Ales Pospisil and Radek Nozicka have spent over a year touring thirty-three cities in nineteen countries and their website is a veritable treasure trove of coffee articles and information. Look out for their city guides, currently available for...deep breath... Brno, Bratislava, Budapest, Prague, Vienna, Krakow , Poznan, Wroclaw, Opole, Salzburg, Zurich, Munich, Berlin, Hamburg, Amsterdam , Dusseldorf , Helsinki, Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius , London, Stockholm, Gothenburg, Olomouc, Lviv, Kiev, Frankfurt, Luxembourg , Antwerp, Gent, Lille, Ostrava and Dublin.
Then if you’re travelling within the UK, first port of call for advice should always be Brian’s Coffee Spot as Brian Williams’ encyclopaedic knowledge of the UK coffee scene is beyond parallel. When not touring the cafes of the UK (and the USA), Brian curates many of the UK city coffee guides in Caffeine magazine.
Of course, when you arrive at a likely cafe, use your senses. How does it smell – does the coffee smell fresh? Is the machinery clean? Is the coffee ground for each dose? And once you find one decent coffee, ask that hopefully friendly barista for other recommendations in the city – they may well make you a list. This is how we have discovered most of our favourites.