Coffee has never been just a drink, but a whole experience: the nutty aroma of fresh ground beans, the soothing warmth of a just-poured mug. For hundreds of years, all over the world, coffee has not only been jump-starting mornings, but bringing people together. And it’s not just the drink that does this, but the whole experience — starting from the café you choose.
Italy is the traditional homeland of espresso, and brewing the perfect roast, rich and robust, is an art form. However, you don’t only have to travel there to experience coffee culture firsthand. In locations across the globe, locals and tourists alike can sip their coffee in beautiful cafés, each with their own take on the craft.
In the 17th century, fleeing Turkish invaders left behind sacks of coffee beans. Once the Viennese realized they were not, in fact, camel feed, they began to experiment with roasting them — eventually leading to a rich coffee culture that remains an integral part of the city today. Coffee houses are so entrenched in the Viennese mystique that UNESCO has formally designated them as Intangible Cultural Heritage.
Few places provide the authentic coffee house tradition that Café Central does. Since 1876, stamgast (regular customers) like Sigmund Freud and Leon Trotsky have spent hours in its vaulted rooms, reading the newspaper, playing cards, and of course, enjoying excellent coffee.
A quintessential part of coffee culture is its association with the literary world. Aspiring writers across the globe hunker down at their favorite coffee house with a steaming mug and a great idea, and put their genius to paper. This trend became popular in Paris in the 1920s. Great authors like Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Bertolt Brecht and James Joyce used the hustle and bustle of quaint cafés as inspiration, as well as meeting spots for them to share their ideas with other writers.
Merci Used Book Café in Paris carries on the literary tradition. Part of a larger building that also sells kitchenware, clothing and home décor, the Used Book Café offers their customers a library of 10,000 used books to peruse while they sip their delightfully creamy café au lait.
Italy’s influence on coffee culture has expanded throughout the world, particularly in Australia, where a flood of Italian immigrants after WWII brought their espresso machines and love of coffee to the country. Australians view coffee-making as an intricate process, and part of properly enjoying a cup is taking the time to sit down and savor it.
Independent cafés in Australia thrive by building a sense of community. Morning After, in Brisbane, believes strongly in investing and giving back to that community, getting their coffee from two Australian companies: 5 Senses and Uncle Joe’s. And it’s not just about the beans; customers are treated to hearty and healthy breakfasts made from locally-sourced ingredients as well.
04. New York City
New York City perfectly mixes old-fashioned charm and modern in its café scene. Greenwich Village’s Caffe Reggio brings espresso back to its Italian roots, and claims to be the first coffee shop in the country to serve a cappuccino, thanks to its original Italian owner. They’ve still got the espresso machine it was made on.
Brooklyn’s Sweatshop, on the other hand, is an ode to the clean and modern. A combination espresso bar and marketing studio, Sweatshop blends the art of creating the perfect flat white with the art of design.
Over the last couple of decades, local coffee shops have begun to turn coffee drinking into as intoxicating experience as wine tasting. Vancouver, Canada’s Revolver offers their customers the opportunity to explore not just different roasts, but different brewing methods. The gorgeous brick and wood café in Gastown serves a “brew flight”, which takes the same roast and makes it in three different ways, guiding a true coffee connoisseur on their journey to their favorite cup.
Written by Breanne Rogers
Headline photo by Florian Grohn, courtesy of Morning After