A guide to our favorite coffeehouses worldwide
From its humble beginnings as a substance used in Sufi religious ceremonies in 15th century Yemen, coffee has become one of the most widely engoyed beverages in the world, consumed tout le monde. Summit takes you on a guided tour of some of our favorite cafés from around the globe. Click on the café names for directions.
Seoul, South Korea
Ikovox takes a bare-bones, ground floor approach to coffee, appropriate for its basement location in the crowded side-streets of Garosugil in Gangnam. The menu is simple: cold brew coffee, espresso drinks, some roasted beans, and a delicious India Pale Ale. There’s a copy of Monocle framed on the wall, and not much else. We appreciate the focus on the essentials. The espresso is, of course, excellent.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
There is no shortage of incredible food for those traveling through Thailand and, in Chiang Mai, the adventurous foodie can spend all day exploring the distinct flavors of Northern Thai cuisine. But if your palate is a bit exhausted from all of that excitement, Dada Kafé is a great place to find some familiar comfort food. Tucked away in the heart of the Old City, this café serves up great coffee and smoothies, but the real star of their menu is the homemade peanut butter. Order it on a thick slice of hearty bread, topped with banana slices and a generous drizzle of honey.
Washington, D.C., United States
This sprawling Adams Morgan café is always packed with laptops and their bespectacled owners but, somehow, the atmosphere remains lively, social and true to the neighborhood’s quirky feel. Big, comfy couches welcome you to hang out all day and, if you do, you’ll be rewarded with live jazz and great happy hour deals, as café turns bar in the late afternoon. It’s a welcome escape from the stuffiness of Capitol Hill, and a great starting point for some weekend barhopping.
Kansas City, Kansas, United States
Don’t be wrong at this rustic-chic, high-end roastery and café along Kansas City’s Main Street—and that would mean asking staff for cream or sweetener. No adulterations allowed to your coffees here (three varieties are showcased weekly, handpicked by owner Greg Kolsto), creatively served up in a beaker. Try a pourover or a cold toddy—quirky and delicious cold-brewed coffee flavored with hops tea.
Blackcat first opened its doors in the suburb of Fitzroy 30 years ago, long before the area became one of Melbourne’s hippest neighborhoods. And it’s no wonder that this small, intimate café/bar survived Fitzroy’s gentrification. During the day, the café is filled with sunlight, the smell of excellent Melbournian coffee and creative types working away on freelance projects. At night, DJs spin chill tunes on vinyl, and the sidewalk beer garden is full of friendly hipsters rolling cigarettes and drinking pints of local beer and cider. At Blackcat, it’s likely that your baristas will be more fashionable than you are, but don’t be intimidated, they’re always up for a nice chat.
Brooklyn, New York, United States
Owned by two Brooklyn natives, this funky café is tucked away on a quiet street in Clinton Hill. The name is an apt description of its eclectic décor and bohemian ambience, though it’s the welcoming atmosphere that really makes Urban Vintage special. Enjoy a devilishly decadent Nutella Latte and strike up a conversation with the locals. It’s a bit out of the way unless you live along the G-train subway line, but a trip to this family-run joint will give you a glimpse of the neighborhood feel that sets Brooklyn apart from Manhattan.
Though it’s hard to verify, this coffee shop on the Piazza San Marco (St. Mark’s Square) in Venice boasts the title “Oldest Café in the World.” (Also: not many cafés can claim to have had Lord Byron, Casanova and Monet as patrons). The appeal here is fittingly baroque—the sheer architectural grandeur of the frescoed gilt and marble interiors, and magnificent sprawl of the outdoor seating, which faces outward and onto the plaza. The menu includes fresh roasted coffee, a variety of espresso drinks and a range of sandwiches and light meals. You can have equally good coffee elsewhere on the square, and you likely pay a few euros for the “Florian” embellished onto every dessert and napkin in flourish script, but it is definitely not an experience to be missed.
Set on the banks of Pokhara’s Phewa Lake, Freedom Café is more oasis than coffee shop. The open-air restaurant is made up of dozens of tiny thatched huts—pick one and curl up with a good book as you watch water buffalo swim in the lake. When you’re ready to eat, Freedom Café offers an impressive menu meant to appeal to every traveler; from Israeli falafel to German schnitzel. They serve up a decent coffee too, but try the lemonana instead; the icy blend of lemon and mint is far more refreshing on a humid afternoon.
El Gato Negro Café
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Situated on Corrientes, the street that never sleeps, and much less touristed than Café Tortoni elsewhere in the city, this café is for lovers of fine tea as well as coffeephiles. Stacked neatly in ornate 1920s-era dark wood shelving, you’ll find hundreds of varieties of tea, as well as culinary herbs and spices in glass jars. Coffees are roasted by hand on the premises in original machinery and are available for bulk purchase. The café also offers light meals—try the Pollo Clasica or the Pan Arabe (sandwiches) and pick from a selection of chocolates to round out your meal.
This 75-year-old coffee roaster utilizes hard-to-find drum roasting machines to create artisanal coffees—single bean and select blends—sourced from around the world. The café, attached to the Hamra roastery, is an intellectual and cultural hub where people meet for poetry readings and music performances. There are several branches in the city, and most have a relaxed, eclectic, semi-hipster vibe, and are popular with students as well as businesspeople.
Onyx Coffee Lab
Springdale, Arkansas, United States
Onyx blends its passion for the art and science of coffee with a sense of fun and playfulness, and a commitment to building community—both in its neighborhood near the University of Arkansas, and in sourcing beans that are ethically traded and sustainably farmed. The staff are patient and friendly, and genuinely enthusiastic about the coffee they serve. The café regularly hosts special events for its devoted faithful, like foam art contests and cold brewing classes. Try the Ethiopian espresso or the La Esperanza (Colombian) coffee; take home a pound of freshly roasted Brazil Glaucio Carneiro to extend your coffee bliss.
Spring For Coffee
Los Angeles, California, United States
Their motto is “Know The Difference,” and the difference is organic, artisanal and brewed by staff who are passionate about the craft. Part of the revitalization of the once-gritty, better-avoided, downtown Los Angeles, Spring For Coffee is located on Spring Street, across from Broadway. Take in the Art Deco architecture, theaters and burgeoning retail scene in the historic corridor and amble over to this tiny café for cold-brew, or watch a Chemex pourover percolate into your cup. Featuring Coava, Ritual and Stumptown coffee, among other carefully selected beans.
Café de l’Ambre
Located in the historically chic Ginza district of Tokyo, home since the Edo period to luxury shopping and haute couture, this cozy café has presented aged, pour-over coffees in a classic, unpretentious atmosphere for over 60 years. Step into the dark-paneled wood interior, with its whiff of old smoke, and it’s easy to imagine decades of Tokyo’s most Westernized denizens passing a pleasant afternoon here. Over two dozen meticulously roasted, single-bean varieties and blends from the world’s best coffee regions are available. The iced coffee is served with matching coffee ice cubes to avoid diluting or adulterating the flavor. The retro sign in the window—which reads, in English, “PERFECT / OWN ROAST / HAND DRIP”—says it all.
Morning Glass Coffee + Café
Hawai‘i’s answer to third wave cafés can be found in two Honolulu locations —tucked away amid the green of Mānoa Valley, and embedded in Fishcake, a design store in the trendy neighborhood of Kaka‘ako. A third edition in Osaka adds alcoholic beverages and a larger floor size but retains the feel of the Honolulu mothership.
Morning Glass’s owner, Eric Rose, is a veteran of the coffee business in the Pacific Northwest and sought to change and improve the approach to doing a café, focusing on great coffee and great food. He starts with fresh beans and his staff strives to use their supply within 10–12 days of roasting for peak flavor. Each cup is ground to order—so expect to wait a few minutes for your pourover. The menu includes innovative drinks—dirty green tea latte, anyone? (Hint: it has a shot of espresso). The Mānoa location is known for its well-portioned savory skillet dishes and occasional pop-up restaurant nights. Try a zingy gingerbread cookie or scone made with local honey, or the mac and cheese pancake (bacon optional). The Mānoa spot has dog-friendly seating, a rarity in the city.