Coffee is an almost universally enjoyed beverage. Each morning, people around the world wake up and make a cup of coffee. It’s become deeply engrained in cultures as diverse as Vietnam, Ethiopia, and Sweden.
But while the basics are the same, coffee culture, and how coffee is brewed, varies greatly around the world. Some places, like Italy, tend to drink coffee on the go, while standing at a counter in a café or gas station. Other countries, like Ethiopia, linger over their coffee, attaching great ceremony and ritual to its consumption. Even the ingredients included and the brewing styles can vary. In Finland, for example, coffee is poured over cheese curds. In Australian and New Zealand, the drink of choice is called a flat white, a variation on a latte.
Here’s a look at the best places in the world for coffee culture, where visitors can experience the wide diversity that comes with brewing and drinking coffee.
Vietnam is the world’s second largest grower of coffee beans. The French brought coffee to Vietnam in 1857, so most Vietnamese coffee is made with darker roasts, as is the preference in France. Vietnam grows primarily robusta coffee, which is known for being high in caffeine and more bitter than arabica. Vietnamese coffee is typically brewed using a phin, a metal cup that sits over a mug and brews coffee slowly, allowing thick, strong coffee to develop. Cà phê đá, coffee with condensed milk is a popular drink, as is cà phê trứng, which is topped with a layer of thick, sweet egg cream.
As the world’s fifth largest coffee producer, Ethiopia is known for growing nuanced beans that delight coffee nerds seeking single-origin brews. Ethiopia claims to be the native home of coffee—though Yemen also makes that claim. In either case, coffee has existed here for hundreds of years. And it’s brewed and consumed through a traditional coffee ceremony that starts with roasting coffee beans on a flat iron pan over charcoal. The beans are then crushed with a stone block and brewed with cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom. There are three rounds of coffee consumed, with the older people drinking first. The entire ceremony can take an hour or two.
Blame it on the rain: Seattleites drink more coffee than any other city in the world. Coffee shops are ubiquitous in this city, which is also the home of the Starbucks coffee chain. Seattle borrows its coffee culture from other places around the world. It’s possible to slam espresso like an Italian, try a Vietnamese cà phê trứng, or sit for a coffee ceremony like an Ethiopian. But more often than not, you’ll just find Seattleites hovering over a latte in a café, with a laptop in front of them. Cafes take coffee seriously, pouring single origin brews and making complex foam art.
Scandinavians give Seattleites a run for their money when it comes to coffee consumption. Sweden is one of the world’s highest coffee consumers; drinking coffee is a way of life here. It’s often associated with the custom of fika, which loosely translates to “coffee and cake break.” Swedes drink coffee with a sweet treat, on a break from work with colleagues, or with friends at a café. It can take place several times a day—almost the equivalent of a cigarette break. Typical fika consists of coffee and a cinnamon bun.
Italians have consumed great quantities of coffee since it was introduced in the 1500s. Italians choose their style of coffee drink by the time of day–cappuccino at breakfast, caffè macchiato in the afternoon, and espresso after dinner. Italians don’t get their coffee to go when they order at cafes, instead knocking back a shot of espresso while standing at the bar.