I’ll never forget the cappuccino I had in Paris, France when I was 16 years old, sitting in an outdoor cafe near Notre Dame. Growing up in a mid-sized Southern Californian suburb, I’d grown up to think of our local Starbucks as the pinnacle of coffee crafting (LOL). Boy, was I in for a treat on that first trip to Paris! The espresso was sweet, not bitter. I learned the word “crema” and tasted its richness. The milk was nothing like the sudsy stuff of watery cappuccinos past. It was fine and luscious, with a viscosity that lasted the whole drink through. That, day, I joined the tribe of coffee lovers.
Ever since my Parisian summer of cappuccino love, I’ve made it a point to visit as many local cafes as possible when I travel. My experiences were likely akin to yours: A mix of good and not-the-best, with some memorable gems, interwoven.
In fact, that Parisian experience inspired me to become a barista a few years later. I worked for five years across three cafes in California before becoming a full-time writer. Coffee, travel, and writing are the trifecta of life in my opinion. And I’ve had the good fortune to travel quite a bit so far.
That’s why I want to share my top 9 coffee destinations to put on your bucket list if you love coffee as much as me. So pour yourself a cup of your favorite java, and let’s take a tour around the world.
1. Paris, France
First up is Paris, France. As I mentioned in my introduction, Paris is where I had my first truly amazing cup of coffee. The city is known for its café culture, and there’s nothing quite like sipping a coffee at an outdoor café while people watching.
2. San Juan, Puerto Rico
Next on the list is San Juan, Puerto Rico. I am half Puerto Rican and spent my childhood summers on the island. The coffee scene in Puerto Rico is often overlooked, but it shouldn’t be. The island has a long history of coffee production, and there are some amazing coffee shops to visit. But if you really want to get an authentic experience, ask a local about “cafecitos.”
Coffee is so expensive on the island that most Puerto Ricans can’t afford to drink it. Instead, they combine a thickly-prepared instant coffee with condensed milk. It’s shocking how delicious it is and it’s always the first thing I ask for when visiting family in Las Piedras.
3. San Francisco, California
San Francisco, California has a thriving coffee culture, with some of the most celebrated roasters and cafes in the country. I lived in the Bay Area for a few years, and your choices for world-class coffee are numerous.
Most baristas I met there were passionate about latte art, too. In San Francisco, my take was that coffee is the revered focal point; but really served more as a magnet for literature, discourse, debate, and art.
4. Tangier, Morocco
Tangier, Morocco might not be the first place that comes to mind when you think of coffee, but it should be. The coffee in Tangier is strong and bold, and the cafes are filled with locals savoring incredibly rich ibrik-style brewed coffee.
I reached Tangier by boat across the Straight of Gibraltar. When I arrived, I wandered into a small local café where smoke and intense coffee aromas greeted me. It was an experience with coffee I’ll never forget because of how dense and otherworldly-delicious it was. Side note: It was served with honeycomb and the pairing is probably in my top 5 most scrumptious ever.
5. Toronto, Canada
Toronto, Canada is another underrated coffee destination. The city has a diverse coffee scene, with everything from specialty cafes to local roasters. I was there for a week for a conference in the summer and let me tell you: The bespoke scene is thriving.
I had incredibly bright and fresh iced coffee and cold brew that definitely kept me alert throughout long conference sessions!
6. New York, New York
New York, New York is a must-visit destination for coffee lovers. The city is home to some of the best coffee shops in the world, and there’s always something new to discover. I like a straight-up Americano when in New York.
One thing I always hear when I am in New York and talking to baristas from other places is that the water in New York is really dang good. Good water makes great coffee (and other food.)
7. Eugene, Oregon
Finally, there’s Eugene, Oregon. This small city in the Pacific Northwest is not just home to me and my family now. It’s also home to a booming coffee scene of many coffee lovers, with some amazingly passionate roasters and cafes. Coffee tends to be a community-rallying force across the world, but you really feel that in Eugene.
The focus on single-origin coffee varieties and clean, organic processing is discernable in simple black brewed coffee here. We also have good water, making the coffee naturally brighter. Here I mainly stick to pour-overs and the classic French Press.
So There You Have It: My Top Seven Travel Destinations For Coffee Lovers
Whether you’re looking for a strong espresso or a creamy cappuccino, these cities have something for everyone. So pack your bags, grab your passport, and get ready to explore some of the best coffee destinations in the world.
- On our site: Develop Your Coffee Palate: The Art of Tasting Coffee
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-All photos are credited. Coffee cover photo by Ian Dooley on Unsplash.com