A Coffee Addict's Guide to the World
Would you mix your joe with cheese? Butter? Whiskey? Most of the world loves coffee, but you might be surprised by how they take it. Bring your morning cup on a world tour with 25 popular regional spins on the caffeinated classic.
Choosing a cup of coffee is about more than just milk or sugar. From the Ethiopian countryside where coffee was first discovered to the baroque cafes of imperial Europe to the high-tech streets of Tokyo, coffee has adapted to almost every culture—even infiltrating tea-loving strongholds such as India and Hong Kong. Here's your global guide to regional coffee styles: some that have caught on across the globe, some that represent a unique link to the area—and some that are just plain weird.
Description: The perfect cup should have a caramel-colored crema layer on top that is thick enough to support a spoonful of sugar for a few seconds before breaking.
Sip Tip: Espresso should be downed in one gulp while standing at the bar; if you sit at a table, that privilege will cost you up to four times more than standing.
Cafe: Experts claim you can find Rome's best espresso near the Pantheon, where water is sourced from springs by the Aqua Virgo, an aqueduct built in 19 B.C. The most popular with locals is at Caffe Sant'Eustachio, where Romans have been stepping up to the stainless-steel bar since 1938 for their morning brew—always presweetened here. Piazza Sant'Eustachio 82, santeustachioilcaffe.it, espresso $1.50.
Description: The most popular drink in Viennese cafes, Austria's take on cappuccino combines espresso and steamed milk, topped with milk foam or sometimes whipped cream.
Sip Tip: Cafes usually serve a glass of water with coffee, meant to be drunk between sips to hydrate and cleanse the palate.
Cafe: With its elegant rococo interiors and elaborate sugar displays in the front window, it's no wonder that the Demel cafe once served as the official confectionary of the Hapsburg imperial court. Don't skip a slice of Vienna's signature dessert, Sacher torte (chocolate cake, apricot jam, and dark chocolate icing). Kohlmarkt 14, demel.at, melange $5.40.
Description: In the birthplace of coffee, the drink may be served with salt or butter instead of milk and sugar (and a side of popped sorghum kernels) in the countryside, but sugar has become increasingly popular since the 1930s Italian occupation.
Sip Tip: If invited into someone's home for the elaborate hours-long coffee ceremony, don't stop drinking until you've had cup number three (called bereka), which is considered a blessing.
Cafe: Addis Ababa's Habesha Restaurant brings Ethiopia's rural traditions to the heart of the capital city: The coffee ceremony is performed throughout the day in a thatched hut in its outdoor dining area. Bole Rd. (next to the Sabit Building), 011-251/11-551-8358.
Mexico: Café de Olla
Description: Traditionally drunk at all-night Mexican wakes, the spiced drink is brewed in an earthenware pot with cinnamon sticks.
Sip Tip: Don't add extra sugar—the drink comes presweetened with piloncillo (unrefined dark brown sugar).
Cafe: Mexico City's El Bajío is widely considered one of the top spots for home-style Mexican cooking in the world. The original location is a bit off the tourist path in the northern district of Azcapotzalco, but their Polanco branch sits squarely in the city's upscale boutique-and-gallery district. Alejandro Dumas 7, carnitaselbajio.com.mx, café de olla $1.50.
Saudi Arabia: Kahwa
Description: A hallmark of Bedouin hospitality, the cardamom-infused drink is almost always offered with sweet dried dates, which counter the bitterness of the coffee.
Sip Tip: A younger person is always expected to pour coffee for his elders.
Cafe: Note that women are typically not welcome in Riyadh's traditional coffee and shisha (water pipe) shops. To get your caffeine fix as a Western tourist, you'll want to stick to the capital's more upscale hotels. At the Caravan Stop in the Hotel Al Khozama, you can sip coffee with traditional desserts like rosewater custard and almond puff pastry. Olaya Rd., al-khozama.com, desserts from $9.