It was easy to think that living in San Francisco meant that we had some of the best craft coffee around. Walking down Valencia Street in the Mission district, stumbling upon hipster coffee shops minimally decorated with oak wood panels and shades of white and sipping artisan cappuccinos made me feel, well cool. I thought I had seen it all – come on there’s some of the biggest artisanal coffee brands in San Francisco and sure they’re great but then I traveled.
I traveled to Melbourne, Australia. To say my taste was ruined would be a complete understatement. I took a cupping course from one of the best roasters in Australia and found there was more to your cup of espresso then just “pouring a shot.” Coffee has it’s own scale of rating similar to the point scale of wine. The coffee in Melbourne, was refined, rarely bitter, and poured to perfection. A friend always told me that Australia was the coffee mekka of the world and she was right.
I traveled to Paris, France. Atmosphere is of course a draw for most cafes, why else would you spend countless hours somewhere if you didn’t enjoy the space? The Parisian cafes nailed atmosphere almost too perfectly. Whether it was the iconic cafes or the up and coming spaces, I could of spent the entire trip just café hopping, looking for the next space to find myself day dreaming in.
I traveled to Athens, Greece. Sure we have great “frappuccinos” in America but have you had a frappe? This cold beverage beckons an afternoon in the Mediterranean sun. I have yet to find one in the states that matches this Greek foam covered iced coffee (perhaps its because typically they are made with instant coffee powder). I still thirst for these afternoon treats on a sunny day.
I traveled to Sorrento, Italy. Rich history, almost a hundred years to date, have the Italians been pouring espresso. The machines are flawless (most cafes around the world use Italian machines) and the beans are roasted smooth for taste. Then again there is the element of being in Italy, you know the Italian charm I am speaking of. So points to Italy for atmosphere and flavor and making me wish I was always in some back cobblestone alley sitting down for a caffeine break.
So I come home back to San Francisco and needlessly wander through the city looking for a cold frappe on a warm summer day in Dolores Park. I look for the quaint, old world French bistro café where I can spend countless hours people watching. I look for the craft pour, done with technique and artistic intent. Travel may have ruined it for me. Coffee around the world is unique to each culture and perhaps that’s why I travel – to experience every culture and it’s special craft. I hear Vietnam has espresso topped coconut ice cream, that’s the next place on my list to visit.
Northern Vietnam – Hanoi specifically – has mind blowingly good coffe culture. Try caphe trung (raw egg coffee) and caphe sua chua (coffee with yogurt) – both delectable! 🙂
I love this article. 🙂 I had the same experience after having tea in London and espresso in Rome – they’re not the same again. I’ve found (convinced myself?) that’s one of my favorite things about travel – finding the local tastes that I can’t find anywhere else. San Francisco sourdough really is special, and NY cheesecake is incomparable. Maine lobster rolls can’t be forgotten, and olive oil in Tuscany is indescribable. These things feel like cliches, but my tastebuds don’t mind one bit!
I was wondering whether I can use your coffee photos above for my Facebook page ‘C is for Coffee’. The idea is to combine coffee, travel and photography. Basically just like in your photo. Obviously I can mention your name and the location where the photo was taken. Hope to hear from you soon and feel free to like the page. Thanks!