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Where To Find The Best Coffee Shops On The Planet

From the Americas to Australia, here are the places to get a damn fine espresso

  • The Coffee Collective, Copenhagen. Photograph courtesy of Coffee Collective

We’ve come a long way from the gritty granules and stewed jugs of hours-old filter coffee of the 1990s. Today, ground coffee consumption is at an all-time high. Just shy of 150 million 60kg bags were consumed last year. Despite that, it’s still easy enough to get a bad cup of joe, and many of the coffee chains that have eaten up the streets of the world’s great cities are certainly guilty of spewing out duff, over-roasted drinks. But from third-wave roasters in the world’s great new food cities to the classic cafés of old Europe, it’s worth ignoring the welcoming gaze of that two-tailed mermaid and her corporate brethren to find a great brew from somewhere that puts its soul into every cup. Here are seven great coffee roasters and bars from around the world that are worth seeking out. Hold the caramel macchiato.

01. Barista Parlor, Nashville

  • Barista Parlor, Germantown, Nashville. Photograph courtesy of Barista Parlor

Opened in 2011, Barista Parlor has rapidly become Music City’s most lauded coffee house. Its original location on Gallatin Avenue is set in half of an old car repair garage. The other half is a sharp-looking clothes shop and hair salon called Local Honey, whose window signs declare “YOU ARE OK”. You certainly will be when you enter Barista Parlor.

Art plays a big role in Mr Andy Mumma’s coffee haven. A huge mural by local artist Mr Bryce McCloud hangs over the room, the centrepiece of which is a handmade Slayer espresso machine. It all looks magnificent. And that’s before you get to the coffees, which come from some of the best roasters in the US (such as Stumptown and Four Barrel) and change daily. While the coffee is handpicked from across the country, everything else, from the staff uniforms and aprons to the ceiling lights and the sausage in the biscuit, is sourced locally.

The second BP location, a collaboration with The Black Keys’ Mr Dan Auerbach, opened in 2014 in the old Golden Sound recording studios, and a third in the city’s Germantown in 2015. Expect more, because each one looks so good it could break your heart like a country song.

Ground control

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02. Onibus Coffee, Tokyo

  • Onibus, Naka-Meguro, Tokyo. Photographs courtesy of Onibus

  • Photographs courtesy of Onibus

Tokyo is a city full of Starbucks-like chains (and plenty of actual Starbucks), but speciality roasters and indies are slowly creeping into the mainstream in the Japanese capital. Onibus Coffee opened in 2012 as a roasting company before later opening a café near Naka-Meguro station, south of Shibuya.

Owner Mr Sakao Atsushi was inspired by a trip to Australia in his mid-twenties where he witnessed first-hand the rising third-wave artisanal coffee culture. Mr Atsushi returned to Tokyo determined to recreate the community ethos he’d witnessed in the streetside cafés Down Under, so decided to open his own roastworks and serving window.

That was followed by this Naka-Meguro café. The venue, an old okayu (rice porridge) restaurant, is sandwiched between a children’s park and the train tracks, and has become a haven for both commuters and an easygoing family crowd keen for a single-origin espresso and a comfortable, pared-back place to pause.

Mr Atsushi also sells stunningly packaged beans, both single-origin and his own blend. The Mr Piet Mondrian-esque labels look so good you’ll be loath to open them.

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03. Caffè Al Bicerin, Turin

  • Caffe al Bicerin, Turin. Photograph by Mr Paul Dykes

While Barista Parlor and Onibus reflect the most modern trends in global coffee, Caffè Al Bicerin isn’t interested in minimal Scandi interiors or T-shirt- and apron-sporting bearded baristas. This is la vecchia scuola.

The owners – historically mostly women – have been serving Torino’s signature brew, bicerin, since 1763. The place reeks of history. You can sit at the favourite table of Mr Camillo Benso di Cavour, unified Italy’s first prime minister. Author Mr Alexandre Dumas and philosopher Mr Friedrich Nietzsche drank here. Composer Mr Giacomo Puccini worked on Manon Lescaut here before Mr Arturo Toscanini conducted its world premiere at the Teatro Regio in 1893.

The bicerin itself is a curiosity that may turn off purists: a rich hot chocolate with an added layer of espresso and fresh cream. But the drink, named after the glass it’s served in, has been beloved by locals, rich and poor, for more than two centuries. As has the café that invented it and took its name. Sitting right in front of the Santuario della Consolata, one of the city’s major basilicas, the ’n poc ’d tut (a little of everything) became a sugary boost for those who’d fasted for communion. With much of the building still the same as it was in the 1800s, including the main counter, this is no rapido espresso joint. It is a place to linger and to drink in the history, maybe with a slice of torta di nocciole.

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04. Drop Coffee, Stockholm

  • Drop Coffee, Stockholm. Photographs by Ms Nina Lindgren, courtesy of Drop Coffee

  • Photographs by Ms Nina Lindgren, courtesy of Drop Coffee

Drop Coffee began life as a small coffee bar with a one-kiln bean roaster in 2009. Just three years later it had opened a separate roaster with 25 times the capacity and was supplying java to some of the world’s finest coffee shops, from London to Berlin to New York. The reason for this rapid growth? Well, Swedes love coffee, whether it’s for the morning rush or a slow afternoon cup with some freshly cooked cardamon buns, and the modishly designed midcentury-modern-style Drop Coffee just so happens to roast the best brew in the country.

Mr Stephen Leighton of British roasters Has Bean in Stafford joined the company in 2015. Alongside his co-owner and reigning Swedish roasting champion Ms Joanna Alm, Drop Coffee has won awards across Sweden and came second in the world roasters championship in 2015.

In the Mariatorget café, Bolivian, Colombian, El Salvadorian, Ethiopian and Kenyan beans, all supplied directly from the farmers, are brewed to perfection in a venue that drips with Scandinavian cool. Go there for breakfastlunch or fika.

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05. The Coffee Collective, Copenhagen

  • Coffee Collective, Bernikow, Copenhagen. Photograph by Mr Chris Tonnesen, courtesy of The Coffee Collective

After starting as a warehouse roaster, The Coffee Collective now has four locations in the coffee-mad city. The largest is in an old industrial building in Frederiksberg, there’s a brand new venue downtown and a commuter favourite next to Nørreport station. But the new venue on Jægersborggade (also home of its first, now closed) may be the finest.

It’s designed to look like an apartment, with staff serving you from the kitchen. And as we’re in Copenhagen, that means the interiors are slick and good looking. The staff are, too. Here, simple wooden furniture in Scandi greys and whites is given a boost of colour by huge portraits of the people who farmed the beans. The Coffee Collective, as the name suggests, is keen to show off its Direct Trade (its trademark) credentials. It even goes so far as to list and picture those Kenyan, Guatemalan and Ethiopian farmers with whom it deals directly (a process explained in its book God Kaffe, the title of which you can probably translate yourself).

Pop in to warm up from the Copenhagen cold with a stunning flat white. Perhaps stay for the barista courses or coffee-tasting classes on offer. Or on the first Friday of the month, Messrs Klaus Thomsen and Caspar Rasmussen, two of the coffee fanatics behind the collective, offer a tour of the Frederiksberg roastworks.

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06. Eightfold Coffee, Los Angeles

  • Coffee at Eightfold Coffee. Photograph by Ms Skandia Shafer, courtesy of Eightfold Coffee

  • Interior at Eightfold Coffee. Photograph by Ms Yuki Shingai Newport, courtesy of Eightfold Coffee

Minimalist, light, good-looking, cool and arty. Eightfold, which opened in late 2015, fits right in in Echo Park, one of Los Angeles’ hippest boroughs.

Its owner, Ms Soo Kim, came from New York to LA with a pedigree for design rather than hot beverages. That much is obvious from the wooden open shelves on the wall and the marble serving counter, but the coffee is great, too. The bar itself exclusively sells coffee from Portland’s revered Heart Roasters (alongside imported green teas from Kyoto).

Its name comes from the eight stages of self-discovery in Mr Hermann Hesse’s novel Siddhartha. The last stage is concentration. Ms Kim has made the perfect place for that. Among the handful of tables is a magazine rack stocked with some of LA’s best zines and journals, supplied by local publisher and bookshop & Pens. That certainly beats trudging through Twitter on the free Wi-Fi. Though, naturally, you can still do that, too.

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07. Single O, Sydney

  • Single O, Surry Hills, Sydney. Photograph courtesy of Single O

It would be remiss, on a dash around some of the world’s most interesting café bars, to skip the home of new-wave coffee culture. To Australia, then, home of Single O in Sydney. It opened nearly 15 years ago, as Single Origin Roasters, in Surry Hills. As well as that brew bar, the Single O team has since opened a roastworks out in Botany (which sells wholesale), a streetside bar in the central business district and, interestingly, a roastery and tasting bar in Tokyo. If that doesn’t give you a sense of its ambition, then how about its involvement in the invention of The Juggler, a chilled milk-dispensing system that does away with fiddling around with plastic bottles?

Suffice to say, the notion of having an ethical supply line is treated seriously. As is the environment. The Botany roastworks runs on solar power and Single O has started free coffee schemes in a bid to tackle the scourge of paper coffee cups.

It’s the kind of enterprise that makes you wish you were a Sydneysider. And if you are, reason – as if you needed a final one – to make that trip to Starbucks your last.

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