Last year on my birthday, I wrote a post listing all of the locations I had visited since my previous birthday to have a coffee. I hadn’t kept track throughout the year or necessarily attempted to reach such a significant number, but I worked out the list anyway. One thing I learned is how creepy the specificity of location tracking that Google does on our mobile devices, and the other was how clearly I could track my life through these places.
Something specific (not just coffee) had brought me to each of these cafes: the first stop on a stroll about a new city, a long overdue visit with a family member, or a particularly memorable solo camping trip. This year, I didn’t post any sort of list. Mostly because it would have given my family and friends more evidence to use against me in what I expect to be an inevitable coffee intervention. But I can tell you it is likely (read: definitely) a longer list than last year. Across the five countries that I’ve spent time in on this trip, here some of my coffee shop highlights in each.
1. Pergamino Café – Carrera 37, #8-37, Medellín, Antioquia, Colombia (https://us.pergamino.co/)
Funky tunes from D’Angelo and smells of freshly ground roasted coffee filled the air at Pergamino Cafe. The few weeks I spent in the country prior to coming to Medellín had me realizing that the overwhelming majority of Colombians, though surrounded by some of the best coffee in the world, are very used to drinking cafe tinto (low grade) or spending more on a cup from the commercially produced Juan Valdez. Thankfully, local roasters in Colombia are taking their product back and showcasing just how amazing of a product the country has. I knew had walked into the right place first when I heard the music and second when my request for a cup of coffee was answered by “Bueno, ¿cuál variedad prefiere? [What variety would you like?]” with the barista indicating towards their daily selection menu complete with tasting notes.
- Fun fact: pergamino literally translates to ‘parchment’ and refers to the stage of the coffee bean after drying where a parchment-like layer is removed before roasting
- Shout-Out / Runner-Up award goes to Santo Kaffeto in Manizales. If you are friendly enough with the baristas, they may even invite you to stay in their home and take you to their uncle’s finca for the weekend.
2. TINI – #57, St.450 Toul Tom Poung 1, 12310, Cambodia (https://www.facebook.com/TiniPP450/)
“TINI is tiny”: my first thought upon walking into this shop was the aptness its name. Located just near Phnom Penh’s Russian Market, the calmness and indoor air conditioning are a welcome respite from the heat and rush of the city around. In addition to the perfect cortado that I ordered, TINI also offers wines and a selection of cocktails.
- Shout-Out / Runner-Up award to The Hive in Siem Reap for their cortados, key lime pie, and for suggesting a good place to get a haircut.
3. Tranquil Books & Coffee – 5 Nguyễn Quang Bích, Cửa Đông, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam (https://www.facebook.com/cafetranquil/)
I did a lot of wandering around Hanoi. Even when I wasn’t meaning to waste time, I spent a lot of time walking down unintended streets due to my inability to read street signs and my avoiding of traffic-heavy streets. One of my wandering days led me to chalkboard signs with the words ‘Tranquil Coffee” and other writing in Vietnamese. After several walks around the same block, I eventually found my way into the hidden cafe. Although in retrospect, I don’t expect it was that hidden. I’d wager that the unintelligible Vietnamese on the sign likely said something along the lines of “cafe located down next alley to the left”.
Inside was fantastic. The name fits perfectly as there were only two others inside sipping cups of tea and some quiet Vietnamese music being played on vinyl. The coffee was great but I spent even more time with their massive pots of tea to keep me company while reading.
- Shout-Out / Runner-Up award to Note Cafe down the road at 64 Lương Văn Can. Every drink comes with a happy little note attached to it and the walls of the cafe are filled with notes from previous customers.
4. Creeda Board Game Cafe – Ground Floor, Wallace St, Azad Maidan, Fort, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001, India (http://creeda.in/)
Mumbai also saw my wandering side. My article on day wasting was even written here. I had been jetting around Indian cities for a month and only had 8 hours to kill before coming back to the station for a ride to Goa. Soon after stepping off the train in Mumbai Central, I found Creeda where I came in for a quick browse of the games and a coffee. At the time there were no other patrons inside and I couldn’t play any of the games solo but after I stuck around for long enough, my conversation with two baristas turned into a great game of Catan. Day wasted.
- Nostalgia award goes to Happiness Lab / Elm City Games in New Haven, CT, my home city’s own board game cafe. I was lucky to have worked there for a brief amount of time, sad to see its eventual closing, and excited to see what new projects the owners take on next.
5. Home Bru Graft Cafe – Retail 12 Beacon Rock, 21 Lighthouse Road, Umhlanga Rocks, Durban, 4320, South Africa (https://homebru.co/)
“I’m Home, Bru” reads a text that I sent to one of my Durban friends after returning to the six-month home that I left “for good” the previous year. The message dually functioned by letting my friend know that I was indeed back, as well as providing my suggestion of our meeting place that night.
Home Bru is a ‘graft cafe’, a place which I’ve always called a ‘co-working space’ or ‘impact hub’. For those who haven’t been to any place described by these words, it’s essentially a shared office that provides space for remote employees or single person companies to work in a collaborative environment. I can’t really be called an employee of anything (yet) so I spent most of my time in the front which also serves as an excellent coffee shop, wine bar, and hang out spot (surf videos play on the TV screens all day to give you a sense of the vibe).
- I must also thank Colombo Coffee, a roasting chain that supplies much of the coffee to the better shops around Durban (including Home Bru); their Durban North location is where I was able to pick up new Aeropress filters to feed my coffee addiction between cafe stops.
Pergamino – from their Facebook page
TINI – from their Facebook page
Tranquil – from http://www.hanoihideaway.com/tranquil/
Creeda- from their official website
Home Bru – from their Facebook page