Where to Get a Good Coffee in Asia
Asia a continent of tea? Get with it. Of the top twenty green coffee producers, Asia produces 28% of the crop. More and more of the stuff is being consumed at or close to home too, as these choice coffeehouses attest.
Serious hardware at Loysel’s Toy, Singapore – Photo credit
542/2 Rattanakhet Road, Chiang Rai
You may not always know it in Bangkok or Phuket but they do take coffee very seriously in some parts of Thailand. Namely the northern region of the Golden Triangle, where hill tribes still cultivate the cherry the traditional way. In a country where instant dominates the domestic market, how nice to stumble upon a knowledgeable, urbane coffee enclave like Doi Chaang@Art in Chiang Rai. The café’s motto – ‘Beyond Fair Trade’ – says it all.
Where to stay: Le Meridien Chiang Rai Resort
Seniman Coffee Studio
Jalan Sriwedari, Ubud, Bali
Indonesia produces over 800,000 tonnes of coffee per annum – good enough for third in the world. A commonly held belief is that the traditional Hindu agricultural system of Subak Abian is why Bali is a doyen of fair trade and organic coffee production. One trip to Ubud’s phenomenal Seniman Coffee Studio is sufficient proof.
Where to stay: The Samaya Ubud Villas
Café de l’Ambre
Ginza 8-10-15, Tokyo
Shots of caffeine have become as de rigeur for Tokyo’s salarymen as post-work shots of shochu at the local izakaya. Plenty of quality shops cater to the city’s new (and old) crop of coffee lovers but only one is iconic and next-level at the same time. Café de l’Ambre has been on the scene since 1949 and still uses the shop’s original roaster. The café’s 95-year-old owner is a staunch apostle of high grade coffee and, in a sense, is the barista answer to Jiro Dreams of Sushi.
Where to stay: Mandarin Oriental Hotel Tokyo
21 Hang Gai Street, Hanoi
Vietnam produces more coffee than any country save Brazil and, from Hue to Ho Chi Minh City, the beverage is ritualised to an extent well familiar to Romans, Parisians and Sydneysiders. Hanoi’s Little Hanoi is a café for purists that takes pride in local materials for the décor and local beans for the drinks.
Where to stay: Essence Hotel Hanoi
Jalan Transfer, corner of Jalan Argyle, George Town, Penang
A proclivity for sweet, milky kopi and liberica (the poor cousin to arabica and robusta), gives Malaysia a bad rap in some aesthete coffee circles. Shame because you can get a stellar cup in the likes of Kuala Lumpur or Ipoh if you know where to look. One legendary coffeeshop is Toon Leong in UNESCO World Heritage George Town. No frills equals good vibes and memorable coffee – and, yes, it tastes all the better with bread, butter and kaya (coconut jam).
Where to stay: Yeng Keng Hotel Penang
236 Xiyuan Rd., Section 1, Taipei
Taiwan’s coffee culture was a little slow on the uptake (the island is oolong tea country, after all) but bean counters and hipsters from Taipei to Kaohsiung have made up for lost time over the last decade. Local and global coffee chains have come, of course, but, happily, small-batch connoisseurs and entrepreneurs as well. All good news, since coffee production in Taiwan is at a zenith. Mica is a paragon of the coffee-as-métier sensibility. Baristas at the handsome shop deftly handle the siphon as well as the piston espresso machine.
Where to stay: San Want Taipei Residences
66 Kampong Bugis, Singapore
Singapore has some of the best sushi, dim sum, pastry shops and hawker food in the world. Is it much of a surprise, then, that the city-state has gone the whole nine yards to become a coffee city in the mold of a Melbourne or San Francisco? Probably not. With a lot of fancy hotel cafés to choose from, skip the posh digs for Loysel’s Toy, where coffee – from cherry to cup – is a craft as much as a beverage.
Where to stay: PARKROYAL on Beach Road
No. 41, Lane 248 Taikang Lu, Shanghai
Run by a Japanese expat (whose name, incidentally, is not Dan) with a manic, obsessive focus on coffee, Café Dan roasts, blends and brews the good stuff from Ethiopia and Hawaii.
Where to stay: Pullman Shanghai Skyway Hotel
Café Espresso Kampot
#17, Kampot 07402, Cambodia
You can procure wonderful coffee in Phnom Penh (the Raffles’ Café Monivong pulls a good espresso) but for the prime cherry – literally – drive 150km southwest on National Highway 3 to the province of Kampot. Famous for fish sauce and black pepper, it is Kampot’s coffee agriculture that elicits swoons from baristas the world over. Café Espresso Kampot is exactly what you want in a first choice coffeeshop too: unpretentious, clandestine and with utter emphasis on product.
Where to stay: Raffles Hotel Le Royal Phnom Penh
Are you a coffee fanatic? Where in Asia have you had a memorable cup? Share your coffee tales with us!