The Art & Joy of Coffee Touring

08.11

I love to travel and thankfully get to do so quite often. However, my method for exploring new cities has changed over the years. Before leaving on trips, I use to bury myself in travel guides at the bookstore to map out what to do and see. But my strategy has shifted to combine my love of coffee with my love of travel to create much more fulfilling experiences. Coffee shops have become my bookstore and baristas my travel guides.

Coffee touring has many benefits, aside from tasting the best coffee a city has to offer. Here are some of the reasons why its become my preferred way to travel.

Unexpected Places
Many independent and progressive coffee shops can’t afford, or choose not to pay, rent near the city centers and tourist attractions. They tend to open shops in neighborhoods, art districts, and future up-and-coming parts of town. By visiting these shops, you find yourself in new parts of the city that a guide book may never lead you to. It also creates a trip unlike those who only visit the typical landmarks—most of which look the same as they do in pictures anyway, only with the mobs of people surrounding them. By allowing yourself to wander, you’ll gain a more unique and personal perspective of a place.

Baristas Know More Than Coffee
Any good barista will love talking about coffee, but there’s a pretty good chance they have other interests as well. If they aren’t too busy, engage them in a genuine conversation. They’re residents of the city you’re visiting after all, which make them wonderful people to talk with for recommendations on the best burrito joint, parks to relax in, art galleries to visit and even other coffee shops that aren’t on your list. I’ve learned about upcoming concerts, closing art exhibits and even parties to attend from talking with baristas. Just consider putting some of that money saved on travel guides in your barista’s tip jar!

Stay Energized
A seasoned coffee drinker can easily consume three beverages a day. And if you get them all at three different shops, you can cover a lot of ground in between. When I travel I try to walk everywhere I can. Even in cities with great transportation, you will see much more while walking than if you’re underground or even on a bus. Walking also allows you to take detours down alleys and try on that cute dress you passed in the thrift store window. You’ll have plenty of time to sit and recover at the next coffee shop.

Most coffee shops have some kind of food. Whether its pastries or paninis, you should be able to find something to hold you over until following that burrito recommendation.

While it’s generally frowned upon to make a coffee shop your personal office, there’s always the chance that you can plug in long enough to recharge your phone or camera. If they have wifi, don’t forget to check a map of the area and tweet Instagram photos of you planking on the La Marzocco Strada. Just be considerate, obviously.

Locals In The wild
One of the best ways to gain authentic insight to a place and its people is to view residents in their natural habitat. It’s in those instances when I often realize we’re all human with many of the same habits and vices, no matter what country or culture you’re from. Since locals tend to avoid the overcrowded tourist hubs, you won’t see many of them at cafés in Time Square and Covent Garden. So its the coffee shops in unexpected places, where you’ll find and meet the people who live there.

Planning a Coffee Tour
So how should one begin planning a coffee tour? Being here is a great place to start. There is a category on the right sidebar that lists all of the coffee tours I’ve published so far, and will give you suggestions for coffee shops worth adding to your list. You can follow DCILY on twitter and ask me for recommendations and I’ll do my best to help you find great coffee wherever you’re traveling.

Once you have a few coffee shops on your list, you can begin plotting which ones to visit that allow you to see the most. Be strategic. Sometimes you’ll find a couple great shops within a block or two of each other. If you plan to visit all of those on the same day, you may not make it out of that neighborhood. Once you get to your locations, talk with baristas, talk with locals and let those conversations help shape your trip.


These tours are by no means complete and are to be seen as inspirational suggestions for your own travels. If you know of any shops in the places I’ve been that I haven’t checked out, please leave a comment and let me know about them. Enjoy!

Past DCILY Tours
New York, New York
Portland, Oregon

Reykjavik, Iceland
Oslo, Norway
Copenhagen, Denmark
Göteborg, Sweden
Stockholm, Sweden: Part 1
Stockholm, Sweden: Part 2
Helsinki, Finland

posted by on 08.11.2011, under Coffee Touring, Misc., Recommended Roasters

Quality water equals quality coffee

09.28

Tomorrow is National Coffee Day, so what better way to celebrate than with a tip about an often overlooked way to improve the quality of your coffee and a contest to help you do just that. The coffee we all love so much is roughly 99% water, which means the quality of the water used to brew it, drastically affects the quality of the end product.

The water you use is very important to the quality of your coffee. Use filtered or bottled water if your tap water is not good or imparts a strong odor or taste, such as chlorine. If you are using tap water let it run a few seconds before filling your coffee pot. Be sure to use cold water. Do not use distilled or softened water. –The National Coffee Association

The Specialty Coffee Association of America even has standards of acceptability for the water used to brew the highest quality coffee possible. Now the last thing I would do is advocate using bottled water for making coffee—that’s ridiculous—however, I would suggest filtering what comes out of the tap.

I use to have a filtered water pitcher, but I left it behind during my recent move. Thankfully, PUR was kind enough to send me one that clicks easily onto my faucet. This means no more pitcher refilling and easy access to quality water, making sure all the coffee I brew is equally as good.

Check back tomorrow for the launch of the contest and all the details on how you can win your own PUR One-Click Faucet filter.

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posted by on 09.28.2010, under Coffee 101, Misc., Products