Travel Rituals: Coffee First
There’s something special about enjoying coffee at a local café no matter where you go. Coffee is something I’ve grown passionate about over the past few years—there are few businesses that bring people together the way a good coffee shop can. Because of this, local coffee shops and cafés are my favorite medium to savor a taste of a culture—both literally and metaphorically.
Some who travel frequently develop rituals over time. For me, that’s stopping for coffee at a local café first thing upon arrival. It’s become one of my favorite things about traveling to a new destination because it’s such a good way to observe people in a focused setting. Each country has its own unique coffee traditions; it’s like a snapshot of the culture, which makes it a great way to start a visit.
- In the US, local coffee shops are frequented by people who need caffeine, a common meeting place, free wifi, or a place to study. It’s a utilitarian location that Starbucks aptly dubbed “a third place between work and home.” You can order any type of coffee at any time of day without anyone giving you a second look.
- In Germany, the tradition is kaffee und kuchen (“coffee and cake”), which makes coffee often an afternoon treat. Obviously apart from the morning coffee you drank at home when you woke at a reasonable hour, Ja?
- In Italy, espresso is king. Leisurely cappuccinos are savored at a café only in the morning, since it’s believed dairy isn’t good for the digestive system after 10:00 a.m. A shot of espresso, enjoyed standing at a bar (coffee bar, not alcohol bar), is acceptable any time of day.
- In France, you can enjoy a café au lait any time of the day and lounge at a sidewalk café as long as you like, but go early in the morning to get the freshest viennoiseries (croissants, pain au chocolat, etc.) with your coffee.
- In Belgium, coffee culture is still defining itself, so pretty much anything goes. But most shops take on a French or British style.
You can learn so many things about a location by spending some time at a local coffee shop. When I arrive at a new destination, I look forward to observing the area through the lens of a café, not to mention recharging from the journey with some caffeine. It’s a relaxed way to take in the surroundings and prepare for exploring.
Some Favorites (So Far):
- Café du Sablon | Brussels, Belgium
- Holy Cross Brewing Society | Frankfurt, Deutschland
- Noir Coffee Bar | Leuven, Belgium
- Principal’s Office | Colorado Springs, CO, USA
- Les Antiquaires | Paris, France
- Gingerbread | Bruges, Belgium
- What the Cake? | Strasbourg, France
- Texas Coffee House | Mons, Belgium