First things first: There’s no such thing as “best” when it comes to coffee advice. People have different palates and different needs, so really, this guide isn’t so much geared to finding coffee for you as it is finding you and then getting some nice coffee. But that’s totally fine, as you’re probably in Iceland to find yourself anyway.
First, you have classic Italian coffee. This is the dark-roast, bitter, thick brew that hits your palate in a sharp but pleasing way. The king of the crop here is Kaffifélagið, but Prikið also serves a gut-punch of an espresso that’ll put hair on your chest, which can be unfortunate for women.
Third wave / Scandinavian coffee
In recent years, a new style of coffee-making has come forth that’s all about roasting the coffee lightly so it’s less bitter and burnt and leaves more of the beany taste behind. While Italian coffee is about consistency, third wave—what we call this new style—is about variety. Reykjavík Roasters has been the local standard bearer for third wave beans and cups. Pallett in Hafnarfjörður is also a popular place for this, especially among Grapevine journalists. Recently, upstart roastery Kvörn has been making (third) waves, as have Bismút and Kaffi Laugalækur, with Bismút winning our coveted “Best Coffee House” award in this year’s Best of Reykjavík Awards.
I cribbed this term from typeface history to describe Kaffitár on Bankastræti, which has a brew that sits somewhere snugly between the two styles, darker than the fruity Scandinavian tones, but not quite the deep aroma of Italian.
African describes a super dark brew, or burnt, really, to my weak-ass palate. Many of my friends swear by it. I don’t. The place of legend for this style of coffee is Café Haiti, a place with a slightly corny decor and a good selection of cakes, or in other words, a relaxing, unpretentious space. The service is lovely and friendly, and it never seems very crowded.
A lovely latté
If you’re looking for a consistently great latté, Te & Kaffi is the place to go. They have branches all over the place and will do even Starbucks-like frappos, but their regular coffee drinks are much better than what you’d expect from a chain, certainly a few steps above Starbucks, Costa, Segafredo and the like.
Just an espresso for me, takk
Most people that are into espressos go for the Italian variety, as the Scandinavian light roast can get pretty sour. Kaffifélagið is a popular spot.
Pumpkin spice latté frappuccino with extra sprinkles
Te & Kaffi are the best at “speciality orders”. By the way, I ordered their vaunted “Pumpkin Spice Latté” the other day, years after hearing Americans buzz about this drink of legend. Did you know that it’s just a regular latté plus sugar and cinnamon? And most cafés have cinnamon that you can just get for free. Don’t get a pumpkin spice latté! Grow the fuck up and stop diluting your coffee with sweeteners like an overgrown toddler. No time like the present. You can do it, we believe in you!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!