Coffee Around the World

Sumatran Coffee
I credit by brother, who took me to Starbucks for the first time when he was in college and I was 16, with my love of coffee.

My gateway to coffee drinking was the full-fat, wonderfully sweet caramel macchiato he placed in my hand that day.

Little did I know at that moment that I’d go on to sip Sumatra in Bali (see picture), drink a $15 latte in Switzerland (yikes!), or look forward to visits from friends in San Francisco who bring Blue Bottle Coffee beans with them when they travel.

I never dreamed that I’d have the chance to live abroad twice before I hit 35, or that I’d see much of Asia and Europe thanks to my career and my husband’s. When my brother and I went to Starbucks that day in the late 90s, I felt like my weekend in Colorado with my him was such adventure — and it was.

I was a 16 year old from a small, rural Missouri town. I had no way of knowing then that my life would hold so many more incredible journeys. These days I drink my coffee without caramel in it, but I still feel a little more connected to home — and to my family — because my brother taught me to enjoy coffee.

  • One of the best, and most accidentally expensive, cups of coffee I’ve ever had was in Switzerland. To this day, I remember the way the sun came down across the Alps and lit the outdoor cafe where I sat. (Note: I really need to get better at mentally calculating exchange rates.)
  • When I lived in Taipei, I found a cafe named after the musician Tom Waits. In the years leading up to my move to Taiwan, I listened to a lot of his music, so I occasionally snuck away to the Tom Waits’ Cafe for a coffee on weekend mornings.
  • I once spent 12 days in Mongolia’s South Gobi Desert. We traveled in Soviet-era vans and slept in ger camps. That was the adventure that taught me the beauty of those cheap little single-serving instant coffee packets. Just add water!
  • Now, as we travel around central Europe, I look for coffee shops that might be nice places to relax, have a coffee, and people-watch.

I’ve traveled through more than 20 countries, and I’ve had coffee in all of them. From cafes in Venice to a Starbucks at The Great Wall of China; from instant coffee on camping trips to McDonald’s coffee on road trips, coffee is part of my travels.

One of my absolute favorite coffee experiences in the world, though, is a pretty simple one: When I visit Missouri, I love sharing that first pot of morning coffee with my parents, comfy in our PJs, at their kitchen table. Blue Bottle is amazing, and that $15 coffee in Switzerland was ridiculous. Folgers, however, is the coffee that means that no matter where life takes me, I’m always welcome back home.

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  1. Beautifully written. As a fellow lover of coffee and traveling, this post warms my heart 🙂 Definitely pinning this!

  2. Beautifully written. As a fellow lover of coffee and traveling, this post warms my heart 🙂 Definitely pinning!

  3. I only recently started drinking coffee, and most people tell me it’s not really coffee, since I still can’t stand it black and have to have chocolate and milk in it… but whatever. When we traveled I used to try hot chocolate everywhere — from Hungary in a little hole in the wall place where the owner spoke no English and was the only smiling Hungarian we met as she tried to figure out what I was wanting to order… to the hot cocoa in the MANY cafes we stopped at in New Zealand. Oh man, Melissa, you have me missing traveling so much with this post!

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