Iceland

Your Guide to Iceland Coffee Culture

February 10, 2020 by Claire Hannum

Iceland is the land of cozy sweaters, rugged natural beauty, glaciers galore…and more espresso
than you can ever dream of. Icelanders are the 4 th largest coffee drinkers in the world per
capita, so it’s no surprise that Icelandic coffee culture has captured the attention of travelers
(and of course, café-loving hipsters) from around the world.
Thanks to the country’s famously tightknit atmosphere, Icelandic cafes operate as cozy homes
away from home. On this island, you won’t find a single Starbucks. What you’ll find instead are
a series of small locally-grown chains and creative independent roasters who are reinventing
the coffee game one cup at a time.

   
So, What Makes Icelandic Coffee So Good?

Iceland is a nation of around just 360,000. Reykjavik, Iceland’s capital (of both government and
coffee), has only about 130,000 residents. Operating in such a small community makes for high
competition among local cafes, and in turn, the island’s trademark strong roasts regularly
receive international acclaim.
Icelandic coffee is generally prepared in styles similar to Italian techniques, which means lots of
lattes, cappuccinos, and espressos. But local baristas don’t just stop at tried-and-true methods.
They’re always eager to experiment, try new things, and share their newfound techniques with
their pals in the industry. As a result, you’ve got a café scene that is constantly evolving and
innovating – and on this island, coffee is about quality over quantity. Even the leading local
coffee chains have just a dozen or so shops each, preferring instead to focus on perfecting their
craft.

How To Enjoy An Icelandic Cafe

Coffee has been a key part of Icelandic hospitality for hundreds of years. Whether you’re at one
of Iceland’s two leading coffee roasters, (Te & Kaffi and Kaffitár) or one-of-a-kind local joint,
you’ll notice that coffee is served with a warmth and politeness that you might experience as a
guest in someone’s home. When you step into a Reykjavik café from the chilly outdoors, you’ll
be greeted with a burst of warm air and a cozy hum of conversation. You might spot friends and
neighbors sharing the day’s events over caffeine, hunched over tables as they chat animatedly.
Don’t be afraid to discuss your favorite roasting and preparation methods with your barista –
many are more than eager to talk shop! Free wifi and even free refills flow all day long. You can
expect just about any type of coffee to be available at any cafe, except for one: decaf.
Icelanders have little interest in decaf, with demand so low that most cafes only sell a few cups
per day. Don’t be surprised if your barista can’t serve you a cup of it on the spot!

What To Order

If you want to order Reykjavik coffee like a local, you’ll want to know that lattes are especially
popular here. Many locals also love regular black coffee, because of its many flavor variations
and possibilities. But of course, you’re also more than welcome to try any type of coffee on the menu! The vast majority of Icelanders speak English, but if you want to order in Icelandic, the
word for coffee is easy enough to remember: it’s kaffi.

If you’re ready to get to know Iceland’s coffee scene yourself, why not drop into a café in the
morning before a day of exploring Reykjavik? Throw on your warmest sweater, order a
steaming hot mug of Icelandic joe, and caffeinate away. Cheers to that!

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WRITTEN BY

Claire Hannum

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