If you are a coffee lover and you are planning to visit Iceland, let me put you in a situation.
In Iceland, you drink coffee, a lot of coffee!
In winter, the weather and the few hours of light are the culprits. In summer it is the desire to enjoy the long days without end. But the reason in both cases is the same: to stay awake!
Maybe it is because of its small size like provincial capital, to drink quality coffee is an easy task and a satisfaction to coffee lovers. Speciality coffee is present at almost every coffee place. The cafés are located at the street, in shops, bookstores, museums, etc …
The first thing you feel when you arrive in Iceland, is a slap of cold, clean air, in your face to remind you that you are far away from your usual environment. The second is, how your heart shrinks with the sight of the first fumaroles and lava fields.
If you decide to travel with a rented vehicle through Iceland (fully recommended) the first stop for that first coffee should be at Pallet, which is located in the coastal town of Hafnarfjörður, on the route from Keflavik airport to Reykjavik (note: the “f” sounds like a “p”).
Far from the rush of tourism with local customers and a warm family atmosphere, the Pallet Kaffi is run by Pálmar Þór Hlöðversson and David Anthony Noble, who were not there at the time of the visit. Kári Hrafn, a young and passionate barista, served and attended us to our needs. The espresso, blend of colombias, toasted by Kaffitár and mixed exclusively for them, was still in the testing phase which is why they could not provide us with information about it. The filter coffee “Venjulegt kaffi” (the filter coffee has received many different names) is also a colombia, roasted by Kaffibrugghusíð, a little more clear and ideal for V60.
From their menu of coffees, two options with Icelandic name stand out the most: the “Tvíhleypa”, which is a combination of cappuccino and espresso, served in different cups (something usual and that many people ask for) and “Jurtamjólk”, literally vegetable milk.
Apart from coffee they offer soups, breakfasts, meals and cakes, which are all “homemade” and made from local products.
KAFFITÁR – PERLAN MUSEUM
Kaffitár, the birthplace of many renowned Icelandic baristas, such as Sonja Grant or Tumi Ferrer, with a history linked to specialty coffee since the early 90s, has grown to become one of the two most important chains in Iceland with its coffee roastery and 7 cafés. 75% of their coffee is “direct trade” with its main origin Latin America. The coffee has a high-quality standard and is sustainable.
Linking a tourist spot with a good coffee is possible at the Perlan Museum, a symbolic building in the city of Reykjavik. You have access to the “Wonders of Iceland” tour on the lower floors. On the fourth floor (with free entry) there is an impressive glass dome with a 360⁰ terrace from where you can enjoy a wonderful view of the city and its surroundings. The café Kaffitár and a restaurant are located on the fifth floor.
In its coffee menu we could find: espresso, americano, cappuccino, latte, espresso macchiato and filter coffee “bolli með ábót” (cup with filling). It being summer, cold drinks are also on the menu, such as the ice versions of the previous ones, affogato and espresso tonic.
As a slow brew they only have a V60 hot or with ice.
They have two mills, one with the blend of the house “Húsablanda”(a combination of Central American, South American and Indonesian beans) and the other is a “single” ( the origin rotates).
We continued our trip to the corner of the street Hofsvallgata to Melhagi which is in the Vesturbær (west bay) district. There we found the Kaffihús Vesturbæjar, which was an old pharmacy, from which the beautiful shelves and the marble counter are still preserved, remodelled into a café.
I find it particularly charming when a “lifelong” business is transformed into a different one and this one honours the previous one, while preserving all possible elements.
At the front counter, Anita Markowicz welcomed us with a smile and told us that Pétur Marteinsson, Gísli Marteinn Baldursson and three of his friends thought that the neighbourhood needed a café. After presenting their idea to the owner they got down to work, expanding the space but keeping as much as possible of the old pharmacy and adding vintage furniture, which was given to them by the neighbours.
Currently, it is a meeting place for the neighbourhood that changes as the hours go by, from breakfast and lunch to coffee and cake in the afternoon to finish with beers, wines and dinners at nightfall.
Anita prepared a latte and an espresso with Brasil-Dona Nenem from Reykjavik Roasters and the best carrot cake I have ever eaten till now.
REYKJAVIK ROASTERS – BRAUTARHOLT
The second establishment of Reykjavik Roasters has a sober style and a very Scandinavian industrial touch, where coffee is the only protagonist.
In its menu we have: espresso, sliced, cappuccino, latte, mocha, flat white, chai latte, kaffiboli (filter coffee), Eitt Sett (espresso + cappuccino), Kaffismiðja (double espresso + jug of milk), Kældur kaffi (cold coffee) and as methods of “brewing”: aeropress and kalita.
For espresso they use Dona Nenem Yellow Bourbon from Brazil that has notes of dark chocolate and hazelnut. For filtered they take Juan Carlos Vargas which have notes of black grape and maple syrup and Carmen Aragón that have notes of green apple and caramel, both are from the department of Tolima, Colombia and the Werka (a complex Ethiopian heirloom) which have notes of nectarine and molasses.
The “cold brew” is a powerful coffee from the Congo, with a taste that is a little more intense than the signature taste of the house.
TE OG KAFFI – MICRO ROAST
Te og Kaffi is the largest coffee shops chain in Iceland with 15 establishments (12 coffee shops, 2 Micro-Roast coffee shops and 1 Micro-Roast Vínbar) which, despite its size, still maintains the soul of third wave specialty coffee house in its establishment in the historic street of Aðalstræti, where the first Viking settled in Reykjavik.
Te og Kaffi has three types of roasted coffee for sale: the white line, which they only sell in supermarkets, the brown line (single origins and blends) that they have in all its coffee shops and the Micro-Roast line (small lots), which is only available at the places with the same name and that Kristín Björg roasts every Wednesday in Aðalstræti.
In the Micro-Roast espresso coffee is La Cuadra (a honey from Costa Rica) and for filter Loma Linda from El Salvador.
For brewing (Aeropress, Chemex, V60 and Siphon) there are three coffee options: Colombia La Claudina 100% Castillo, Costa Rica Don Eli of the Catuai variety and El Salvador Loma Linda of the Bourbon variety.
Pictures by Dan Raspbery.