Book Review: Where to Drink Coffee by Avidan Ross and Liz Clayton

I had some time to kill before a meeting in London recently and ended up at one of my favourite coffee shops in central London, Kaffeine (I happened to be in the Great Tichfield street branch but I like the Eastcastle Street branch too). They had a copy of ‘Where to Drink Coffee’  by Avidan Ross and Liz Clayton available to read for customers so this was a perfect way to pass the time. I’d seen this book in the window a number of times at Waterstones, and Amazon kept recommending it, but I hadn’t actually found the time to go and look at it.

This book is essentially a directory of coffee shops from around the world from Austin, USA to Zagreb, Croatia. The authors have consulted coffee specialists from around the world (the list is included in the book) to put together a comprehensive atlas of places to drink coffee. Creating this kind of directory is challenging, as the authors note in the beginning section to the book, as there is quite a lot of churn in the industry, with some places closing and so didn’t make the final version of the book, and naturally places opening since. Nevertheless, if you are looking for coffee options in a place you’re less familiar with around the world, this book has plenty of suggestions.

Each location has a page with quotes from the coffee experts about that particular coffee scene and an outline map of how the different coffee shops are scattered across the city. Then each city has a list of places, understandably given my location, Kaffeine had the bookmark positioned to where they were featured, alongside Prufrock and Workshop among several other well-known London coffee shops. Each entry has the address,  quotes from the coffee experts, opening hours, payment methods accepted and coffee shop style i.e. can you get food as well as coffee. As you can see from the first photo in this blog post, you can indeed get food at Kaffeine, in this case an excellent raspberry and coconut muffin.

If you’re looking for a global guide of where is good to start exploring coffee then this volume is a good introductory guide in the sense that it includes a good range of coffee shops globally, most of them well known in the specialty coffee industry. However, as was noted by the authors, over time coffee shops come and go, and so this volume while useful as a guide book now, may become more a snapshot of global coffee shops rather than a definitive guide in the future. I have seen reviews of this book which appear disappointed at the lack of photographs, and that in the Instagram era we now live in it would have been nice to have a photography focused guide to coffee shops rather than a directory style. I tend to agree, in that it’s difficult to get a feel for a coffee shop from an address and few details. However, this was not was this book was intended to – there’s plenty of scope for more photography focused coffee shop books in the future.

Because of the style of this book, it isn’t one to pick up an read cover to cover like a lot of other non-fiction, but it is more one you might want to have on hand to refer to when considering coffee options in particular cities. From my perspective as a researcher of coffee, it’s a great resource to see what coffee shops the coffee experts think represent where you should drink coffee around the world, and that snapshot of the coffee shop industry is fascinating in itself.

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