Two cups of coffee
Food & drink,  Sunday Stills,  Themed galleries

Gallery: cosy coffee breaks around the world

Sometimes it seems as if Starbucks is taking over the world. Wherever we travel, apart from in North Korea of course, we come across branches of this ubiquitous chain. But we don’t go in. Even at home it’s a place we choose to avoid, preferring to support our local independent coffee shops.

There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, those local businesses need and deserve our support. Secondly, they tend to have more character, and by their very nature, each one is different. And lastly, and importantly, they usually make much better coffee!

Signs advertising Starbucks coffee
Signs at the original Starbucks in Seattle

When we travel the same rule applies. Even in Seattle, the birthplace of Starbucks, we refused to visit the first ever branch in Pike Place. Instead we always seek out independent coffee shops in preference to chains. And as for North Korea? Amazingly, we managed to visit a cosy (-ish) coffee shop there too!

So below is a selection of favourite cosy coffee shops at home and abroad for this week’s Sunday Stills ‘getting cosy’ theme. I’ve given them all the Color Efex Pro ‘vintage’ look to add to the sense of cosiness, and (to be honest) to compensate for the fact that many are rather old phone shots!

Decorated fireplace and easy chairs

A cosy corner in the Moon and Maybe, our favourite local coffee shop in South Ealing (London).

The image featured above was taken in our other local favourite, Artisan Coffee in Ealing Broadway.

Smiling girl with blue dyed hair

A friendly welcome at a independent coffee shop in Pioneer Square, Seattle – much better than Starbuck’s!

Inside a coffee shop in Takayama, Japan, with one of the baristas creating cappuccino art and the result of his handiwork!

Coffee cup with paw design in chocolate dusting

Talking of cappuccino art, here’s a nice example of chocolate dusting in a cat café in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Modern coffee shop interior

In the industrial-styled, but very warm and welcoming, Reykjavik Roasters in Iceland – great espresso here!

Espresso cup with sugar cube on saucer

Talking of espresso, here’s a super example from Café Pasqual’s in Santa Fe, NM, with shreds of orange rind to drop in for an interesting flavour tweak.

Empty coffee shop interior

In a branch of the small local Hoi An Roastery chain in Vietnam – it wasn’t always this empty!

Silver coffee pot and dish with dates

Traditional Omani coffee service in Muscat, with a small dish of dates to accompany the drink.

Glass with coffee and cream on top

A warming glass of Irish-style coffee in chilly Riga, Latvia, made with the local spirit, Black Balsam.

Cup of frothy coffee and glass of water

And to finish, the North Korean coffee I promised you – a melange in the ‘Viennese’ Coffee Shop in Pyongyang.


    • Sarah Wilkie

      Haha, thanks Siobhan 😁 I hope you managed to satisfy that craving! I seem to recall a number of excellent coffee shops when we visited Oregon and that was decades ago!

  • rosalieann37

    I rarely drink coffee – actually I don’t drink any hot drinks very much. Tea when I’m someplace English is about it. So when I do I usually have to put a piece of ice in it to get it cool enough for me to drink. Most of the time, I only drink coffee if there is nothing else available, and I drink it black with nothing else in it. The first time I flew (1955) the only option for something to drink was coffee. I put sugar and cream in it and hated it. So on the return flight, I drank it black, and I’ve been drinking it black ever since. (And tea is the same – just tea – no milk or sugar. Sometime lemon)

    • Sarah Wilkie

      I prefer black coffee too if I’m drinking straight filtered or even instant. But I don’t drink it on planes any more, ever since I read an article by a flight attendant which said the water isn’t properly boiled and not always clean!

      • rosalieann37

        I only drank it on the plane because there was nothing else available – no tea, no soda, no water. I drank coffee a lot in Spain in 1964 for the same reason – nothing else available to drink. I didn’t think anything of it – I’m not a coffee connoisseur. My dad was really annoyed with me because I didn’t tell him how bitter the coffee in Spain was. I warned my folks about the eating schedules and to bring peanut butter crackers to hold them over, but had not said anything about bringing instant coffee for Dad. (Things were quite different before the internet)

  • salsaworldtraveler

    I’m not a coffee fan (I know there must be something wrong with me😊). I go for coffee with friends from time to time. These places look like outstanding spots I’d be happy to visit.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Ah well, our local favourite the Moon & Maybe makes a wonderful hot chocolate (with a shot of Baileys if you fancy it) and very good peppermint tea, so perhaps one of those would appeal more?!

  • sustainabilitea

    Sarah, these photos are lovely and really convey the joy of sitting down in a lovely place with a delicious cuppa…whether coffee-based, espresso-based, or tea. I love the smell of coffee but don’t enjoy actual coffee. I do however enjoy a mocha (dark chocolate for preference), a cappuccino or a cafe creme, etc. Usually I drink tea, but I do like to find good shops of either sort and relax there. There’s an olive mill not too far away from where we live and in addition to all the olive products they have all sorts of local products, a restaurant, and a coffee shop. The coffee company that ran the shop originally had better coffee than the one currently there and the first one would put real whipped cream on top of my mocha. As Mary Berry says, it was worth the calories! And then I would sit outside in the olive grove (the part for customers) and enjoy my drink and some down time. I still do but the mochas aren’t quite as good. The surroundings, though, are worth it!


    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Janet 🙂 I love the idea of enjoying a good coffee in an olive grove, although I’ll pass on the cream please! Not that I don’t enjoy it, in its place, but not on coffee usually. Apart from Eiskaffee in Austria or Germany, when it’s a must 😆

  • the eternal traveller

    I agree with Anna. Australia has the best coffee shops and cafes and even the smallest of towns has somewhere to get a great coffee. After you’ve been to Perth you need to head east to Queensland. There are dozens of coffee shops where I live and you’d love them all. And they all serve great food too.

  • Anna

    You would love Australian coffee culture Sarah! You know, Starbuck’s tried to expand here years ago but failed and had to leave because aussies refused to drink it. We have too many amazing family run coffee shops from mainly Italian migrants. Actually, just yesterday I enjoyed a lovely coffee with Lesley made by an Italian. Lol. Beats Starbucks any day! Come to Perth and we will take you to our fave coffee haunts!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Great to hear the Aussies drove Starbucks out of town! Sounds like you had a lovely time with Lesley, and if I do come to Perth you two will definitely be on for that coffee date! Actually, one of our two local favourites, the Artisan (where my featured photo of coffees was taken) is run by a husband and wife team – he’s a Brit and she’s an Aussie. They met in Uganda while travelling and decided to get into the coffee shop business when they settled in London. They have three local branches, two in Ealing and one in Chiswick. They recruit super friendly staff and make the best coffee in town, but the ambiance isn’t as cosy as the Moon & Maybe, our other favourite, which makes the second-best coffee 😆

  • Susanne Swanson

    Okay, I admit it. I’m a Seattleite and confirmed Starbucks coffee drinker (I actually prefer lattes and flat whites.) I worked in downtown Seattle for many years and it was too convenient not to go there. The last building I worked in had a Starbucks in the lobby and I swung by every morning before heading to my floor. That being said, I love your photos! And I love the charm of the independent coffee shops and their unique offerings, when you can find them. 🙂

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Ah well, I know they are popular 🙂 But I find their coffee a bit bland, it lacks the bitter edge I look for in a good coffee. However I know not everyone likes that so … I have to admit they make a good peppermint tea but nevertheless I try to avoid them in favour of independents if I can 🙂

      • Susanne Swanson

        I get it. It’s probably more about the convenience to me. Easy to swing by when we’re on the road. But if I have the time and there’s an independent shop I’d rather stop and try something new. 😊

  • justbluedutch

    I love this koleidoscope of trendy, cozy coffee shops you´ve been to! so which one is your favourite?
    In Germany, they adore coffee, especially brewed ones. Nespresso is not a thing here neither Stabucks.Almost every household has a coffee machine
    but they have a habit of lounging in Coffee shops to chat and meet with friends. We call this tradition “Kaffee und Kuchen”.
    I am not yet a convert since I only drink coffee once a week, preferably Cappucino. Ia m normally a tea person.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you 🙂 I love the Kaffee und Kuchen tradition in Germany and Austria – in fact I nearly included an example from Leipzig but the only photo I have didn’t really suggest cosiness so I left it out.

  • Terri Webster Schrandt

    I adore your coffee beverage theme for cozy, Sarah! How cool the image of the Japanese barista intent at his creation! Any time of year I love the idea of getting cozy with hubby or a friend in a local coffee shop which are just so much better than the big chains. Funny, with Starbucks being born in Washington, there are literally 100s of independent coffee shops on every corner here in Spokane area. And they’re always busy! We’ve enjoyed cozy moments even in the summer at our favorite bakery, Rocket, with their incredible pasties and coffee. We end up chatting with other folks and it’s just delightful. Your post shows us how important our human connections are and those small coffee shops are the perfect catalyst!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks so much Terri, and for the challenge theme that inspired this 🙂 I know what you mean about summer cosiness too. The Moon & Maybe, in my first gallery shot above, has such a pretty garden and we love having coffee there in the summer. And on weekend evenings they transform it into a cocktail space, with pretty lighting 🙂

  • Maria

    I really appreciate this approach to cozy! It was wonderful to step inside cozy coffee shops from around the world. I’m like you, I’d much rather visit a little hole in the wall place rather than Starbucks (or our Swedish version Espresso House.)

  • Rose

    I love the smell of coffee brewing on a cold winter morning, even though I’m not a coffee drinker. These images have that ‘feel’ of an old-fashioned cosy morning coffee.

  • Julie

    I’m not a Starbucks fan either. One American chain I like is Peet’s Coffee, but I think it’s only in California. I don’t recall seeing it anywhere else. I prefer the indie coffee and tea shops myself too! I love your collection!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks Julie – I don’t recall seeing Peets in California but it IS 30 years since we were there! If we get to go back I’ll look out for it 🙂 I don’t mind local chains, if they can make good coffee, it’s the big multi-nationals I try to avoid.

  • Suzanne@PictureRetirement

    As always, I love how you have built your entire post around Terri’s theme. This one is particularly masterful and informative. Smart use of Efex Pro Vintage to unify the photos. I love coffee, but don’t do Starbucks unless it is absolutely the only option, which it rarely is. I do have to admit a fondness for Dunkin Doughnuts coffee though. That is my ‘go to’ place when road trippin’ in the states. I am typically a ‘whatever’s convenient’ kind of gal, which is a tell-tale sign of a true coffee addict. Want versus need usually dictates ‘where’ for me. Do I need it to get me going, (Dunkin) or do I want to sip a satisfying cup of coffee (independent shop) while enjoying pleasant conversation? 🙂

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks so much Suzanne 🙂 I have to say the only time I tried a Dunkin Doughnuts coffee over here (forced into it by the absence of any other option on a work trip!) I found it totally weak and tasteless. I have been known to liken some of the filter coffee I’ve had in the US to brown dishwater however, so I suspect my taste in coffee leans too far to the super strong for the Dunkin Doughnuts version to suit me 😆 Those weaker coffees have little effect on me so don’t fulfil the ‘get me going’ criterion OR the pleasant atmosphere one!

  • wetanddustyroads

    I’m not even sure if there’s a Starbucks here in SA (probably) … but we’ve never visited one on our travels. I’m not a big coffee drinker, but oh my, the coffee in Spain (while we were walking the Camino) was just out of this world! And although I do not like coffee, I would love to sit at that table in Muscat which you showed us in your post!

  • Alison

    Some lovely coffee shops Sarah. I’ve never been a fan of Starbucks either. It doesn’t matter how fancy the machine is though it’s the barista that makes it taste good.
    I can’t start my day without two coffees!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks Alison, good to ‘meet’ another coffee addict too 😀 But you’re right, it’s the barista rather than the machine who makes the difference in the quality of the coffee, but also the beans and the roast!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Oh dear, that’s a shame. I’ve been pleased to see our local places survive the lockdowns and come through even more popular and busy than before, it seems. And our favourite Newcastle mini-chain (they have two branches!) had reopened when I was there with the VT crowd in September 🙂

  • Manja Maksimovič

    Ohh, just wonderful. That Irish coffee reminded me of the good old times back in Yugoslavia when I used to order it with various interesting results. 😀 It was not a common item back then. And a little interesting fun fact: I have never even seen a Starbucks let alone be in one. In California somehow it didn’t cross my path nor everywhere else I’ve been. In Slovenia we don’t have them. In my Tuscan countryside neither. In Rome there probably are a few but I haven’t seen any. Nor would I enter, or maybe once out of curiosity. I love your approach and this collection, and that lady has my desired hair colour. In the next life.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Manja 🙂 I find it hard to believe that you’ve never even seen a Starbucks, given how much you have travelled! Of course I wouldn’t expect one in the Tuscan countryside but I bet they’re in Rome! I remember in Naples being horrified to see all the local teenagers hanging around McDonalds and even buying coffee there, when there are wonderful coffee shops on every corner!

      The lady with the blue hair was happy to pose for our photos and told us that her mother dyes it for her. Maybe you should have a word with your mother? 😆

  • maristravels

    I totally agree, and as a postscript to The Hungry Travellers’ above, our local hospital has closed our little cafe run by “Friends of the Hospital” volunteers who looked after visitors and those patients who could leave the wards and get to them, and given the concession to Costa coffee, so not only have we lost the little friendly local cafe but we now pay very high prices for a coffee and cake – and the tea is rubbish. Before, homemade cakes and biscuits, now high-priced factory-made cakes full of preservatives.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks Mari 🙂 Oddly, our local hospital (or at least the last time I was there, a couple of years ago now) has managed to retain its Friends cafe even though there is a Costa franchise, so people have options. It’s a large hospital and while Costa is right by the main entrance the Friends place is nearer to A&E so hopefully they can at least share the business.


    Like you, we always avoid international chains when travelling, but unfortunately it’s harder in the UK. Not in town centres of course where you can always find independents, but more when taking/needing a break on a long journey. It’s not just motorway services which are all Starbucks now, it’s pretty much all of the old Little Chefs and all the new build mini services on A roads. We were forced to use one on the A303 heading home from Cornwall recently…they were playing Christmas carols (on November 16th!) yet had the air con on an Arctic setting…how are those two things compatible!?!? As a little aside, the David Bowie song “I’m Afraid Of Americans” was based on Bowie’s hatred of the fact that McDonalds and Starbucks were appearing everywhere globally, and for him the final straw, triggering the song, was the appearance of one of them in Java.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      I know what you mean about the motorway service stations but we do at least usually manage to avoid Starbucks and go instead to the ones that have a Costa outlet as we find their coffee much better and although a chain they don’t seem so committed to taking over the world! I didn’t know that about the Bowie song, interesting – and yes, absolute madness to think of one in Java 😬

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