I feel like we owe a collective debt to coffee. I know coffee isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but for my fellow coffee addicts out there, we live for it. Don’t get me wrong; caffeine is dangerous, and even lethal when over ingested. However, I think it is safe to say that there are those among us depend on it. I am not a morning person. But, with a freshly brewed cup of joe at my side, I can take on anything. Which leads me to one of the other tremendous benefits coffee is attributed to: cafés and café culture. Few things in this life are better than sipping a cappuccino while enjoying a good book, seated in a cozy, relaxed café. I have had a few favorite coffee shops here in Reykjavik that I consider the best, but four of them really take the cake for me.
Address: Skólavörðustígur 3A, 101 Reykjavík
You can’t talk about the best coffee shops and cafés in Reykjavik without mentioning Mokka Kaffi. Mokka holds the distinction of operating the first espresso machine in Reykjavik. I wonder, if you walked past an espresso machine in the 50s, having never seen one, what would you do? It’s easy to imagine being wholly befuddled as to the origin or purpose for the multi-levered, dial-covered, hulking, hissing, metallic, miracle apparatus. I desperately want an espresso machine, by the way. They’re just so cool.
Mokka can brew a robust cup of coffee, but what really resonates with me about Mokka, is that the establishment really knows who they are. The classic red carpet, the leather-bound stools, and the lovingly worn booths, it all just works: You get a strong sense of Icelandic pride and warm nostalgic memories imminent from the coffee shop. The bottom line is the food is fit for the gods, the staff and the service are friendly, and the coffee is super yummy.
Address: Bankastræti 8, 101 Reykjavík
Now, I know that usually, we save the best for last. However, I am a rule breaker. My absolute favorite place to get a cup of coffee in Reykjavik is Kaffitár. There are so many reasons I don’t know where to begin. First, Kaffitár is an extremely ethical business. The coffee company works together with the coffee farmers who they directly source their product from. These farmers from Nicaragua, Brazil, and Guatemala are often susceptible to governments and other companies who would seek to pay them pennies on the dollar and not respect Fair Trade certification standards. Not here. Kaffitár also works together to tackle challenging and ever-changing environmental issues.
These Icelandic coffee roasters and java samaritans have five locations in Iceland with two bakeries. The Icelandic bakeries produce Kaffitár’s artisanal assortment of bread, pastries, and cakes. All of the food is made fresh from scratch, and because they only use only the finest ingredients, there are no extras additives in anything. The environmentally conscious mission and delicious food and drinks they offer are but two sides of a three-sided triangle. The final component that makes them so unique is their quality of service and expertise.
The staff are trained to become experts in everything coffee related. They are well-educated on all of the different types of roasts, the nuances with flavor, and the craft to concocting the perfect blends for cappuccino or coffee. This is nowhere more evident than in the barista Khadija Ósk. Ósk was sent to Amsterdam this last summer to compete in the World Barista Championship. Not only did the Icelander hold her own, but she put on an excellent performance. A coffee shop in Reykjavik that produces baristas like Khadija Ósk lets me know I am in good hands. Also, a fun side note about the shapes they swirl into the milk foam on cappuccinos. They are mind-blowing here. If you can paint with milk foam and espresso, you are more or less a wizard in my eyes. Go visit Kaffitár and enjoy yourself. I know you will.
Address: Geirsgata 7b, 101 Reykjavík
In 2007, Elda Thorisson-Faurelien decided to bring her Haitian culture to the people of Reykjavik. Haiti and Iceland couldn’t be more different, and yet she found the perfect vehicle to bridge the two cultures: coffee. As a child in Haiti, Elda worked in the coffee fields cultivating java beans, and she developed a passion for everything coffee related. Now, she finds herself far from the coffee fields of her home. I doubt she ever imagined herself on the subarctic coast of Iceland. Icelanders, Reykjavik residents, and tourists alike flock to this Haitian-inspired java jamboree. Café Haiti has a wide variety of top-grade coffee roasts. For all you adventurous coffeeholics, this is one of the only cafés in Reykjavik to offer true Turkish and Arabic coffees. If you are looking for a passion-driven experience that blends cultures, as well as roasts, then look no further than Café Haiti.
Address: Laugavegur 36, 101 Reykjavík
Sandholt, like Mokka, has been honing their craft for decades. I have a confession to make. I come to Sandholt for the pastries. There! I said it! Since 1920, this family-run Reykjavik bakery has been producing Iceland’s tastiest, savoriest, and sweetest delicacies. Like all the cafés, bakeries, and coffee shops on this list, Sandholt’s passion and love for their craft can be tasted and felt through their baked goods, cappuccinos, and service. Baker Ásgeir Sandholt draws his inspiration from his families storied baking history. However, he isn’t afraid to look towards the future.
Ásegir is continuously experimenting with new bread varieties, tasty new recipes, and buttery new baking methods. This constant urge to innovate has kept Sandholt firmly locked in as one of Reykjavik’s premier bakeries and cafes. It doesn’t stop at baked treats and java-inspired drinks though. Sandholt is known to have artisan ice creams and other eclectic cocktail foods. Come to Sandholt for a coffee and stay for a smattering of scrumptious kleinur, croissants, and cakes.
Best Coffee Shops in Reykjavik: Get Warm and Toasty in the City’s Top Four Cafés
With fall rapidly approaching I look forward to just another excuse to treat myself to a warm cup of coffee. Popping in a café with a good book or magazine is a profoundly relaxing experience. Pair that with a perfectly roasted blend of exotic java beans, a pastry, and maybe even some good company, well, that sounds like the perfect afternoon to me. Comment below with your favorite coffee shop in Reykjavik. There are plenty more of coffee shops in the city, so stay tuned for more reviews. Bless Bless.