I like coffee and Reykjavík is a nice place to drink it. For a town of its size, there are plenty of coffee shops, and the quality of coffee is generally good. You rarely get the really nasty stuff: espresso that you can surface a road with, cappuccino that makes you think of frog spawn, latte that burns your tongue off. And given that we are in the country with the 3rd highest coffee consumption per capita in the world, the coffee had better be good. For the next few Grapevines, I will review some select Reykjavík cafés for your convenience.
Start At The Top: Kaffismiðja Íslands
The recently opened Kaffismiðja Islands serves the best coffee in town. For other aspects of coffee culture there may be better places to go, but if you are in it for the coffee, this is the place.
“You could have the combination of the best machines and the best beans and it would not be enough,” says co-owner Sonja Björk Grant. “It takes a skilled barista to deliver the goods.” Here the equipment is best in the world (La Marzocco and Mazzer), the staff the best in the country and the beans are freshly roasted on site.
There are two bean options for espresso drinks. I love the luxury of choice, but the difference is not quite clear. I want to know more than “this one is a little bit stronger”. Who wants weak coffee anyway?
The “little bit stronger” Indonesian espresso has thick, dark crema and is just the right length, far from the watery full cup that is a sadly frequent offering in the local coffee shops. The latte made from Brazilian beans has a good balance between coffee and milk flavours and is silky in texture. It is served with a perfect rosetta on the surface.
The coffee making is excellent but the customer service has a less than professional feel to it. The service is charmingly sincere, however, and friendly with a real enthusiasm for coffee—a rare treat these days. No bored-to-death teenagers or hung-over hipsters here.
This may not be the fastest place for a coffee-to-go, though. I would rather wait a little to get good coffee than drink hastily prepared slop, yet it is not the coffee making that takes time here, top baristas that they are, but rather the organising of it all. This will hopefully develop over time.
Finally, there is one reason I go to Kaffismiðja regularly and two reasons I don’t stay and sit around. I go for the great coffee. I don’t stay because, first, the place seats less than 20 people and it is almost always full. Second, as lovely as window shelves for seats and an old sewing machine desk for a table look, they are not comfortable to my sensitive coffeehouse hangout muscles. And due to the fact I always get the bloody sewing machine table.