A city that's dark as much as Reykjavík may find it needs a little extra shove in the morning some of the year—luckily for Icelanders and the visitors they host, a good cup of coffee is never far away in the capital city. Whether it's in a museum, a bookstore or on an unmarked neighborhood corner, the progressive coffee ideals of Scandinavia encircle Iceland as well as a place to rely on a more enlightened cup—even at the chain stores.
You'll see no familiar green awnings and mermaid insignias in Iceland, where the national coffee chain is the festively orange Kaffitar, a local roastery and widespread network of cafes that stretches from the airport to the city center, offering both coffee for the masses and the sophisticates. The counters of Kaffitar are confusingly cluttered with everything from pastries to horoscope scrolls to Hario kettles and drippers, and you're able to order anything from the espresso family to a seasonal selection of single origin coffees, all well-presented by the staff.
The free wireless and unlimited refills of drip coffee may draw in the many, but the curious linger for a V60 pourover drip preparation, like the unusually clean and savory-floral Indonesian coffee Selebes. A good selection of home coffee brewing equipment is available too, to take home...or to your favorite glacier...with your bag of whole beans.
Te & Kaffi
Translating—you guessed it—to Tea and Coffee, the second largest cafe chain in Iceland maintains a subtle presence in on both city streets and in bookstores. A smaller selection of coffees, roasted somewhat darker than Nordic trends, but a cappuccino, almost buttery in its creaminess, cannot go wrong. The cafes also offer a wide selection of loose leaf teas and tea and coffee wares, perhaps more fashionable ceramic cups than one could ever drink out of.
Te & Kaffi
And saving the best for last, one of the most charming—and quality—cafes you'll find the world over is Kaffismiðja Islands, which translates either to "Iceland Coffeemakers" or "most intimate, sophisticated, kindhearted cafe with two giant pink coffee roasters", depending on the dictionary of your choice. Owners Sonja Grant and Imma Sigurðardóttir founded the incognito neighborhood cafe in 2008, fueled by years of competition experience and world travel, but creating an environment that's uniquely Nordic—and cozy.
The two women roast on-site in the converted house, which is lovingly crowded with old sewing machine tables and modern lamps, the smell of fresh baking, and a genuinely enthusiastic staff of many of the best baristas in Iceland. A rotation of seasonal coffees and espressos, often sourced by Grant, are offered with utmost hospitality—you're not at a cafe here, you're at home, only it's more delicious. You won't find a better cup in Reykavík, and you won't find a cafe quite like this anywhere.
About the author: Liz Clayton drinks, photographs and writes about coffee and tea all over the world, though she pretends to live in Brooklyn, New York. She is bad at keeping up her coffee-world blog at .