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Your ultimate guide to finding great coffee at airports

This is THE only guide that lists all international airports where you can get a really decent cup of coffee from local specialty roasters.

Ok, who’s with me on this one? How many times in your life have you been at an airport and seriously craved a perfectly crafted flat white or precision-brewed pour-over coffee made by a real barista from a local coffee roaster and only found either the green mermaid (at least you know what you’re getting) or if you’re unlucky, some dirty ‘espresso bar’ with a passive-aggressive employee who’d probably murder you for requesting the coffee not be served boiling hot if it were not a crime?

Exactly. Too many times to count on all hands and feet together. Most of us have come to terms with the fact that Starbucks will most likely be your best bet at getting your caffeine kick unless you are as crafty as I am and you bring your own Freshdrip filters and just ask the cashier for hot water and a spare cup.

Unfortunately, the sad truth is that most airports are just fancy replicas of each other, not unlike our city’s high streets that also look increasingly alike.

Everywhere you land, you are most likely to find the same chains for food and coffee and the exact same perfume and alcohol brands being thrown at you. Like we all want the same shit every time we fly.

Cartel Coffee Lab at Phoenix Airport. Courtesy of Jake Hines

Cartel Coffee Lab at Phoenix Airport. Courtesy of Jake Hines

One of the leading companies in the field of operating food and retail concepts is HMS Host who also runs operations at Schiphol Airport. You’ll know this from looking at your receipts.

They were actually the reason that Starbucks opened its first coffee bars in The Netherlands (except for the one at the Nike HQ) and soon saw the whole airport being filled with Starbucks outlets. In a recent statement, HMS Host said, it will start to work more closely with local specialty coffee bars to bring more innovation, different concepts and more traceable coffee to its customers.

It remains to be seen what exactly this will mean and how long they will take to roll this out but for now, I am giving it a cautious welcome because it’s time that airports become more representative of their local environments and go beyond selling tacky nick-nacks and overpriced ‘specialty foods’.

After doing a few Google searches I noticed that no one had actually bothered to really compile a complete guide to the best Airport Coffee and I saw it as my duty to be the first.

Therefore, in an effort to shed some light on which airports already offer outstanding specialty coffee from local roasters, I recently called out to my subscribers to tell me where they’ve seen or had fine coffees and my findings are the heart and soul of this article. To all of them, I want to say THANK YOU. Your tips are worth gold.

Please note: This is a living article. This means that we will keep adding and removing places when existing ones close down and new ones open. If you have come across a really great coffee bar that you’d like to see included, please send us a message or post it as a comment below.

And now, Ladies & Gentlemen, let’s fly to caffeine heaven!


EUROPE

London City Airport:

I personally hate the food and drink options at this airport. It could be so much better but it’s just worthless. There is one place that even has a Google star rating of 1.4. However, a little bird told me that at BRICK LANE BREWS you can actually drink coffee from Union Handroasted.

London Stansted Airport:

At this airport that I try to avoid at all costs because of its ridiculous distance from London, there is a Harris + Hoole, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Caffè Nero. They claim they have high-end specialty coffee and it’s likely this will be significantly better than what you can normally get at airports. I look forward to some first-hand reviews.

Dublin Airport:

It was recently announced that Dublin’s 3FE will soon be opening its first coffee bar at Dublin’s International Airport. Expected to be ready by 2021, this will be a massive upgrade for all coffee lovers passing through the Irish capital.

In addition to that, our dear friends from Cloud Picker will open three places in Dublin Airport by May of 2020. One 80-seater café and two pods. One in Terminal 2 and one in the departure lounge for US-bound flights. Whoa, Nelly. Sounds like Dublin Airport is the one to watch!

Kyiv Airport:

I was really quite surprised by this but Kyiv airport actually sports a really high-end specialty coffee shop called Idealist Coffee. From the pictures, I can tell that these guys know what they’re doing.

Oslo Airport:

There is a bakery brand in Norway called Samson and they have two outlets at Gardemoen Airport. One in the departures hall and one in arrivals. Both serve coffee from Kaffa.

Minsk Airport:

Also here you’ll find an Idealist Coffee outlet and according to the news article I read, you might soon find a lot more of these around Europe. Apparently the Ukranian owner of Idealist is on an expansion course. Let’s see what this will entail.

Photo: Courtesy Idealist Coffee

Photo: Courtesy Idealist Coffee

Copenhagen Airport:

Denmark has been at the forefront of the Nordic food revolution for years and some of its international brands are international icons that have significantly shaped certain industries like fine dinings (Noma), specialty coffee (La Cabra & Coffee Collective) and beer (Mikkeller). As a matter of fact, in 2020, Coffee Collective announced that it was partnering with Mikkeller to bring its fine coffees to all of its Danish outlets as well as some international ones. This includes the Mikkeller bar at Copenhagen Airport. Double-whammy if you ask me. 🙂

Moscow Sheremetyevo + Domodedovo Airports:

Russia is a funny one. In many ways, specialty coffee is much more wide-spread even in the form of chains (thinking Double B here) but then you get laughed at on an Aeroflot flight if you ask for the vegetarian option. However, COFFEEMANIA seems to run decent coffee outlets at both of Moscow’s largest airports.

Stockholm Arlanda:

I had heard mixed reports before but after doing some research I can confirm that one of Sweden’s leading specialty coffee roasters has an outlet inside the capital’s airport. You can find Johan & Nyström inside Terminals 2 & 4. Yey!

Helsinki Airport:

Also at the Finnish capital’s airport, you can find Johan & Nyström.

NORTH AMERICA

Hamilton Airport:

This small port city on Lake Ontario might not be familiar to everyone but it’s the home of one of our coffee roasters who run two coffee bars inside the local airport. Visit Detour Coffee Roasters before and after security to get your caffeine fix when flying through this lovely city.

Photo courtesy of Detour Coffee roasters

Photo courtesy of Detour Coffee roasters

Los Angeles LAX:

American airports are generally nothing short of awful. At least the big ones, but as it turns out, some of them do actually have locally roasted coffees in various shapes and forms. LAX is one of those as it sports an outlet from Klatch Coffee Roasters in Terminal 7.

Montreal Trudeau Airport:

This option at Quebec’s main airport is a bit more unexpected but none the less great. Ryu, a Japanese food joint, serves specialty coffees roasted by local brand Kittel. They do have both espresso and filter options available.

San Francisco Airport:

San Francisco was kind of the birthplace of specialty coffee in California and continues to be home to some of the state’s finest roasters. One of my personal favourites, Ritual Coffee, had a popup in the airport for a while and is currently waiting to find out if its bid to set up its own permanent outlet will get approved but until then, you can visit Valencia Street Station where they serve their beans and stock their fancy instant coffee.

Philadelphia Airport:

At this airport, you’ll find an outlet from local specialty coffee roasters La Colombe who over the years has become one of the big names in specialty coffee in the USA.

Chicago Midway:

There are two major airports in the Windy City. O’Hare has a terrible coffee bar by a famous roaster that will not be named because of its abysmal reviews score. At Midway there is a lovely little coffee bar from Big Shoulders Coffee Roasters.

New York JFK:

One of the most spectacular specialty coffee outlets is inside the recently opened TWA hotel at JFK Airport. There is probably no other airport hotel that combines style with history better than this one. And the biggest bonus is that Intelligentsia runs a gorgeous outlet inside this hotel that easily makes it the best coffee bar in the whole airport.

Photo: Courtesty Taylor Morabito

Photo: Courtesy Taylor Morabito

Phoenix Airport:

Ever since my friend Steven introduced me to Cartel Coffee Lab from Phoenix, Arizona, I’ve been following their progress on Instagram with great interest. As it turns out, these guys run a Cartel Coffee Lab outlet at Phoenix Airport where they serve all of their delicious, locally-roasted coffees as well as sandwiches from Worth Takeaway. This is what airport coffee bars should really be like.

Portland Airport:

Home of one of America’s most iconic specialty coffee brands, Portland Airpot also hosts an outlet from Stumptown Coffee. Open since 2016, this full-service Stumptown Coffee bar has a La Marzocco Linea PB 3-group, all filter coffee methods you could dream of and its delicious cold brew (nitro) on tap. Pick up your perfectly brewed cup of coffee before heading straight to the gate.

ASIA:

Tel Aviv:

At Ben Gurion International Airport, there is a nice café called Beanz that serves decent specialty coffee inside the main international terminal. Get your perfect pick-you-up before your flight!

Dubai:

At this destination that is widely regarded as one of the most luxurious in the world, you’ve got Fix, a coffee bar that serves specialty coffee and really good-looking dishes inside Terminal 3.

Singapore Changi:

One of the world’s best airports is also home to a café from local roasters Jewel inside Terminal 1 arrivals. It’s open 24 hours and serves up all of Jewel’s finest coffees.

Fukuoka Airport:

Japan is by far the most advanced nation when it comes to take-away food. Just think of the amazing bento boxes you can get from any train station before boarding your Shinkansen train to sip across the country. Honey Coffee, a specialty coffee brand run by former World Barista Champion Hidenori Izaki’s father, runs an outlet in collaboration with leading Japanese book shop Tsutaya at Fukuoka Airport.

AUSTRALIA:

Sydney:

Kitchen By Mike is a famous Sydneysider outlet that has restaurants all over the largest city in Australia and one inside Sydney’s main airport where it serves coffee from Five Senses. According to the roaster’s website, you can enjoy a custom blend made specifically for Kitchen by Mike and other single-origins made with a matte black Synesso Hydra.

In addition, there is an outlet from local coffee brand Toby’s Estate.

Melbourne:

The Australian coffee Mecca is never short of quality food and coffee outlets and its main airport is no exception. Axil Coffee Roasters has an outlet inside Terminal 2 so next time you fly through there, make sure you get your caffeine fix from them.

Also, there is a place called Café Vue that serves Five Senses.


Thanks for reading our Airport Coffee Guide.

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What our reader said

Aaron said:

When H&H first opened at Stansted it was great! They had espresso options from 2 changing roasters and batch brew, and prices were reasonable. The baristas knew speciality and embraced it, and they had some good machines too. The original founders have another speciality chain too so did know their stuff. The coffee was good, not fantastic but way better than Starbucks / Nero / Costa. Sadly it was all downhill from there. Every time I passed through standards had dropped a little more: quality dropped, the friendly baristas left for the same people you get at Starbucks and Nero. Last time they had reconfigured the cafe to get rid of the impressive array of machines and at one point got rid of reusable cups (only disposable!) but they reversed that bit. Coffee is AWFUL now. Still better than anything else you'll get there.


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