Jan 23 2012

Coffee in Siem Reap

Published by at 3:13 pm under Food & drink

I know some prefer it cool, smooth and slow, but I have to confess I’m a major fan of hot and steamy. Of course, this does usually result in short lived affairs, but I don’t know anyone who could handle that much intensity for longer anyway. Especially with the Italians, God do the Italians really know how to do it. On the other hand, you’d take your time over a Cambodian. They’re edgier and, when I do go for one, the things they do with ice just make my knees go weak.

Coffee = elixir vitae

Coffee = elixir vitae

I’ve heard of people who don’t like coffee. Obviously, everyone’s free to make their own choices about such important things in life, but I don’t think I could let someone like that into the house. They’re clearly unreliable. You’d never stop worrying about whether they’ll burn the place down, or give drugs to the dogs. You have to feel sorry for them though. I mean, life without coffee? It’s a bit like Lord of the Rings without Hobbits: meaningless and liable to end badly.

For the non-insane, normal coffee-addicted person, Siem Reap happily boasts a fabulous array of tempting fixes. My current favourite is Upstairs Cafe, not just because I can get my hands on a strong, beautifully formed Italian (illy), but also because the cakes here make you reconsider whether your life thus far lived was really life at all. Upstairs is a new kid on the Wat Bo Road block, and this lovely nostalgic spot is fast developing a core of utterly devoted fans. Turning grown women, and some men, into weak-kneed ninnies, it’s like the Ryan Gosling of cafes. Go there, you won’t be sad.

Upstairs Café; nostalgia, class and amazing cakes

Upstairs Café; nostalgia, class and amazing cakes.

If you’ve never been to Cambodia, you may be surprised at how civilised (in that Western sense) things really are here, and the prevalence of illy coffee is all the evidence you really need. In addition to Upstairs Café, I’ve so far found it in Central Café, the FCC Angkor, The Station (which is an excellent wine bar I’ve been meaning to tell you about for ages), the Blue Pumpkin, Nest and the Hotel de la Paix. These all also happen to be rather excellent places for taking a time out.

Life without illy? How silly

Life without illy? How silly!

Le Grand Cafe is another great spot for a coffee too (except the cappuccinos intriguingly – the French are allergic to making good cappuccinos for some reason and if you’ve ever mistakenly ordered one in France, you’ll know exactly what I mean. In the brief period that I waitressed there, I made such a fortune in tips from making proper cappuccinos for grateful British tourists that the owner decided I must have been ripping off their wallets). It’s not just that they serve good coffee here, the café itself is pretty special too. A beautiful French colonial building, it has a magnificent vaulted ceiling, with a classy but unfussy décor, and great big, glassless windows upstairs that make this a hyper belle world-watching, slow-time-passing location.

Le Grand Café, a classy example of French/Cambodia architecture

Le Grand Café, a classy example of French/Cambodian architecture.

Local coffees are another matter entirely. I can still remember the astonishment when I first drank an iced coffee with sweet milk in Thailand. Until that moment I’d always thought of iced coffee as something of a perversion, a pollution of one of life’s little perfections. Which just goes to show how horribly wrong you can be, and that the really fun stuff is usually the stuff that someone, somewhere thinks is really twisted. For coffee fans, kick-arse strong, bitter coffee, lightened with ice and condensed milk is a must while you’re here and, of course, the best places to try it in are in the local cafés and restaurants where you can soak up a little local atmosphere along with the caffeine.

Upstairs Café
Wat Bo Road

Central Café
Old Market Area
T: (017) 692 997

FCC Angkor
T: (063) 760280

The Station

Blue Pumpkin
Near Old Market
T: (063) 963 574

T: (017) 925 181

Hotel de la Paix
Sivatha Rd
(063) 966 000

Le Grand Café
Old Market Area
T : (092) 535 800


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7 responses so far

7 Responses to “Coffee in Siem Reap”

  1. onlyincambodiaon 24 Jan 2012 at 4:25 am

    Great places to get non-Illy coffee:

    For great Vietnamese coffee, try the Soup Dragon on the corner of Pub Street. They also do a nice iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk, too. Excellent when paired with pho or noodle soup.

    Another great cup of Cambodian coffee can be had at the Soria Moria breakfast buffet. For $3 you get an all you can eat breakfast buffet plus rich, dark brewed Cambodian coffee and juice. Yum!

    Le Tigre de Papier also have an excellent cup of coffee that is not drip or percolated. Combine with a croissant or the heartier eggs, bacon and fresh bread roll is divine.

    Le Boulangerie also has lovely espresso and fresh-baked French pastries. Their baguettes are out of this world especially when turned into a sandwich that you order with your own fixins!

  2. […] catered for, but fans of Italian food have also hit on a foodie jackpot in Siem Reap (I've already covered coffee here, by the way). If you’re on the hunt for a straightforward pizza, laden with rich, juicy, meaty […]

  3. amandaon 11 Mar 2012 at 3:44 am

    I HATE illy coffee!! It is not a good coffee at all and is known in Australia as a cheaper option. Where can you get great Italian coffee that is not goddam ILLY!!!!????

  4. Nickyon 12 Mar 2012 at 2:46 am

    Hi Amanda, I’d like to shop where you do! illy is almost twice the price of every other coffee in six online supermarkets that I took a quick look at. However, it’s true that price is not necessarily an indicator of quality, and can never put a value on personal preference. A couple of places in town serve Lavazza, including apparently Viva, the Mexican restaurant, and while I’m not sure which brand Le Grand Cafe serves, the regular coffee there is very good. I’ve seen Lavazza promoted elsewhere too, but can’t recall where. Will add an extra comment later when I’m more sure. Cheers, Nicky

  5. […] windows and air-con which, together with the fastest WiFi connection that I know of in town, their excellent coffee and yummy burgers, makes here a truly cool place to hang out, pretend to work and annoy the […]

  6. Lauraon 09 Nov 2012 at 2:45 am

    A new Cafe opened in Siem Reap named, “Angkor Bodhi Tree Riverside Cafe” On the riverbank near old market. It serves the best coffee in town. A selection of fresh, healthy meals and a variety of drinks.
    It has speciality coffee with the barista being highly trained in Melbourne, Australia. Great selection of delicious cakes and treats too!

  7. To tip or not to tip in Cambodia | Nicky Sullivanon 05 Feb 2013 at 2:54 pm

    […] consider that your waiter is earning not much more than $2.50 per day, or what you just paid for a latte, so that dollar can go far. It is also such that even if you are subsidising the owner’s new […]

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