Coffee in Siem Reap

Go for hot and steamy

What we say: 3.5 stars

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
www.fcccambodia.com

The Station
thestationwinebarsiemreap.com

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

Nest
T: (017) 925 181
www.nestangkor.com

Hotel de la Paix
Sivatha Rd
(063) 966 000

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

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