As a coffee lover in Ubud you are spoiled for choice; with coffee shops on every corner and most of them serving up a pretty reliably good cup of locally sourced coffee. However, there’s good, and then there’s outstanding, and if you really want your daily brew to count, you want to focus on the cream of the crop and leave the dregs at the bottom of the cup where they belong.
Latte lovers are well-catered for pretty much anywhere but the bean, process and roast are all the more important when the coffee has no added elements, so only those with a manual pour option make it onto the list.
1. Kahiyang Coffee – Homely and simple but with a passion for coffee
Kahiyang has got to go straight to number one. Despite the fact that:
it doesn’t have aircon
it doesn’t have fancy sofas
and they DON’T DO DECAF!
It is, nonetheless, the hangout of choice for many long term Ubud-dwellers, who you may find shooting the breeze with owner Irwan as they linger over a coffee and watch the world go by. This gives it a very chilled-out vibe and, particularly at the new location on Jalan Kajang, worlds away from the Starbucks just around the corner.
Vibe = 5
Choose from Vietnamese drip, French press or Chemex, all of which go for the very reasonable 25k, no tax, one of the cheapest in town. All of their baristas are trained by Irwan himself, so attention to detail is spot on.
Price = $
At the Jl Kajang location you will find something called ‘wine coffee’ on the menu, which comes served in a decanter and is so-called because the beans are fermented together with the fruit – a must try!
Coffee = 5
Hang out there for long enough and you will feel like one of the family.
2. Gangga Coffee Shop – Trendy spot with great coffee and killer rice cakes
Gangga coffee is a little outside the centre of Ubud, up the busy Jalan An Dong, so not ideal if you’re on foot. However, it is definitely worth the detour.
The vibe is bright, clean and modern, the waiters are turned out immaculately and the playlist has clearly been curated by someone with a keen appreciation for good tunes. They even have comfy seats, power sockets and decent wifi so it’s a great location for doing a bit of work.
Vibe = 5
With such thought evidently having been put into the the interior design, you would hope that the same amount of care is going into your coffee.
Good coffee is just attention to detail, after all.
When it comes, the coffee is accompanied by a chewy rice cake covered in shredded coconut – a lovely touch! I horrify my Indonesian companion by folding it up and dunking it into my coffee, as you would do with a croissant. He informs me that the proper way to eat it is rolled up and then stuffed into your mouth in one.
I would break with the “When in Rome…” philosophy and go for my way though (which is how they would actually do it in Rome).
The coffee is great, tasting it soaked through the rice cake you can tell it’s going to be good, but drinking it confirms it.
Coffee = 5
An added bonus are the specially-made Gangga ceramic cups, which you can also buy.
A manual pour with local beans is 30k and they also have a range of international beans for 40k, expensive but still cheaper than Seniman.
Price = $$
Top marks for presentation; from the beautiful ceramic Gangga cups, to the cute flask and the wooden board the manual pour is served on.
The breakfast menu looks great and is priced very reasonably, with most items in the 40-50k ballpark. In reality though, it’s a bit hit-and-miss: the Fruit and Granola (the only vegan or gluten-free option) features a few slices of artfully placed watermelon and a sprinkling of granola – frankly, the accompanying rice cake has more calories.
Then we have the French Toast, which is like a french kiss without the tongues, i.e. it’s just Toast.
The pancakes also come strangely accompanied by a slice of toast on the side and some fried potatoes (some extra calories for your friend who ordered the Fruit and Granola, perhaps?)
Anyway, it seems as though they are still experimenting, as menu items are changing. I recommend heading to the dessert section of the menu and trying the banana and chocolate pancakes or the waffles instead – very satisfying.
Food = 4
3. Old Friend’s Coffee – Farm-to-Cup coffee shop in Nyuh Kuning
I ventured all the way across town to the pleasant little village-type district of Ubud, Nyuh Kuning, specifically to try Old Friends Coffee. It is situated incongruously on the main street, just as you exit the short cut from Monkey Forest. You might easily drive past if you didn’t know it was there.
So, after running the gauntlet that is the Monkey Forest shortcut (it’s like a really bad neighbourhood, except all the hoodlums are primates) I was more then ready for a good cup of coffee. It’s way too hot to sit on the benches outside and inside there is only one private table, which is taken. Then there is the central table, which is long and invites spontaneous conversations with strangers. I end up in a discussion with Mike, an American, and Eric, Scandinavian, about Paolo Coelho and Quentin Tarantino. It all feels strangely like I’m back in 6th form. I realise Mike is highly wired on caffeine and can’t stop talking. I take this as a good sign!
Vibe = 4
The coffee is indeed excellent at Old Friends, brewed with Kintamani beans grown at the family plantation. The Kintamani-born owner is accompanied by his Japanese wife who I guess may have something to do with the beautiful hand-made ceramic mugs and delicate silk napkins on which is placed your complementary water.
Coffee = 5
A manual pour is 30k and it comes served with a cute little biscuit.
Price = $$
4. Ubud Coffee Roastery – Cosy spot in the centre of Ubud
Ubud Coffee Roastery is hidden away right at the bottom of Gootama street, so it’s a great little spot to hole-up and escape the tourist masses in the centre of town.
UCR is actually part of Taksu, which is just across the street (and is where you’ll be directed if you need the loo).
They serve local Indonesian coffee as well as hot chocolate, which you can have with coconut milk and chilli if you so desire! They also have on-tap cold brew which is an added bonus on a hot day.
The coffee is roasted in the back where, I am told by our barista, experiments take place to find the perfect balance for each of their brews; a blend for the machine and straight-up Sumatran for the cold brew. You can choose from French Press or v60 manual methods and a selection of different beans from the archipelago. The coffee is on the acidic side for me but they have enough selection for you to try something different every time you come.
Coffee = 4
Black coffee comes served in a short glass with no edible frills but the pricing is a very reasonable 25k for a hand-pour.
Price = $
Their baristas are super-friendly and the cosy atmosphere means you’ll end up having a chat with them or with other tables whilst you sip your brew. It’s also a decent environment to sit and do some work and you can easily sit for an hour or two whilst other customers coming and going, without being made to feel you need to move on.
Vibe = 4
5. Seniman’s – Speciality Coffee at European prices
Seniman’s is kind of hard to ignore when making a best-of coffee list in Ubud. The most well-known of the speciality coffee shops in town, it also occupies the best part of the bottom half of Jalan Sri Widari; with its workshop, cocktail bar and merchandise store. Their beans are roasted in-situ (kintamani beans are also processed here) and the company boasts two Q graders, which means they are certified to judge the quality of coffee and requires mastery of the processing, roasting and cupping processes. Guarantee indeed of a good cup. Having said that, the actual cups they use detract from my coffee experience. I can’t stand them, they’re too shallow and wide-rimmed. I would prefer the hand pour to be served in a decanter but it seems they have a ‘one cup fits all‘ philosophy and the cup in question works well for latte art but a black coffee goes cold too quickly! Still, they score highly for their range of coffee options, the free shortbread biscuit and the only decent decaf to be found in Ubud.
Coffee = 5
A single origin hand pour goes for between 38-55k, plus a hefty 20% tax and service. European prices essentially.
Price = $$$
This isn’t a place for locals to sit and while away a couple of hours. Besides the non-local-friendly pricing, the coffee shop has a busy vibe at any hour of the day, with tourists coming in and out continually. In addition, the staff – whilst knowledgeable and efficient – are disengaged and add nothing to the experience.
Vibe = 2
Overall, it’s a good place to take a visitor but as your local everyday coffee shop, it doesn’t really fit the bill. I’d recommend buying some of their beans and enjoying them at home, in peace.