05 December 2016

Reykjavik Coffee Guide

With a population of just 120,000, Reykjavik is one of the smallest capital cities in Europe — it's roughly the same size as Cambridge, UK, to give you some idea. But this doesn't mean that the city lacks a healthy coffee scene — coffee is very much in order on those cold, dark winter days. Coffee and cakes, like most other things in Reykjavik, are expensive, which meant that I could generally only try one type of coffee in each café. Here are some of the coffee shops I visited during my short stay.

Reykjavik Roasters will probably be the first port of call for any speciality coffee connoisseur in Reykjavik. Launched as Kaffismiðja Íslands in 2008, the company rebranded three years ago and there are now two locations in the city centre. The original, where the roaster is based, is on Kárastígur, just opposite Hallgrímskirkja, the iconic cathedral on the hill. Their roaster used to be pink but has since changed to my other favourite colour — turquoise. This café is small, rustic and cosy. 

I sat down in the comfortable window seat and enjoyed a fine cortado (550 krona or about £3.90). There were two varieties of beans on offer: one from Guatemala and one from Brazil. My cortado was made with the former and I liked it so much that I bought a bag of the beans (on the pricey side at 2200 krona, or about £15.70, for 250g). There are many tempting cakes, pastries and breakfast dishes on offer, but I'd already partaken in a rather large cinnamon bun that morning so I restrained myself.

The other branch, which opened more recently, is further east of Hallgrímskirkja on Brautarholt, in a more residential and industrial neighbourhood. This café is larger and lighter and has beautiful interiors, from the tiled black coffee bar, to the pops of cheerful turquoise and yellow, and the gorgeous coffee flavour chart on the back wall. There is plenty of seating, with a mix of large and small tables, and both wooden high-back chairs and comfy mid-century armchairs.

The same Brazilian and Guatemalan coffees were on offer, so I asked the barista for his recommendation for a filter coffee. We settled on the Brazilian coffee brewed through the Kalita Wave, which I paired with a chocolatey, nutty flapjack. This came to an eye-watering 1500 krona (£10.60), although I later discovered that this is fairly standard for the city. The coffee, with its rich, chocolatey notes was very well brewed, though, and tasted delicious. I preferred the vibe in the Brautarholt branch but they are both lovely cafés.

Reykjavik Roasters is located at Kárastígur 1 and at Brautarholt 2. Website. TwitterInstagram.

I had seen several branches of Te og Kaffi around Reykjavik but it was only when I spotted their Micro Roast coffee lab and brew bar on Aðalstræti, just down from the Settlement Exhibition, that my interest was piqued. The roaster sits proudly in the front window and they serve filter coffee brewed through the Aeropress, V60, siphon and Chemex, as well as the usual espresso-based drinks. The coffees are roasted in small batches in the shop and they test them out here before rolling out new varieties to the other branches.

There were two varieties available when I visited, one from Guatemala, one from Colombia. I opted for the latter, brewed through the V60 (595 krona, or £4.20), and one of the cheapest sweet treats: a white and dark chocolate chip cookie (545 krona, or £3.90). Despite its price tag, the cookie was really good and worked very nicely with my pourover, which was brewed very nicely. Although I'd already snapped a photo of the bag of Guatemalan beans, I appreciated that the barista also provided a card with the details of the coffee. You can also buy bags of beans and various pieces of coffee kit.

Te og Kaffi: Micro Roast is located at Aðalstræti 9. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Kaffitár is another small chain with seven cafés in and around Reykjavik. I visited the original branch on Bankastræti, in the heart of the downtown area, which has been open for almost 20 years! Bankastræti and Laugavegur (which it feeds into) are two of the busiest shopping streets in Reykjavik, and Kaffitár was very busy when I arrived early on Saturday afternoon. As I had strategically decided to wait for Reykjavik Roasters for my pourover, I ordered a cortado at Kaffitár, which was brewed with the house espresso blend. There were a lot of people placing orders and it took a little while for my coffee to arrive but I wasn't in rush. The décor is dark with red and blue accents and tasteful art on the walls. There are a dozen or so small tables; the window seats, if you can nab them, are great for people-watching.

The cortado (590 krona, or £4.20) was a little over-heated and the latte art wasn't quite there, but the coffee still tasted good. With hindsight, I probably should have tried one of the single-origin espressos or returned at a quieter time to scope out the V60 pourover. The menu also featured an espresso tonic, although I suspect that they don't get many orders during the Icelandic winter. There are also various breakfast and lunch options available; I just had a blueberry muffin (580 krona, or £4.10), which was tasty. 

Kaffitár is located at Bankastræti 8; they have six other coffee houses in the Reykjavik area. Website. Twitter.

I happened upon Kaffihús Vesturbæjar after a visit to the heated outdoor swimming pool just across the road. Despite its name, it is more than just a coffee house: it's a real all-day neighbourhood venue serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and everything in between. I arrived at lunchtime and splurged on a smoked salmon and scrambled egg tartine, which was about 2000 krona (£14). You could also choose from a variety of salads and a reindeer burger. The coffee is from Reykjavik Roasters and although there was a pourover on the menu, whether or not they can make you one depends on who is working. I had a cortado instead (I think it was about 570 krona, or about £4) and although it was a little on the long side, it still had a strong, smooth taste.

I loved the interiors of Kaffihús Vesturbæjar: it's the very embodiment of hygge and cosiness with its rustic, wooden tables and counter, fairy lights and plenty of candles. It's the perfect place to hide out and read, write or relax on a bitterly cold Reykjavik afternoon. They also hold pub quizzes and live music nights, so it's definitely an interesting place to check out if you are in town.

Kaffihús Vesturbæjar is located at Melhaga 20-22. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

Mokka Kaffi has been serving espresso to the people of Reykjavik for almost 60 years and the Skólavörðustígur-based café has a homey, traditional vibe. The wooden walls and leather booths make it feel like a combination of a ski chalet and a diner, but the colourful local art on the walls give it character, and the staff were very friendly. The coffee menu is traditional here — you'll have to look elsewhere for your single origins and pourovers — so I stuck with a macchiato (469 krona, or £3.30). 

The roast was a little darker than I'm used to these but the coffee was still very well prepared, and Mokka Kaffi is a great place to come to enjoy your coffee with the locals.

Mokka Kaffi is at Skólavörðustígur 3A. Website.

Located in Reykjavik's Old Harbour, Café Haiti was established by Haitian  Elda Thorisson-Faurelien back in 2007 and almost a decade later, Elda is still importing beans from her native country. The café is small but bright and colourful; on a nice summer's day, the tables with harbour views on the front terrace would probably be a lovely place to sit, but I sought shelter from the rain inside. There are no hand-brewed filter coffees available, so I ordered a batch brew filter coffee (450 krona, or about £3.20), which had a rich, full-bodied flavour. I didn't try one of the espresso-based drinks but the cappuccinos being served at another table looked very nice. Retail bags of beans are also available.

Café Haiti is located at Geirsgata 7c. Website. Instagram.

Update: My fellow coffee blogger Brian visited Reykjavik in summer 2021, and you can find some more up-to-date posts about the city's speciality coffee scene on his blog.


  1. Great round-up Bex. I'm long overdue a visit to Iceland!


  2. I finally made it to Iceland and was able to visit most of the places on your list! Quite a bit has changed in the 4½ years it took me to get there though :-).

    Reykjavik Roasters now has four locations, the two new ones being opened in art galleries, one in a suburb of Reykjavik and the other just around the corner from the original on Kárastígur. Talking of which, the roaster is gone, moved to a new, dedicated roasting facility, so now there's more seating space in Kárastígur, which it needs as it's as busy as ever!

    Talking of moving roasters, the Te & Kaffi Micro Roast is now just a regular coffee shop. I think that the roasting is now done in a dedicated roastery which isn't open to the public, but I can't be sure. There are also lots more Te & Kaffi locations around town!

    Finally, Cafe Haiti is no more. Not sure what happened to it, but the cafe by the harbour has definitely gone.


  3. What took you so long?! ;)

    Thanks very much for the update, Brian. It's great to see there have been so many positive updates since I was there.

    Readers, please do also refer to Brian's blog for more up-to-date Reykjavík coffee recommendations (with more updates to come, I think!):