30 November 2022

Ten Speciality Coffee Shops To Visit in Athens

With annual leave still to use and a desire to leave behind the cold, wet weather of London, I booked myself a city break in Athens earlier this month. My city guide will be coming soon but for all of my Athens speciality coffee recommendations, keep on reading.

I had booked a trip to Athens in November 2020 but that trip was cancelled when the UK went into full lockdown a few days before my departure. Luckily, all of the coffee shop research I did came in useful when I finally made it to the Greek capital. Indeed, there were far more coffee spots on my list than I could visit on a four-day trip! 

I made it to ten coffee shops, enjoying coffee from some great local roasters. Find out more about my experiences below. My very favourite places are, as always, marked in my map in purple and with an asterisk in the post.

I was surprised by the frequent absence of piccolos and cortados on the menus in the Athens coffee shops I visited, but Dope Roasting Co was an exception. To be fair, they do have a very large menu that also includes juices, bagels, cakes and sweet treats. And they also have a rather beautiful Faema E71 machine for brewing espresso-based drinks into colourful Acme cups.

I took the opportunity to order a cortado and very well brewed it was too. Dope's cafe is spacious, with vintage furniture — to match the Faema and the décor — around the counter and in the adjacent square, where you can sit if the weather's nice (it almost certainly is). There's also more seating upstairs. As their name suggests, Dope roast their own coffee and you can buy retail bags of beans.

Dope Roasting Co is located at Vissis 25. Website. Instagram.

By the time I got to Foyer Espresso Bar, a petite coffee bar on Panepistimiou, I was running late with my plan to climb up Mount Lycabettus before my afternoon tour, so I got my cortado (an off-menu order) to go in my Ecoffee Cup. If you're staying, the cosy cafe, which opened in 2015, has a few seats at the back, past the counter, and some benches out on the pavement.

They serve coffee from various European roasters — there were retail beans from the Swedish Morgon Coffee Roasters and Rotterdam-based Manhattan Coffee Roasters when I was there. I opted for an El Salvador coffee from the latter. The latte art was impressive and the cortado tasted great — sweet and perfectly balanced. My coffee accompanied me to the top of Mount Lycabettus where it very much enjoyed the panoramic views over Athens, as highlighted in this post's lead photo.

Foyer Espresso Bar is located at Panepistimiou 46. Website. Instagram.

Kaya, the last coffee shop I visited before I headed back to the airport, is located at the back of a small shopping arcade. I might have missed it had I not been looking for it! It's a small operation, with a coffee bar behind a long glass window. You go to the hatch to order and then perch at the long wooden bar outside, where you can watch the baristas at work. There weren't cortados or flat whites on the menu but I was very happy with my small cappuccino; it was a great way to end my Athens coffee-shop-hopping adventures.

Kaya is located at Voulis 7. Facebook.

One of the few coffee shops that wasn't on my list before I arrived, Kolor is located just across from Taf Coffee, which was my initial destination. As both coffee shops have big open windows, I was able to photograph Kolor while drinking my coffee at Taf and vice-versa. Kolor describes itself as "a white shop full of kolor" and does indeed rank high on the minimalist décor scale.

I wondered if the coffee was from Friedhats after spotting some of their distinctive bean jars above the bar, but Kolor roast their own coffee. I had a pourover brewed with a natural Ethiopian Heirloom coffee and it was really good, with lovely floral and fruity flavours. I'd already eaten but there were some delicious-looking baked goods on the counter too.

Kolor is located at Emmanouil Benaki 7-9. Facebook. Instagram.

MOKKA, located next to Athens Central Market, will turn 100 in 2023. Not bad going, and you can read more about their history on their website. They've evolved over the years to offer speciality coffee and they sell a huge variety of single-origin beans on their website. Inside, it looks a little more old school than most of the other cafés I visited, but the coffee was very good.

I got a macchiato to go and while I was waiting, I watched the baristas stirring a copper pot sitting in what looked like a small sandpit on the counter. That's exactly what it was: the hot sand is used instead of an open flame to brew the coffee in the ibrik pot. Next time I'm in town, I will definitely make time to try sand-brewed coffee!

MOKKA is located at Athinas 44. Website. Instagram.

Part cafe, part lifestyle store, Plegma was right up my street (well, it would be if I lived on Eufranoros). Its name means 'grid,' 'mesh' or 'nexus' in Greek and the shop is owner Lida's happy place. It's easy to see why because the cafe is beautifully designed and there are some really lovely products in the store, from jewellery and stationery to furniture and interiors.

The coffee is great too. I had a flat white brewed with a Brazilian single origin from Area 51, an Athens-based roaster, which paired nicely with a slice of lemon and cream cheese cake. They also have an extensive menu of brunch dishes, sandwiches and salads. There are a few small tables inside and more seating options out on the pavement.

Plegma Coffee & Living is located at Eufranoros 10. Website. Instagram.

After a hot morning walking around the Acropolis, followed by some rather more modern art at EMST, I was in serious need of more coffee and sustenance. I headed to The Rabbit Punch, a buzzy all-day spot just down the street from Plegma, which opened in 2018. All of the terrace seating was full when I arrived at brunch o'clock, so I took a seat inside by the window.

The coffee is from their sister venue, The Underdog (see below), and as I was sitting next to the coffee bar, my 'natural coffee radar' was set off when the friendly barista was grinding some beans for a pourover. It turned out to be an Ethiopian Yirgacheffe and I ordered one for myself. The coffee had really juicy strawberry and tropical fruit notes — perfect for the sunny weather. The Rabbit Punch also has an epic brunch menu, but as I'd already ticked off most of the main brunch food groups at my hotel breakfast (eggs, bacon, avocado, bread), I decided to go for the healthy option of a quinoa salad. There's a first time for everything...

The Rabbit Punch is located at Eufranoros 40. Website. Instagram.

Sometimes, when you get to a coffee shop, you just know how great the coffee is going to be and you end up ordering all of the coffee. That was my experience at Samba Coffee Roasters. Located on bustling Solonos, the coffee shop is elbow-room-only inside but has an upstairs seating area, as well as outdoor seating that takes advantage of the Athens weather. The coffee shop is thoughtfully designed too with the large front window offering the perfect view of the baristas at work on the gorgeous, backless Aremde espresso machine.

I ordered two coffees: a cortado brewed with a natural anaerobic coffee from Masiri in Eastern Uganda and a pourover made with a naturally processed coffee from Karambo, Burundi. There are some really special coffees at Samba, including competition coffees and microlots, but as owner Kostas, whom I got chatting to outside, told me, their ambition is simple: make good coffee that people enjoy. This means there are plenty of easy-drinking coffees on the menu too. Samba was founded in 1979 by Kostas's father. The company has evolved a lot over the past 40 years, but my experience was that of a coffee shop that has found the sweet spot of warm, welcoming service and excellent coffee.

The cortado tasted delicious — the sun was almost over the yardarm so the rum and tropical fruit notes felt fitting. I bought some of the Uganda beans to bring home and they've been tasting just as good brewed through my Kōno dripper. My pourover was delicious too, with peach and raisin flavours. Kostas also let me try one of their super-special coffees: a natural Sidra from Cafe Granja La Esperanza in Colombia. I don't drink espresso very often but this was an exceptional one with juicy berry and pineapple notes. Don't miss out on visiting Samba while you're in Athens!

Samba Coffee Roasters is located at Solonos 36 (and other locations). Website. Instagram.

Although I didn't make it to the sage-green-accented Taf coffee shop until the penultimate day of my trip, they supply the coffee at Ergon House, where I was staying, so I'd been enjoying their coffee at the ground floor coffee bar and in the capsules with the Grandma's Boy espresso blend in my room.

But the flat white I enjoyed in Taf's coffee shop was probably the best of my trip. Brewed with their house espresso blend (with coffees from Costa Rica and Brazil), it had sweet, caramel notes. And of course, I wanted to buy the cup, but I restrained myself. The cafe is small but it still has a brew bar for pourovers and they sell a wide variety of coffees on their website, from special and rare coffees to more everyday options. Taf is a must-visit cafe on any Athens coffee tour.

Taf Coffee is located at Emmanouil Benaki 7. Website. Instagram.

The Underdog is a cafe serving coffee and all-day brunch in a spacious, industrial-chic setting that belies its more classical exterior. It's located close to the northwest slope of the Acropolis and handy for sites like the Ancient Agora, Areopagus Hill and the Archaeological Site of Kerameikos.

Once again, I was too full from breakfast to manage anything from the brunch menu (which is similar to that of The Rabbit Punch), but I did enjoy a peanut butter and chocolate chip cookie. I was sitting at the coffee bar, where I could watch the baristas at work and also spot some of their many awards — from latte art to coffee cocktails. They had five fab-sounding experimental coffees on the brew bar menu, including a couple of Panama Geshas and a Sidra from Ecuador. But I was in the mood for a coffee with milk and opted for a flat white, which was excellent. The baristas here were also very friendly and it was a great place to hang out while I took a break from archaeology.

The Underdog is located at Iraklidon 8. Website. Twitter. Instagram.

As you may have seen from the above post, many cafes in Athens have large windows that create an almost al fresco effect, allowing the air to flow during the sweltering summer weather. Unfortunately, they do also let in cigarette smoke, so bear this in mind when choosing your seat. And speaking of the heat, there's an almost ubiquitous Greek menu item called a Freddo — an iced coffee drink that comes in espresso and cappuccino formats. Both involve a double espresso shot blended with ice and sugar, served over ice — the cappuccino also includes a layer of foam. I don't love sweet or milky coffees but I had to try one while I was in Athens. The Freddo cappuccino at my hotel was pretty good — and I can see how refreshing the drink would be when the mercury rises.

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