A Coffee Tour of Ubud, Bali – 5 Cafe’s In Ubud Worth Experiencing
Coffee can, and should, take you around the world, and today, it's taking you to a small town on the island of Bali, in Indonesia.
Ubud - a little yet breathtaking town in central Bali, has a boutique and thriving artesian coffee scene, which you'll see in a few moments through my recount of a recent coffee shop tour of the region.
Indonesia and Coffee
Indonesia is well known for being a heavy hitter in the global coffee production and exportation game - rather than being the host of a fast growing artesian café culture.
But visit any popular street in Bali or Jakarta, and you’ll realize the island chain is rapidly becoming a hub for specialty coffee lovers thanks to the huge variety of high-quality local coffee beans and a growing Indonesian middle class with an intense thirst for great coffee.
The islands of Java, Sumatra and Sulawesi bear the bulk of Indonesian coffee, however, traveling around the tourist hub of Bali means you’ll have direct and easy access to lesser well-known (yet equally as exciting) beans from mountain ranges around Bali, Flores, Sumbawa and West Papua.
The Coffee Scene in Ubud in General
Most tourists drop into Ubud to explore the Monkey Forest, behold the beautiful natural surroundings, or to appreciate a few local handmade goods from the local artesian markets, but for me, Ubud ticked three boxes extremely well:
- The food – there is an abundance of well-priced organic, locally sourced vegetarian and vegan restaurants and cafes - just salivate over this list!
- The digital nomad scene – if you work online, Ubud is a great place to base yourself as there is reliable wifi in most coffee shops, a favorable (cool) climate compared to the rest of Bali, and a gorgeous co-work space called Hubud.
- The coffee – If you enjoy spending your days drinking superb coffee and lounging in cafes, you’ve come to the right place
The following five coffee shops in Ubud will make you smile for one reason or another:
#1 - The Seniman Coffee Studio
The Seniman Coffee Studio is THE place to be if you are after a specialty coffee experience, rather just another coffee shop (it's called a studio, not a café, after all).
As soon as you enter the studio, it will become apparent that you don't understand as much about coffee as you initially thought.
But it’s ok; the baristas (each who have undergone rigorous training from Taiwanese ‘coffee masters’) will fill in the gaps of your coffee knowledge as they walk you through the beans and Brewers on offer, and help you come to the perfect decision.
Coffee in hand (+ your small glass of water and Balinese sweet potato cake) means it's time find a seat; choose to sit either in the studio itself (I'd recommend one of the upcycled rocking chairs), or, head down to the large lounge-like room, grab a table and work or relax while experiencing perhaps the best coffee you've had in years.
Head across the road after you’re done to the Seniman cold brew bar where you can watch the staff roast beans, or buy some cold brew coffee to keep you caffeinated and fresh for the journey ahead.
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#2 - The Anomali Coffee
Anomali coffee house is your next stop if you’re looking for somewhere quiet and comfortable to work from, or, if you want to check out Indonesia’s first specialty coffee shop chain – based out of Jakarta where they take much pride in their local coffee scene.
They’ve nailed the perfect combination of dynamics for anyone looking for a relaxing coffee experience:
- A broad range of Indonesian single source beans and Brewers
- Modern Indonesian décor, and;
- Plenty of comfortable seating (nooks & crannies, bean bags, tables, etc.).
If you’re looking to get some work done, head upstairs and grab a table – it almost resembles a co-work space with the lure of superb coffee downstairs.
The only caveat, I'll add, is that they promote and serve Kopi luwak, which is not something I’m cool with – see the end of this article for an explanation of why.
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#3 - The F.R.E.A.K Coffee
If the mercury’s rising (more than usual) – FREAK Coffee will keep you cool with a glass of their famous cold brew coffee, or one of their vegan cold brew ice creams (or maybe both!).
Almost all the coffee shops on this list serve cold brew coffee, but in my opinion, FREAK does cold brew coffee the best; full of flavor, super smooth, with a subtle and gradual caffeine kick.
FREAK is an acronym for Freshly Roasted Enak Arabica from Kitanmani, enak translating to ‘yum’ in Indonesian, and FREAK (in the acronym's sense) is precisely what you’ll experience here: Daily roasted coffee beans from the local Kintamani region (which is nearby Ubud)
Yes - the coffee shop is small, and you won’t find a broad range of brewers or beans on offer here, but seriously, if you want good cold brew, don’t miss FREAK coffee.
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#4 - The Juria House
One balmy afternoon as we strolled down a lesser well-known backstreet in search of yet another great joe, I came across what looked like a hole in the wall cafe - the Juria coffee house.
To be honest - this place did not make it onto my shortlist of coffee shops to visit, mostly because I had read, or heard nothing about it on, or offline.
In fact, if we didn’t walk down this street we would have never experienced the charm this place has to offer.
You may be quick to judge this coffee shop based on its appearance (both inside and out), but Juria house offers something no other coffee shop in Ubud can provide: a unique coffee experience with a very local vibe - it feels like you are far, far away from the touristy town of Ubud.
The coffee was fantastic - Yogi, our very friendly barista, explained to us (in broken English) the story of the Juria coffee bean while he used a clever dripper to carefully brew coffee that was worth the wait - strong, sweet, tropical with a very long-lasting yet pleasant aftertaste.
This boutique coffee house exists for one reason - to resurrect the Juria coffee bean which was more or less unknown the world for almost 60 years as it was buried in the Manggarai mountains for Flores
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Find out more: Juria House
Address: Jl. Sugriwa, Ubud, Kabupaten Gianyar, Bali, Indonesia
Best suited for: anyone looking to try a pure Arabica coffee from the island of Flores in a relaxed and local setting.
#5 - The Atman Kafe
If you’ve come to Ubud to eat clean, practice a little yoga and ‘find yourself’ - Atman Kafe will most likely be high on your list of places to hit.
You may be startled to see Atman Kafe on this list of coffee hangouts, but talk of the locally-produced organic vegan cuisine, served in a calm, relaxed atmosphere got the better of us, so we popped in for a visit on your last morning in Ubud.
The food was indeed fabulous. However, the coffee was not up to our standards (which were unusually high thanks to all the great coffee shops we’d visited beforehand).
We opted for a piccolo and a coconut oil latte - the former letting us down as it drowned a milky death, but the latter impressing us with its unique and super smooth flavor.
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Say NO To Kopi Luwak
You’ll notice a commonality among many coffee shops around Bali (albeit mainly the lower quality ones) - the constant promotion of ‘Kopi Luwak’ which is labeled by many as the ‘best coffee experience in the world.'
For those of you who’ve never understood Luwak coffee - it's processed from the excretion (yes - shitting) of the Asian palm civet.
Why the heck would you want to drink coffee that’s come from the rear of an animal, you ask? Some argue that the civets choose to eat only the best coffee beans, and during the digestion process, the flavor profile is improved via fermentation.
You’ll often be advised that it's ‘wild sourced’ (meaning the civets live freely in the wild, creating Kopi Luwak as part of their natural day to day living). But don’t be fooled - during investigations by PETA, farmers admitted that wild sourced Luwak coffee is almost impossible and that mislabelling in the industry is very common.
Unfortunately, the creatures are taken from the wild, caged, deprived of their natural necessities and force fed coffee beans to maximize production of the bean, which happens to be some of the most expensive coffee in the world. One can only assume, therefore, that it's a hugely profitable endeavour for those involved in selling it -regardless of the living conditions of the palm civet.
If you are interested in learning more about poop coffee (because yes, there are more varieties than civet's), check this complete article.
Other Travel Tips for Ubud
Excited about Ubud? Here are a few other, non-coffee-related experiences that you should not miss out on:
1. Fine dining at ‘The Bridges'
Depending on where you hail from you'll be able to take advantage of certain experiences without worrying about budgeting to much thanks to geographical arbitrage.
Treat yourself to a Gatsby-like dining experience at the Bridges restaurant in Ubud and sample the good life. 5 out of 5 for service, food quality and ambiance, with a breathtaking view.
2. Head to the Paradiso Cinema for a flick and some organic snacks
This great little bohemian theater allows you to watch a film in a relaxing day-bed like setting while you're served nothing but the healthy and delicious food from earth cafe below.
3. Grab a scooter and explore
No trip to Ubud would be complete without a tour of the local, vast rice paddies, surrounding nature or sacred monkey forest. Grab a motorbike/scooter (don't forget your helmet) and start exploring, you will NOT regret it!
I hope you enjoyed the journey through the Ubud coffee scene as much as we did.
If we've missed your favorite spot, share it in the comments below!