Though tea drinking is nothing less than a national pastime in Uzbekistan, coffee is becoming popular. In cosmopolitan capital Tashkent, in particular, café culture is booming, with fashionable coffee shops sitting next to traditional chaikhanas (teahouses). Beyond trendy spots in which to partake in a speciality brew, Tashkent’s café scene encompasses a range of casual dining options.
Beans and Brews
Cafe, Coffee Shop, Coffee, Pastries
Beans and Brews – or B&B to its loyal fans – is often dubbed the best coffee house in Tashkent. Feruza French of the Hoteliers Association of Uzbekistan was ecstatic when she discovered it: “My coffeeholic soul could not stand it. I ordered myself a huge americano – it was divine!” She reflects on the café’s popularity, and highlights its international offering: “Why is it worth coming here? After a time, every foreigner in this country wants something familiar, and the Western dishes at B&B are incredibly tasty.” Come for the smell of freshly ground coffee, and stay for Italian-inspired pasta dishes and frittatas, American waffles and sumptuous patisserie-style desserts.
The city’s literati and students from the nearby campus of Westminster International University in Tashkent flock to BookCafe. Most of the space, as the name hints, is given over to shelves of novels and magazines (including English-language titles), with tables nestled between them. Pop in for a coffee and to find some new reading materials or to attend one of the café’s discussion events or film screenings. There is also a menu of snacks with plenty of tasty vegetarian and vegan-friendly options, which is a welcome sight in Uzbekistan.
Both devour and learn how to make sweet treats at Cookbook Workshop | Courtesy of Cookbook Workshop
Cookbook Workshop is both a cookery school and a patisserie, so if you want to learn how to make crème pâtissière as well as sampling it, this is the place to come. Thanks to the chic environment, Tashkent’s Instagrammers make up the bulk of the clientele. The most decadent item on the menu at Cookbook Workshop is undoubtedly the quadruple chocolate cake, which has chocolate filling plus chocolate frosting and sauce, and is topped with slabs of chocolate and Ferrero Rocher – did someone say death by chocolate?
A relaxed coffee shop and bakery with an ambience akin to a Parisian café, Breadly is – unsurprisingly – known for its exceptional bread. For British diplomat Michael Baum, it is the baguettes that keep him coming back. “The bread has a good crust, and it is soft in the middle, not sweet, crumbly or dry,” he says. In addition to the buckwheat, brioche and sourdough loaves, the breakfasts also make Breadly worth a visit – try the California breakfast with avocado, a poached egg and cream cheese. Prices here are a little high by Tashkent standards, but it still feels like a bargain for anyone doing the currency conversion from pounds or dollars. The air conditioning is effective – a big plus in the scorching summer months – and the Wi-Fi is reliable, making Breadly a popular spot for digital nomads.
Local TV chef Bahriddin Chustiy is nicknamed ‘Uzbekistan’s Jamie Oliver’ and is recognised by the Guinness World Records for making the world’s biggest plov: 7.36 tonnes of Uzbekistan’s national dish. The best place to taste Chustiy’s food (including plov) is from his kitchen at Kafe Aksu – a laid-back café-restaurant serving coffee and local cuisine. For a particularly cosy cuppa, curl up on one of the sofas on the charming indoor terrace, surrounded by greenery.
Human House is one of Tashkent’s more colourful spots for tea | Courtesy of Human House
A cultural centre, boutique and café rolled into one, Human House is the perfect place in Tashkent to while away an afternoon surrounded by locally designed fashion, artworks and intricately decorated ceramics. Blogger Pip and the City describes Human House’s café as “the perfect shopping pit stop that only locals seem to know about.” There’s a small but well-executed selection of teas and pastries, including samsas, a type of baked, savoury meat pastry. Pip’s top tip? “Make sure to enjoy your tea and snacks on the upper floors of Human House, sat on a dastarkhan (low table) surrounded by colourful fabrics.”
The global obsession with Harry Potter shows no signs of slowing down, and Tashkent’s most family-friendly café, Pottermania, is on hand to indulge fans. Here, you can order your coffee in a Gryffindor cup, and Hogwarts house shields adorn many of the dishes. The cupcakes are also decorated with edible ‘sorting hats’. This theme extends to the maximalist decor – lookout for the cuddly Hedwig who keeps watch while you eat. It may be kitsch, but Pottermania promises one of the most unusual coffee-drinking experiences in the Uzbek capital and is a must-visit spot for Harry Potter fans of all ages.