Third-wave coffee has taken off in Tbilisi in recent years, and there’s plenty of choice on the Georgian capital’s café scene these days. Here’s the lowdown on where to enjoy a brew in Tbilisi.
“Tbilisi didn’t have a big culture of coffee shops till 2016 or so, and currently we’re experiencing really rapid development,” says Daria Kholodilina, a Tbilisi-based travel blogger and tour planner who moved to Georgia from her native Ukraine in 2013.
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While standard opening times for cafés have generally been around 10 or 11am, the city is starting to embrace (relatively) early mornings, Kholodilina believes. This not so much because of increasing number of tourists, she says, but because of a small but growing community of international residents who have brought with them a practice of more hearty morning meals – and the all-important morning coffee.
Before 2016, “it was almost impossible to enjoy an early morning coffee, as the local people are neither early birds, nor breakfast-lovers,” Kholodilina laughs, “Luckily, times change!”
After almost seven years in the city – and watching the growth of breakfast culture there – Kholodilina has a firm list of favourite cafés and coffee shops in Tbilisi.
Opened by an American who originally came to Tbilisi to be a schoolteacher, Minimalist Coffee is currently the only coffee shop in the city to focus solely on manual coffee brewing. Staff are attentive to your likes in this tiny shop, and will help you choose how you want your caffeine fix: from a simple French press to Chemex pour-overs or a cup from the Hario V60.
A sleek, modern oasis surrounded by leafy trees, Coffee LAB is the only coffee shop in Tbilisi to roast its own beans, so it’s safe to say that they’ve got the art and science of it down. For digital nomads, there are plenty of power outlets too. “This is the place where speciality coffee started in Tbilisi,” says Kholodilina. “Located outside of the historical area of the city, it is still a magnet for coffee-lovers, as well as local freelancers who want to get their work done while drinking something really good. My top choice there is the V60 coffee, plus either poached eggs with spinach or simply a piece of chocolate with coconut,” she adds.
Whether you want to browse a deeply engrossing selection of books and magazines, or just take a break from traditional Georgian cuisine, a trip to bookstore-café They Said Books makes for an hour well spent. Founder Anano Bakradze would bring extra luggage when she travelled abroad to bring back books and magazines that were impossible to find in Tbilisi, introducing different ideas of culture to the city through the publications she stocked upon her return. If you can tear yourself away from browsing the shelves, the excellent menu aims to fill the gap in healthy eating options in the city. Bakradze says the food is “not vegan or vegetarian, just healthy, quality salads and dishes including good granola, and chia pudding.”
This little place is located around the corner from the Tbilisi State Conservatoire and is open from early morning to night. “I usually order the sweet cottage cheese pancakes or savoury pancakes with salmon and a flat white there,” says Kholodilina. Plus, you might just get a concert with your coffee: “Sometimes you can hear the music from the conservatoire windows, and sometimes the owners invite the musicians in to play for the guests.”
The coffee at Skola is famously excellent, but so is the people-watching, thanks to its location off a main thoroughfare. “My favourite thing is to sit next to the window, have a strong cappuccino, and observe the people on Rustaveli Avenue. This is a real-time cinema! The name means ‘school’ in Georgian, and you’ll definitely spot the school-themed motifs in the design,” says Kholodilina. For those looking for breakfast, she recommends the oatmeal or a piece of either the carrot or banana cake. Bakradze of They Said Books adds that it’s a great place to get some work done, too.
One of Bakradze’s favourite picks, Chocolaterie and Roastery at the trendy Hotel Stamba is the perfect way to get both a chocolate fix and a caffeine boost. Part of the hotel’s chic cafeteria-style dining area, here the coffee is smooth and the handmade artisan chocolates are made to creative recipes. There’s also a delicious selection of cakes, from Georgian-style medok (honey cake) with caramelised cream to pistachio cake topped with raspberry sauce. If you have some work to get done – or simply want to take in the sun – finding a spot in the pleasantly buzzy courtyard is a treat.
Much like Berlin, Tbilisi has a number of low-lit, cosy living-room-style cafés decorated with retro wallpaper and artfully mismatched vintage furniture. This one, bedecked in chandeliers and flock wallpaper, goes the extra mile by actually being located on the second floor of an old former residence off Kote Abkhazi street. Sit on a plush bordeaux velvet sofa inside, or outside on two balconies that make perfect people-watching perches. Come here for a pastry and coffee in the mornings, but don’t rule out an evening trip for live jazz, a glass of wine and some traditional Georgian dishes.
You might walk right by this unassuming, minimalist restaurant if you’re not totally sure of where it is, but if you happen to love bread, make room in your schedule (and your stomach) for a stop here. Expect traditional Georgian hours here: yes, there’s a breakfast menu, and yes, the café doesn’t open until 11am. Back to the bread, though: the loaves are made from both yeast-free and gluten-free recipes using Georgian grains from family farms, and over the course of a coffee or quiche here, you’re likely to spot a few local residents popping in to buy a loaf. It’s also owned by a quartet of restaurateurs who happen to all be women, and who also happen to oversee some of the best restaurants in town, including French restaurant Le Marais and West Georgian-focused Alubali.
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