Hidden in a side alley off the busy Little Bourke Street is a perfect spot for brunch in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD. Manchester Press used to be a former gallery, now transformed into an inner-city café with space to spare, unusual for its location.

Owners Issy Shaked and Nir Kalif have taken their experience running Loco Café, another popular brunch destination, and created a must-go (and be-seen) venue for hipsters and students alike. During peak hours, the line to enter can be long but part of the fun is observing the waiting list that is written in chalk on the wall next to the entrance. Every time the names and numbers get wiped off with a wet cloth, there is a collective cheer.

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Fancy taking a shower at a café? You can do that after a ride at The Grumpy Cyclist, a space for cycling enthusiasts and coffee lovers alike. The fitness vibes of Taman Tun Dr Ismail with its parks and running trails provide the right ambiance; there’s even a bicycle “spa” here for you to work on your wheels!

The Grumpy Cyclist is the brainchild of avid road cyclist Alex Iskander Liew. He says, “When I cycled in Europe, I stopped by a lot of cafés in small towns. Meeting other cyclists and having cups of coffee together before continuing with my ride was a good way to learn more about the place, people and culture.”

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Amsterdam isn’t all about canals and “coffee shops” where tourists congregate for their cannabis kicks. About a 15-minute bus ride from the Amsterdam Central bus station is an almost bucolic urban park. Westerpark used to house one of the Dutch capital’s gas extraction facilities but today has a new life as a cultural centre with markets, festivals and young businesses thriving.

One of these new enterprises is Espressofabriek, founded in 2005 by Rick Woertman with a mission of bringing specialty coffee to Amsterdammers. It’s housed in a two-storey red-bricked building, the top floor a roastery and the café on the ground floor. Outside wooden picnic benches offer an al fresco experience when the weather is fine. The best furnishing they have is intangible, of course: the aroma of freshly brewed coffee.

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Shibuya’s Streamer Coffee Company is a Seattle-style café run by champion latte artist Hiroshi Sawada. He was the first Asian barista world champion, grabbing the highest score ever at the 2008 Free Pour Latte Art Championships in Seattle.

We found about Streamer Coffee from one of our barista pals, Michael Tan (formerly of RAW Coffee in Kuala Lumpur and currently pulling shots at Tiong Bahru Bakery in Singapore). Tan is a huge fan of latte art and the intricate swirls Streamer Coffee is famous for excite him to no end.

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It was a rainy day when we arrived in Ghent. We were spending the weekend in Belgium; our hotel in Brussels doubling as our “headquarters” from which we headed out in all directions in search of good coffee.

We were especially excited about Ghent as our friends Lin Lee and Yew Kheong, the husband-and-wife barista team behind The Red Beanbag in Kuala Lumpur had raved about this beautiful university town and were sure we would love it. A canal boat ride later in the day proved their words to be true and prophetic.

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