10 years ago it wasn’t easy to find a real cup of coffee in Macau. Aside from espressos served at Portuguese restaurants, finding a good coffee was a frustrating affair, which often had me wishing I was back in Europe.
“What a difference a decade makes!” is a phrase often used when discussing Macau. It is an accurate depiction of many aspects of this city, including its coffee culture.
In 2015, being a coffee drinker in Macau is a totally different experience. These days, there’s a thriving coffee culture to please those who love good coffee and plenty of cafes vying to serve the best coffee in Macau.
Visits to Macau now reveal coffee fixes around nearly every corner. Local, international and specialty coffeehouses can be found scattered throughout the popular tourist areas, never far from Macau’s heritage attractions, casinos and resorts.
So how did these changes come about in such a short period of time?
Early Coffee Culture in Macau
Macau’s coffee culture takes roots from her colonial past. While Britain left her love for afternoon tea in Hong Kong, the Portuguese stamped a habit of coffee drinking onto Macau.
For many decades this meant after-dinner coffees at western restaurants or clay pot brewed coffee at a local ‘cha chaan teng’ like Sei Kee Café, which still practices this old-fashioned method in their original 1950’s shop off St. Augustine Square.
Café T.H.S. Honolulu, which also got its start in the 1950s, uses straightforward brewing of over 20 varieties of international beans. They serve up simple but good cups of black coffee in their branches found throughout Macau.
You can still experience Macau’s early coffee culture at these long-standing cafes in Macau.
This was the scene for the better part of the past 60 years. Like most things in Macau, coffee culture was suspended in time, waiting to be awakened and to evolve with the rest of the outside world.
That day came in 2002 with the break-up of the gambling monopoly in Macau.
International Coffee Shops – First Arrivers
As the doors to the gambling world finally opened in Macau, the territory began to experience a rising tide of economic prosperity. With it came a proliferation of international coffee franchises and a new chapter in Macau’s coffee culture.
Others joined the fray, including McCafe (USA), Gloria Jeans (Australia), espressamente illy (Italy) and most recently TOM N TOMS (Korea), all of which have provided convenient, casual venues for locals and tourists to relax and enjoy coffee in Macau.
Finally, Macau had a broader foundation for its coffee culture to grow but where was the good stuff in this wave of mass-market coffee shops?
I tip my cap to espressamente illy for having done a pretty good job behind their counter but generally speaking, Macau was still without venues able to cater to more serious coffee drinkers and those hoping to sip their cup in more personal settings.
This was the scene until just a few years ago.
The Arrival of the Specialty Coffee Shops
By the summer of 2012, Macau had witnessed the arrival of its first specialty coffee shops. Terra Coffee House opened its doors at St. Augustine Square and was soon followed in early 2013 by fellow standout Single Origin near Tap Seac Square.
Finally, Macau had proper coffee houses with trained and knowledgeable baristas capable of describing the origin of their coffee beans, roasting and brewing processes and – most importantly – making personalized cups of excellent coffee.
These front-runners, armed with modern equipment and coffee-making techniques, helped Macau flip the page to the next chapter of local coffee culture.
A handful of other very good specialty coffee shops have since opened, joining Terra and Single Origin. This has provided the much-needed depth to the specialty coffee shop scene and additional alternatives to the mass-market places that had previously sprang up around Macau.
These days, you are never far from a great espresso or serious cup of black, white or iced-coffee.
While the best-of-the-best are not located directly on Senado Square, you can find great coffee houses in less frequented sections of the World Heritage area at the fringes of the historic city centre of Macau.
Best coffee in Macau
Here is where to go to experience Macau’s top specialty coffee shops. The good news is these top-notch establishments open late, 11am or later.
1-Terra Coffee House
Terra has developed a bit of a cult following with local residents, serving up premium coffee drinks at their excellent location on St. Augustine Square, near a handful of World Heritage attractions.
This is a great choice for those planning to visit attractions between Senado Square and Barra Square. Terra Coffee House is open from 12am to 12pm every day.
2-Single Origin pour over and espresso bar
Single Origin is also setting the course for Macau’s emerging coffee scene, serving up top-notch Blooom Coffee and brewing up great single origin and mixed coffee drinks in their cute little shop tucked away on Rua de Abreu Nunes.
This is a great coffee shop if visiting the St. Lazarus to Tap Seac Square area of Macau. Opening hours are 12pm to 8pm.
Communal Table is Single Origin’s second project. Located on Rua Formosa, just north of Rua do Campo, a few minutes’ walk from Cathedral Square in the historic city centre, Communal Table offers up simple light meals in addition to the same, excellently made Blooom Coffee drinks served at their flagship shop, from 11am to 9pm every day.
4-Blooom Coffee House
Blooom Coffee House is a third shop by the team at Single Origin, located on Rua de Horta e Costa near Vasco de Gama Garden. Serving up the brand name coffee, Blooom is the only specialty shop in Macau with early hours at this point in time. Early risers can find them open 8.30am to 8pm from Monday to Friday, 11am to 7pm on Saturdays (closed Sundays).
For those looking for serious coffee closer to the Ruins of St. Paul, make your way to Rua dos Artiheiros, northeast of the ruins where you will find Café Philo, manned by a dedicated barista who patiently prepares and serves up quality coffee drinks in a quieter section of Macau from 12pm to 7.30pm.
Other Specialty Coffee shops worthy of note:
Wonderwall Coffeehouse recently opened on Rua do Volong, between St. Lazarus and Tap Seac Square, serving up good coffee drinks in a comfortable, relaxing setting in one of the most beautiful spots in Macau. Wonderwall is open from 11am to 8pm Sundays and Mondays and 11am to 11pm on Tuesdays to Saturdays.
Crazy Barista’s is an experimental coffeehouse targeting the night time crowd, featuring open mic nights and interesting coffee drink creations. Located in Rua da Tercana, Crazy Barista’s is within reach to those visiting the Ruins of St. Paul or attractions at Camões Square. Doors are only open from 7 to 11pm during the week but you can get your coffee fix from 12pm to 11pm here during the weekend.
Beyond the Historic City Centre
Although the epicenter of Macau’s coffee culture is centered around the Historic City Centre, its reaches is spreading beyond the Macau Peninsula to areas such as Taipa Village, where you can find the likes of CuppaCoffee, and Coloane Village, with the unique Hann Café on the promenade.
The future of coffee culture in Macau
Macau’s coffee culture has grown by leaps and bounds over the past decade and is now a serious spot for coffee-drinking travellers. Yet much is still changing in this city so odds are the coffee scene will continue to mature and diversify over the next five to 10 years.
Brad Reynolds lives and works in Hong Kong but spends much of his free time in Macau enjoying its emerging coffee culture there.
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