There was a time when to get a coffee in Phnom Penh you had little choice but to go to Brown Coffee or one of the other offerings on Street 51 in BKK1, or for 2,000 riel you could get a strong, sweet Khmer iced coffee from your neighborhood street drink lady or the “best Khmer iced coffee” in Russian Market. Those days are over.
There seems to be a new coffee shop opening every week, including chains from Australia (Gloria Jean’s), France (Le Diplomate), Laos (Dao, Joma), Japan (Kiriya), Singapore (Artease, YaKun), South Korea (Caffe Bene), and the UK (Costa). That coffee shop on the corner of 57 and 310 has changed names (but not much else) at least three times in the past 18 months, and trendy new cafes are popping up everywhere from Psar Kandal to Toul Tom Pong.
While you might be hard-pressed to find traditional Khmer coffee roasting in a steel drum, no fewer than three local cafes boast their own roasting machines (Brown, Feel Good 2, Terrazu). Even some of the coffee carts have pastry refrigerators and espresso machines.
But for all of this talk of “single origin” and arabica, how is a person to choose where to get their caffeine fix these days? Whether you are a social drinker, coffee snob, straight-up caffeine addict or backpacker on a budget, here are our recommendations.
For the coffee
At Feel Good and Feel Good 2 veteran roaster Marc Adamson and his protege (and silver medal Cambodian National Barista finisher) Sophorn roast coffee daily and supply many cafes and restaurants in Phnom Penh. They still manage to be head and shoulders above the competition in the quality of their coffee drinks, with excellent espressos and silky textured milk piccolos, flat whites and lattes.
For a meeting
Head to Brown Coffee (but with ten outlets, make sure you agree on which one!). This Cambodian coffee chain was one of the first to serve espresso-based coffee drinks, and their iced coffees and frappes are delicious. A place to see-and-be-seen for students, Brown Coffee boast plenty of big tables for work and meetings, but if you are looking for quiet, you had better go elsewhere. Their roastery on Street 57 also offers some single origin filter coffees and cold brew — be sure to specify when you order if you want yours without sugar!
For the sidewalk vibe
Bistrot Bassac and Chez Flo are side-by-side French-owned tiny cafes on Street 308. The sleek, architectural Bistrot Bassac and the perfectly mismatched, quirky Chez Flo are great places to chat and watch the foot traffic while sipping on a coffee after lunch or over cake.
For letting the kids run around
Breezy outdoor restaurant and cafe Farm to Table has an indestructible weathered-industrial vibe and a tractor and miniature outdoor kitchen play set for the little ones. Luckily for the older crowd, Farm to Table also makes a great espresso.
For the ice cream
Nuk Coffee boasts a liquid nitrogen affogato: super-chilled creamy ice cream with a shot of espresso. It’s not our favourite coffee in town, but with hot season upon us, this cold, creamy and caffeinated treat does the trick.
For the cold drip
Terrazu near BKK Market uses a glass drip tower to make a light and fruity cold drip coffee that is great over ice. While it might remind you more of iced tea than a coffee, it highlights the bright citrus and floral notes of Ethiopian beans.
For a quickie
With its cool walk-up counter, Kettlebell Cafe does great coffee drinks for the crowd with places to go. Whether it is before (or after) a workout at Crossfit Amatak, or on your way back to work after lunch at one of the restaurants nearby, the service is spot on, the milk is smooth and sweet and the coffee is delicious. And if you can’t wait the thirty seconds for an espresso, they have ready-made cold brew to pour over ice and send you on your way with.
Open daily, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
79 Street 136, Psar Kandal, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh
T: 079 888 773
Feel Good 2
Open Daily, 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.
11b Street 29, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 077 694 702
Open daily, 6:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Street 57 at Street 294, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 070 257 474
More locations: browncoffee.com.kh
Open daily, 11:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
38 Street 308, Tonle Bassac, Phnom Penh
T: 070 902 021
Open Mon through Sat, 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m. to 11 p.m., stays open to midnight Thurs through Sat
T: 012 986 270
Farm to Table
Open Tues through Sun, 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
16 Street 360, BKK1, Phnom Penh
T: 078 899 722
Open daily, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.
340 Street 370, BKK1, Phnom Penh
Open Mon through Fri, 6:30 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Sat 8:30 a.m. to 2 :00 p.m.
45 Street 454, Phnom Penh
T: 012 750 430
Jen Green is a coffee fiend based in Phnom Penh. In the interest of full disclosure, she has worked with Feel Good on (bean sourcing) and Kettlebell Cafe (equipment and barista training). Jen has a blog about Southeast Asian coffee, littleblackdrink.com.