January 9, 2018

From Temples to Flat Whites: Coffee Culture in Cambodia


Visiting Cambodia? The breath-taking World Heritage Site of Angkor Wat may be at the top of every traveler’s must-see list, but how are you supposed to catch that sunrise tuk-tuk to the ancient temples without a cup of coffee first?

The good news is that you’ll find plenty of coffee in this Southeast Asian country – whether you’re staying in Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, or Battambang.

SEE ALSO: Why Specialty Coffee Shops Are Succeeding in Laos


Monks enter one of the many temples at Angkor Wat.

Siem Reap: Sipping Coffee, Visiting Temples

It seems like you can find a small family-owned cart serving coffee on every corner of Siem Reap, a town made famous for its proximity to Angkor Wat. Stop off at one and, for around US $1, you can have a potent mix of brewed coffee and sweetened condensed milk over ice.

In between all these coffee carts, you’ll also find numerous café’s serving mostly espresso-based beverages and food. As tourism has grown, so too has the number of coffee shops. Many of the Cambodian-owned ones cater to the budget-conscious tourist seeking a no-frills pick-me-up.

However, you will also find some specialty coffee shops in town, if you know where to go. The Australian-owned, Cambodian-managed The Little Red Fox Espresso started providing flat whites to tourists months before Starbucks began serving them in the US. Crane Coffee also deserves mention, while So Wat Coffee Roasters offers a range of single origins.

And as we venture to other parts of the country, affluent Cambodians are driving an interest in quality coffee – often taking inspiration from Japan and South Korea.


Stepping into Crane Coffee in Siem Reap. Credit: Myles Cordova

Phnom Penh, Home to Cambodia’s 1st Specialty Chain

While one of Asia’s poorest countries, Cambodia is now experiencing rapid poverty reduction and economic growth (spurred in part by Chinese corporate investment). The result is a middle class taking an active interest in Asean coffee culture.

This has manifested itself in the country’s first Cambodian-owned-and-operated specialty coffee chain, Brown Coffee and Bakery.  Whether you want a Hario V60 or a glass of refreshing cold brew, it’s a great place to sit, unwind, and meet a friend or read a book. In fact, a visit to one of their four branches has become a status symbol for many Cambodians, who eagerly post pictures of their drink on social media.


The Boeung Keng Kang branch of Brown Coffee in Phnom Penh. Credit: Myles Cordova

Battambang, Home to SCA Courses

While Brown Coffee may be the largest Cambodian-owned coffee franchise, the northwestern city Battambang also, surprisingly, has an SCA outpost. This comes in the shape of the Cambodian-owned Cafe Crema Coffee and Roastery. 

Cafe Crema Coffee and Roastery was started by Visal Chea, who, with the assistance of South Korean expat Joyner Lee, started roasting in 2011. Joyner Lee has considerable specialty coffee experience as an SCA certified Q-Grader and Golden Cup Technician.

The pair not only source and roast their own coffee but also hold SCA Barista Certification courses with SCA Trainers from neighboring Malaysia. The duo’s mission is to help the local community in Battambang through education and training, so that local Cambodians can become coffee professionals.

The café is approachable and unassuming. Inside, you’ll encounter a well-trained staff that takes great pride in crafting and executing a consistent drink.

Joyner Lee tells me, “Coffee culture here in Cambodia is very interesting. You can find tons of cafes with great food but not a good cup of coffee. Many people know about coffee with milk but not about lattes. However, I see the more coffee shops coming, the more people will drink coffee, and the more people drink coffee, the more they will find they want a better cup of coffee.

“Soon, I’m sure for some people they will start to experience specialty coffee and will want to know about specialty coffee. By having us opening the SCA courses, soon it will allow more people to get into specialty coffee and surely it can be a big market to many coffee lovers here in Cambodia.”


Joyner Lee brews pour over coffee in Cafe Crema Coffee and Roastery, Battambang. Credit: Cafe Crema Coffee and Roastery

This country has much to offer, whether you’re stopping by for a holiday or lucky enough to live here. And as specialty coffee starts to bloom, coffee lovers can rest assured that they’ll have a great brew. So in between chatting with friendly Cambodians and visiting temples, make time to sit down with a flat white or a delicious pour over.

Perfect Daily Grind

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