Last Updated on October 4, 2023
Jet-setting around the globe requires a sense of adventure, some careful planning — and for many, a steady source of caffeine. The next time you wake up in a new country, bleary-eyed and jet-lagged, you need a coffee drink that’s going to provide a much-needed jolt of energy. Depending on where you find yourself next, here are four of the strongest coffee drinks around the world.
Espresso (pronounced es-press-so, not ex-press-so) can be found in coffee shops around the world, but it originated in Italy sometime in the late 19th or early 20th century. It remains a popular drink throughout Europe, as well as in the United States.
Espresso is a concentrated type of coffee with a strong taste. It’s served in 1- or 2-ounce shots, but you drink it slowly to appreciate its intense flavor. You can make espresso with any type of coffee, as long as you brew it with pressurized hot water and finely ground beans. This brewing method makes espresso thicker than regular coffee, with a layer of foam known as crema on top.
While espresso will be highly effective at waking you up, be warned: It’s not for the faint of heart. Many find the taste to be extremely bitter and too strong for their liking. If you want a caffeine jolt with a bit less intensity, you can mix some hot water with an espresso shot to tone down the taste.
If you’re someone who needs caffeine like you need oxygen, you might try a ristretto. This drink gets its name from the Italian word for “limited,” which refers to how it’s made. To make a ristretto, you follow the same process as espresso, but you use half the amount of water for an even more concentrated shot.
Though stronger than an espresso, ristretto usually has a sweeter taste than its caffeine counterpart. That’s because it’s made using a shorter extraction time. This method contributes to the drink’s syrupy texture compared to the thickness of a traditional espresso. Some people also consider ristretto to be a higher-quality shot than espresso since it’s more concentrated.
Depending on where you travel, you might enjoy a ristretto beverage differently. In Italy, people often drink it after a meal, while the French usually drink it as a single shot. In the United States, you might choose a ristretto, rather than an espresso, as the base for your latte or cappuccino.
If you just can’t get behind the idea of drinking coffee as a shot, give the strong but sweet Vietnamese coffee a try. Like its name suggests, this coffee beverage comes from Vietnam, but its popularity has grown beyond Southeast Asia. It’s commonly made with robusta coffee beans, a dark roast with a strong flavor. In Vietnam, you order this coffee either hot or iced, and you can get it black or with milk.
However, unlike other coffee drinks that use variations like whole, almond, or oatmilk, Vietnamese coffee traditionally uses condensed milk. That’s because Vietnam had to import milk from France since dairy wasn’t readily available nationally. Today, condensed milk continues to be a popular pairing with Vietnamese coffee because it provides a sweet balance to the coffee’s intense, bitter flavor. So, if you take your coffee with equal parts cream and sugar, you might want to give Vietnamese coffee a try.
Prefer your coffee black, but wish it were a little stronger? Cold brew might be your best bet. It’s made by steeping coffee grounds in cold water for as long as 24 hours. As it steeps, it extracts more caffeine from the beans, making it stronger than a traditional cup of Joe. However, the cold water helps to cut out some of the coffee’s acidity, so many people find cold brew to have a smoother, richer flavor than traditional coffee.
You can find cold brew coffee in many coffee shops around the world. If you really want a strong drink, ask for it without ice, since ice can make cold brew weaker as it melts. While you can certainly drink cold brew by itself, you can also use it as a base for popular drinks, like an iced latte or mocha.
So there you have it — four of the strongest coffee drinks you can order wherever you happen to be in the world. From traditional espresso to sweet Vietnamese coffee to smooth cold brew, you have no shortage of options when you need a caffeine fix during your travels.