International Coffees of Nashville: A Guide

By | January 07, 2016
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Ethiopian Coffee at Awash Ethiopian

We love a good cappuccino as much as the next guy, but Italy and France are not the only cultures that have coffee traditions. All around the world people enjoy coffee in ways most Americans never think about, and with the ceremony we don’t think about either.  

Fortunately for us, Nashville offers a wealth of global coffee options that are as rich in heritage as they are in flavor. Here is the lowdown on six different international coffee experiences available in Music City. (And the food is fabulous at all of them!) 


Ethiopian Coffee   

Ethiopia: the birthplace of coffee—and it shows. Ethiopian coffee makers sure do know their way around their heritage beans, lovingly pan-roasting them fresh to order. As the beans begin to brown, guests are invited to waft the smoky aromas in anticipation of the final product. The beans are then ground finely, placed in an earthenware coffee pot, and boiled with water. After the grounds settle, the coffee is poured into small cups through a high spout. A little sugar makes this experience complete: strong but not bitter, aromatic, earthy, and smooth. 

Where to find it...

Awash Ethiopian Restaurant 
976 Murfreesboro Pike # 11 
Nashville, TN 37217 
(615) 366-9911 
Cash Only  

Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant 
1310 Antioch Pike  
Nashville, TN 37211 
(615) 712-8453  

Gojo Ethiopian Café and Restaurant  
415 W Thompson Ln 
Nashville, TN 37211 
(615) 332-0710 


Vietnamese Coffee: Cold and Sweet 

Vietnam: the world's second largest producer of coffee beans. Like so many yummy things we associate with Vietnam, coffee preparation had its origins during French colonialism. Since then, it has taken on a uniquely Vietnamese style. Usually served over ice, Vietnamese coffee is prepared with a cup-sized metal French drip filter. Dark roast grounds (Vinh Long's server assured me Trung Nguyen coffee is the best) are placed in the filter with hot water. The coffee drips onto a bed of sweetened condensed milk at the bottom of the cup. When it finishes dripping, guests stir the strong coffee and thick milk, then pour over ice and swirl. The result is a slightly syrupy, bittersweet treat perfect for a hot day. 

Where to find it...

Vinh Long 
1061 Murfreesboro Pike 
(615) 399-7582 

Vn Pho & Deli 
5906 Charlotte Pike, Ste C 
(615) 356-5995 

Love Peace & Pho 
2112 8th Avenue 


Turkish Coffee: Strong and Foamy 

Turkey: where the foam is essential. In Turkey, as well as other Middle-Eastern countries with similar traditions, coffee is ground as finely as possible and placed in a wide-bottomed metal pot with water and sugar. The coffee is heated over a low flame until just before boiling. After cooling slightly, it is then heated a second and, sometimes, a third time, always removed from heat just before boiling over. This repetitive process keeps the coffee grounds in suspension so as to extract maximum flavor. When the coffee is ready, it is poured out very carefully to preserve the caramel-colored foam layer that formed during the multiple boilings. Traditionally, the cup with the most foam is given to the guest of highest honor.  

Where to find it... 

Istanbul Restaurant  
2631 Nolensville Pike 
Nashville, TN 37211 
(615) 248-6888 

Anatolia Turkish Restaurant  
48 White Bridge Rd 
Nashville, TN 37205 
(615) 356-1556 


Thai Coffee: Sweet, Cold, and Mysterious 

Thailand: where variations reign supreme. Thai iced coffee typically consists of a very sweet mixture of coffee and some form of cream, but after that the differences take over. Thai coffee can be as simple as coffee, milk, and sugar, or as complex as blending the coffee with roasted seeds and grains (soybeans, sesame seeds, rice, and brown rice), as well as cardamom and other spices, and mixing it with half and half, evaporated milk, and/or sweetened condensed milk. Thai coffee powder, known as Oliang, can be found in Asian grocery stores as a mysterious blend of flavorful ingredients packaged and ready to go. The Oliang is brewed in hot or cold water, depending on the brand, and typically served over ice, heavily sweetened. Whatever the exact ingredients, Thai iced coffee becomes a dessert unto itself; sugar and spice and everything nice.  

Where to find it...

Siam Café  
316 Mccall St 
Nashville, TN 37211 
(615) 834-3181 

The Smiling Elephant
2213 8th Ave S 
Nashville, TN 37204 
(615) 891-4488 

Ginger Thai Restaurant  
2861 Logan St 
Nashville, TN 37211 
(615) 679-9555 


Irish Coffee: Well…… 

Ireland: where whiskey is used to warm your bones. As the story goes, one night during the 1940s passengers arrived off a plane in western Ireland to be greeted by bitterly cold, wet weather. The chef at the airport restaurant added Irish whiskey to the coffee to help the passengers warm up. When asked whether the coffee was Brazillian, the chef declared, "This is Irish Coffee!" And thus Irish coffee was born. Like its tea counterpart, Irish Coffee is served strong and bitter but sweetened slightly with sugar. On cold nights, the cocktail does indeed fill drinkers with a palpable warmth, its kick softened by the layer of lightly whipped fresh cream floating on top.   

Where to find it...

McNamaras Irish Pub and Restaurant  
2740 Old Lebanon Rd 
Nashville, TN 37214
(615) 885-7262 


Indian Coffee 

India: where spices are tamed. Indian coffee preparation looks like an amalgamation of many other international techniques. The medium roast beans are ground very finely and placed in a metal cup-sized filter, similar to the device used in Vietnamese Coffee. Hot water drips through the filter and the resulting coffee is caught in a tumbler below. Boiled milk is then added to the coffee and the mixture is poured back and forth between the tumbler and the other cup, a process which serves both to cool down the coffee and to froth the milk. The bubbly result resembles a latte both in look and taste. The milky mixture also serves as a wonderful anecdote to hot and spicy dishes.  

Where to find it...


Taj Indian  
3943 Nolensville Pike 
Nashville, TN 37211 
(615) 750-3490 

Woodlands Indian Vegetarian Cuisine 
3415 W End Ave 
Nashville, TN 37203 
(615) 463-3005 


Photo 1: Vietnamese Coffee is brewed for strength and sweetened with condensed milk.
Photo 2: Heated with care and finesse, Turkish coffee is all about the foam.
Photo 3: The Thai left room for exploration in their coffee, and variations can include spices, seeds, and grains.
Photo 5: Irish coffee: where 5 PM meets 8 AM. The strong brew is balanced by fresh cream floated on top.
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