Tbilisi, the capital of the country of Georgia, is the crossroads of the East and West in all aspects including culture, architecture, food, and coffee. Old Georgian for “warm place,” the city dates back to the Bronze Age when it was built upon sulfur springs that continue to be used in bathhouses today.
Tbilisi has evolved throughout centuries of military investments carried out by powerful neighbors, such as the Roman, Persian, Mongolian, and Turkish empires. To this day, the 5th century fortress of Narikala towers over Tbilisi as a testament to the fortitude of the Georgian people. Georgia was annexed by the Russian Empire in the 19th century, and engaged in a tumultuous relationship with the Soviet Union until Georgia’s declaration of independence in 1991.
Georgia rests in the valley of the Greater and Lesser Caucasus Mountains, and has nine regions that are distinct in climate, cuisine, and dialect. A plethora of Georgian Orthodox churches are representative of the rich history between its people and their heritage. Georgia prides itself as the cradle of wine, with 8,000 years of wine making tradition using natural methods and utilizing its unique terroir and traditional grape varieties.
A generous visa program has made it a destination for digital nomads with affordable living costs, and vibrant nightlife. Modern Tbilisi enjoys a strong community culture with cafes and restaurants that open late in the day and stay open well into the night. Well-heeled international travelers have encouraged the blooming of the local coffee scene, and perhaps adjust their plans to stay longer than they intended.
Here are five curated coffee picks for your next trip to Tbilisi, Georgia.
Santino is a bright cafe in Rustaveli, located steps away from the new Bazari Orbeliani foodhall that has reinvigorated the neighborhood. The redeveloped district was recently pedestrianized to allow for street-seating and the open air Orbeliani Market to operate year-round including the favorite Christmas market.
Santino opened in 2021 and was founded by Yuri Kasradze, with over 20 years of experience of operating cafes. The highlight of the cafe is their impressive Modbar set up, tastefully supported by stone and wood trim. The cafe is two floors, with a more intimate area upstairs, and an open patio that is perfect for people watching.
The coffee menu is immense and internationally focused, with speciality drinks known from around the world like Rafs, Cubanos, Vietnamese, to name a few. Coffee cocktails can also be ordered, in addition to AeroPress, pour-overs, and siphons. Their tea list is not to be forgotten with an emphasis on matcha and proper brewing methods. Santino’s food menu is just as lengthy, with standard Georgian and American cafe offerings, and impeccably crafted parfaits and sundaes.
Finding a roastery that has amazing coffee and food can be a rarity, but Cafe Stamba excels at each along with producing their own chocolate and baked goods. Based out of the Stamba Hotel in Vera, the cafe operates as an all-day restaurant with both Georgian and international staples as well as an Asian Corner with sushi and ramen.
Each of the menus rely on locally sourced produce in collaboration with the Georgia Farm Association, and changes seasonally. The cafe serves the traditional Lagidze Water, or Georgian sparkling lemonade, in addition to a creative cocktail and alcohol menu.
The airy interior is quite large with generous outdoor patios. The cafe has distinct sections based off of the menu, and is filled with plants and carefully curated pastel decorations. Breakfast service is one of the earliest in Tbilisi, with hearty smoothies and fresh-pressed juices also available. Dinner can fill up quite quickly, so a reservation is recommended to join the bustling multinational crowd.
Coffee and espresso drinks can be ordered in any section of the restaurant, but the Dessert Bar shows the full-length coffee menu including pour-overs and specialty drinks. One would be remiss to not end the meal with a European-style hot chocolate in either milk or dark. The cafe employs two Kees van der Westen Spirit espresso machines and roasts frequently on their in-house Probat 25.
The last decade for Georgia has seen a strong push towards promoting quality products with many vineyards gaining international acclaim, and Coffee Lab has done the same since opening in Saburtalo from 2016. For travelers staying more downtown, it can be a bit of a hike although There are many ways there with public transportation. The discerning coffee drinker can surely attest to it being worth it if one can manage to get a table.
The space has two large floors that are decorated minimalistically, along with a large outdoor area with communal tables. Customers can order to-go, but most stay to enjoy the rotating menu with inventive desserts and creative cafe fare, with a variety of vegetarian options.
Coffee Lab roasts frequently on their Giesen and brews their espresso on a Sanremo Café Racer. A number of brewing options are available to taste their beans with AeroPress being the favorite. The suggested order is their tasting selection of espresso, espresso with milk, and AeroPress, to try the range of their menu. They are committed to excellent quality in every drink, and the presentation matches the theme with some coffee served in bakers. Coffee Lab has a strong presence within Georgia, as a staple to the cafe scene in addition to providing wholesale beans and representing more than twenty global brands to sell coffee equipment.
Shavi Coffee Roasters
Founded in late 2021 by Americans Ryan and Laurie McCarrel and their business partner, Thibault Flament, Shavi Coffee Roasters is already making waves in the roasting scene in Tbilisi with a presence in many cafes. They’ve employed Slovakian Brewers Cup Champion Jakub Sevcik to roast weekly on their in-house Giesen. Shavi roasts light and medium, with a variety of beans from Latin America and Africa. Whole bean prices are extremely approachable, and they take care with limited roasts with a recent feature of anaerobic fermentation.
Their space is on a fashionable corner in Vera, tucked away enough from the main road that connects the west bank of the city. The white brick interior matched with their white Sanremo Café Racer contributes a clean feel to the ambiance for customers armed with laptops to take on their latest assignments.
Shavi is passionate about community connections, including working closely with their producers. They proudly source their pastries and produce locally from Tbilisi favorites. While they do not offer a full meal menu, Shavi has a partnership with their neighbor immediately to the left, Hello Breakfast, which has heartier options. They are official distributors of Rocket Espresso machines and share their love with public cupping and coffee education.
Puri Guliani reflects the new generation of Georgian bakeries, influenced by Paris patisseries and third-wave coffee. With their main location off of Saarbrücken Square, it’s the perfect start of a day exploring the Dry Bridge Market, a must when visiting Tbilisi. Additionally there is an express location in Vake, with a selective daytime menu and fresh breads available for delivery.
The restaurant is bright from two-stories of windows and an open layout. A large patio overlooks the Mtkvari River and keeps busy until closing late in the night. The pale green tiling refreshes the space, yet the pastry case and Slayer espresso machine remains the focus when first entering.
Many sorts of baked delicacies are available at Puri Guliani, as bread is the focal point of the menu. Croissants, buns, eclairs, and more elaborate pastries of Paris–Brests, tarts, and mille-feuille line the multiple cases, perfect in every way. The food menu showcases the bakery considerably with khachapuri baked to order, and several types available for their sandwiches and entrees.
Their three-group Slayer is quick to complete orders for their delicate coffee offerings. Highlights would include their flavored Rafs, featuring cream, tarragon, or halva, which are accompanied by seeded biscuit. Their coffee is sourced from Brazil and Ethiopia, and brews smooth if one is ordering specials like espresso over ice cream or Dalgona coffee.
Nikita Solberg is a coffee professional and freelance journalist based in New York City. This is Nikita Solberg’s first feature for Sprudge.