Food and drink have traditionally been points of communal sharing throughout history and coffee is one of the strongest examples of this phenomena. How many times have you struck up a conversation with someone new as you both enjoy a hot cup of coffee? Something about coffee brings people together, and makes them want to share the beautiful experience.
For as long as I know, I have always loved the taste of coffee; it was never something I had to acquire the taste for or get used to. And believe it or not, coffee helps me relax; it actually feels better than almost any other kind of beverage. For me, from its scent to its taste, it’s an overall and inviting experience. Because coffee is so inviting, I think it’s just natural for me that I feel comforted and at ease when I can sit back and enjoy a cup.
Since I visit Malta’s capital city Valletta twice a week for work purposes and usually sit down for a short while to relax and enjoy a cup of coffee, I decided to play a little game. I’ve always been intrigued by the large number of coffee shops that one can find in one of Europe’s smallest capital cities. So basically, my little experiment consisted of ordering a cappuccino at a different coffee shop each time and comparing taste, ambience, price, customer service and, of course, value for money.
What I really loved about this ‘experiment’ is that I was drinking coffee in such historic surroundings. Valletta is described as an architectural jewel, and the buildings adorning its streets have many stories behind them. If the 25 jaw-dropping churches are not enough, there is the masterpiece of St John’s Co-Cathedral, built during the reign of the Knights, baroque buildings, opulent palaces, ornately landscaped gardens and majestic theatres at every turn. And quite often you can enjoy your hot delicious cappuccino while gazing in awe at all the history around you!
When it comes to appreciating a cup of coffee, the Maltese know how to do it right. However, unlike neighbouring Italy, it may take a while longer to stumble upon a place that serves a truly satisfying cup of caffeinated goodness. Here’s a list of establishments set on providing customers with the best cup of cappuccino in Valletta. I definitely cannot say that I have visited every café and been served by every barista in Malta but I do have a few recommendations.
1) Such a lovely café if you are in the mood for a good coffee and something to eat! The place is small but super clean and the service is great! The Museum Café also has a unique style and decoration to it and the price is second to none at just €1.50 for a cappuccino, including a small biscuit! Best café in Valletta ever! Taste 4/5, ambience 5/5, price 5/5, customer service 5/5 and, of course, value for money 5/5. Score 4.8
2) If you don’t mind the pigeons and the cats, I suggest you sit here at the Upper Barrakka Kiosk and soak in the view of one of Malta’s most beautiful gardens while drinking a strong cappuccino. Price was a very reasonable €1.70 and includes a small biscuit. This place is pure bliss and is such a peaceful spot in an otherwise busy city! Oh, and the Upper Barrakka Gardens offer fantastic views of Malta’s Grand Harbour. Taste 4/5, ambience 5/5, price 4/5, customer service 4/5, value for money 4/5. Score 4.2
3) Run from a gorgeous 400-year-old building on one of Valletta’s most characterful streets, Merchants Street, Galea’s Kitchen is the perfect place for people watching while enjoying an excellent cappuccino. Granted, service is a bit slow but you’re getting one of the cheapest cappuccinos you can find in Valletta at only €1.50 and it also comes with a small biscuit! And you can’t really beat the location! Taste 4/5, ambience 4/5, price 5/5, customer service 3/5, value for money 5/5. Score 4.2
4) Great atmosphere and service at Caffe Berry, located towards the bottom end of Republic Street. It’s a tiny shop but worth a visit and not a bad view either if you’re sitting outside. This was the ONLY coffee shop where I was given a paper napkin without my having to ask for one! The price? Not that cheap at €2.00 considering its rather out-of-the-way location but my cappuccino was strong and delicious. Taste 4/5, ambience 4/5, price 3/5, customer service 5/5, value for money 4/5. Score 4.0
5) Set in a historic building in Merchants Street, this restaurant/coffee shop is part of the Luciano Valletta Boutique Hotel. The cappuccino was good albeit a bit too bitter (Note: I NEVER add sugar to my cappuccino). However, the service was good, the atmosphere great and the price a relatively ‘cheap’ €1.70! Oh, and the place was air conditioned so I can’t really complain! Taste 3/5, ambience 4/5, price 4/5, customer service 5/5, value for money 4/5. Score 4.0
6) Located in a strategic location, next to the magnificent open-air theatre, the aptly named Café Teatro is a good place to watch people go by as you drink your coffee or have a light snack. The price of a cappuccino is €1.70 and includes a small biscuit. Taste 4/5, ambience 4/5, price 4/5, customer service 4/5, value for money 4/5. Score 4.0
7) I stumbled upon this air conditioned coffee shop called Chocolate District quite by accident as it’s off the beaten track and almost invisible down a flight of steps in Melita Street. I was told by the barista that their coffee is the best! I was sceptical, to say the least, especially as I had to literally beg for some powdered chocolate to be added to my cappuccino! This was because I had suggested that since this was a coffee shop specialising in chocolate, they should add the powdered chocolate by default. I was quite sternly told off that not everyone likes it that way! However, on tasting my coffee, I had to agree that this was definitely one of the best cappuccinos I’ve ever had even although it was rather pricy at €2.40! Taste 5/5, ambience 4/5, price 2/5, customer service 4/5, value for money 4/5. Score 3.8
8) Caffe Cordina, one of Malta’s oldest and well-known coffee shops located in an old palace along Valletta’s Republic Street. Founded in 1837, Caffe Cordina is one of Malta’s oldest and well-known coffee shops. Service was quick and efficient and the cappuccino excellent. It’s also reasonably priced at €2.00, considering the reputation of the place and the fact that I was also given a small biscuit! This was the only coffee shop where they brought me my bill without my having to ask for it – maybe I’m wrong but it felt like I was being kicked out! Besides, the air conditioning wasn’t that efficient but I went there on one of the hottest days of the year so perhaps the system couldn’t keep up with the heat! However, this coffee shop occupies a special place in the heart of local and foreign visitors and you definitely can’t beat the décor! Taste 4/5, ambience 5/5, price 3/5, customer service 3/5, value for money 4/5. Score 3.8
9) At the corner of Castille Square with St Paul’s Street is a delightful little coffee shop, which formerly housed the stables of this old palace. My cappuccino at Caffe Castille only cost me €1.50, although the service was as bit lacking to be honest! However, attractive prices are always good news for its visitors. And the view is pretty cool too! Taste 3/5, ambience 3/5, price 5/5, customer service 2/5, value for money 5/5. Score 3.6
10) A work colleague of mine recommended I try a cappuccino at Lot 61, located right next to Is-Suq tal-Belt. Unfortunately, I was not impressed at all as this was the ONLY coffee shop where I had to pay first and it was also self-service. I was later told by a friend of mine that this is the American system! I can’t complain about the coffee, though, as it was very good and I loved the matching blue cup and saucer! However, I did think €2.00 was a bit on the high side since I was NOT paying for the service! Taste 4/5, ambience 3/5, price 3/5, customer service 3/5, value for money 4/5. Score 3.4
11) Location and atmosphere is very relaxing at The Sunday in Scotland Chocolate Café in St Lucy’s Street but it’s overpriced. Granted, the cappuccino was heavenly and it had a lovely tiny chocolate bar added to it but paying €2.80 is way too much in my opinion! Taste 5/5, ambience 4/5, price 1/5, customer service 4/5, value for money 3/5. Score 3.4
12) I walked into Manon Gastro Bar & Bistro in South Street on a very hot and humid day so I was more than pleased with the air conditioning inside. However, my cappuccino was perhaps a bit too bitter and the biscuit I was given was stale! A shame really as I really loved the décor inside and the service was excellent. My cappuccino cost €2.00 so it was a bit on the high side, considering the dry biscuit I was given! Taste 2/5, ambience 4/5, price 3/5, customer service 5/5, value for money 3/5. Score 3.4
13) Cantina Café is bang in the middle of Valletta, right next to St John’s Co-Cathedral and is shaded from the scorching sun by a number of large trees. This place is perfect if you’re into people watching and don’t mind the pigeons! Price of cappuccino €1.90. Taste 3/5, ambience 4/5, price 3/5, customer service 3/5, value for money 3/5. Score 3.2
14) No added frills at the Capri Café in South Street but it’s good and takes you back in time. If you are a retro person it’s a must. Price €1.80 and it’s air conditioned inside. Taste 3/5, ambience 3/5, price 3/5, customer service 4/5, value for money 3/5. Score 3.2
The above is not an exhaustive list as I know there are many more coffee shops out there in Valletta but these were they ones that I happened to pass by as I went about my duties! I also wasn’t sponsored by any of these coffee shops and none of them knew that I was conducting this experiment. However, I trust, that like me, you too will enjoy a coffee and perhaps a small bite while soaking in the atmosphere of one of Europe’s most magnificent capital cities!