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Penang is known as a foodie destination with favourites such as satay and char kweh teoy being a staple of locals and tourists alike.
But did you know that Penang is becoming a coffee hotspot as well?
Georgetown, as the largest city in Penang, is the epicentre of this coffee revolution. Related to the traditional kopitiams (local coffee shops), more modern style espresso coffee shops have been sprouting up across Georgetown over the last few years and shows no signs of slowing down.
Penangites, take their coffee SERIOUSLY! Artisanal coffee shops are all over Georgetown with a variety of coffee beans, home roasted beans, cold brew, nitrobrew and everything in between. Baristas weigh the beans they have grinded, then weigh how much water they add to ensure the ratio is absolutely perfect.
All of these Georgetown coffee shops are suitable for digital nomads in Penang as they all have excellent wifi, like the entire island does.
For the sake of argument, I ordered the same coffee in every coffee shop, a flat white. If you’re looking for the perfect Georgetown cafe for the perfect coffee, keep reading and take your pick from these twelve options.
The Best Coffee Shops in Georgetown
Boston Coffee, Penang
This place looks like a great coffee shop even from the outside. It has a nice laid back vibe, welcoming staff as soon as you walk in the door and good coffee. They have live music in their airy two storey building and have a full menu with a wide variety of food. They stay open until late and can be utilised as a coffee shop during the day but a bar with great food in the evening.
Black Kettle is a proper coffee shop that sells its own beans and know how to make a great flat white. Another place with a nice and relaxed vibe, with an airy and green interior. Ordering via the QR code on the tables is quick and easy and it also sells an amazing pink lemonade if you’ve already had your caffeine fix.
ae coffee is a great small place with cozy vibes. This cafe in Penang has small tables and chairs which can get full easily when busy but gives an intimate vibe. They have a nice selection of cakes and pastry’s as well for a small snack to keep you going.
Joja bagels does a delicious flat white, has very friendly staff and you can order at the counter or via the QR code on the tables. The bagels are huge as well as very tasty. The place isn’t quite as artisanal as others on this list but a good place to get a coffee and food.
Joja Bagels also feels spacious as the tables are a good distance apart and feels roomy with the tasteful plant decor. The wifi is good, and the wifi password is “rateus5stars” which I most certainly do!
Ome has one hour limit when busy which I was told as soon as I walked in making me think they want a high turnover and felt less than welcoming. The wifi code also has a one hour limit.
Despite the welcome (or lack of it) the coffee is very good and they also have artisanal roasts. The cakes are amazing, the sea salt chocolate cookie is a cheap snack to have with coffee but you will also find others on display on the shelves. You may also find bakers making the cakes behind the counter as you walk in, you know the cakes are fresh! After a rocky start, the staff were exceedingly friendly and looked after me well with water top ups and taking a second order from the table.
The coffee is roasted on site by the owner at this small coffee shop tucked away behind overflowing vines. Whilst the coffee has a modern Penangite acidic flavour, which may not be to everyones taste, the cakes here are incredible. The Zesty Keylime cheesecake is a must have if it is available (they change their menu frequently depending on what they make on the day).
This coffee shop is popular with young Penangites and gets busy early on. It creates the perfect vibe that allows creatives to gather and share thoughts like the modern day version of a Hemingway Hotel in a far off land.
Although the coffee is very good, it is one of the few places in Penang that sells a traditional toddy. Using the fermented flowers of the coconut tree, toddy had a bad rap in recent years as a cheap alcohol for some to get too drunk on too quickly, but it is now making a resurgence amongst young Penangites as a drink for the 21st Century.
More by Arang Coffee
Located inside the Livingstone Tower, this is a bit out of the way from the usual tourist haunts in Georgetown. The coffee shop is large and spacious giving you a relaxing vibe even when it’s busy. It is also close to the reception of Urban H Hotel and Settlements Coworking space.
This is one of the more calming cafes in Penang. The light and airy interior, filled with just enough plants to make it natural, makes it feel like you are sitting in a relaxing courtyard. The few tables are well spaced and the ambience is a low hubbub than general talking.
The coffee is excellent, slightly acidic but not as bad as the rest of what you find in Georgetown. I may go as far as saying it could be the best coffee in Penang… The selection of cakes and pastries are incredible. If you know what you want to eat within a few seconds, I would call you a liar!
After staring and drooling for a while, I eventually chose the chocolate cake make with 70% dark chocolate. I can highly recommend!
The food, coffee and ambience, this could be the best cafe in Penang in my opinion…
Secawan ‘n’ Such
This small coffee shop, inconspicuous amongst the row of other shops, was formally owned by a local barista that learned his trade in Australia. New owners have kept the same decor and the coffee shop feels a lot more like the ones you would find in Australia as well, more wood panneling and less greenery. The coffee is good, the flat white tasted most like what I have experienced Down Under, even if the beans are still slightly acidic.
Set in an old warehouse, the bright, airy and modern norm is a beautiful spot to spend a few hours. The gravel floor and indoor trees make it feel like you’re sitting in a cool outdoor garden than a coffee shop. Its no wonder that there was an endless stream of locals having their photo taken as it is one of the most Instagrammable cafes in Penang.
The coffee is excellent, genuinely one of the best I had in Penang, no bitterness or acidity and the milk for my flat white was perfect.
Its unsurprising as watching them make coffee is like watching a scientist create art or artist create science, the care they take in making every single drink.
They also do a modern fusion food twist and mocktails making this an excellent brunch spot for all occasions. My chilli jam scrambled eggs was incredible.
Mugshot is a staple among backpackers and travellers being in such close proximity to Love Lane. Actually located on Chulia Street, Mugshot is a local cafe for an international audience. The coffee is ok without being spectacular, but the food is amazing. Scrambled eggs and yogurt and muesli jars make Mugshot a great place for brunch.
But why’s it called Mugshot? A play on words for coffee? Perhaps. But the prison height chart in the back room may also give it away.
There you have it, the best coffee shops in Georgetown to get your caffeine fix and experience the unique coffee flavours available in Penang.
Georgetown is already known as a foodie destination but it won’t be long before it is also a hub on the Asian coffee scene. With many of these places roasting their own coffee beans on site and locals experimenting with beans and roasting techniques from around the world, Georgetown just might become its own expert in creating a coffee that is worth travelling to Malaysia for.
Dan is an avid traveller from London. His first big adventure was in 2010 living in Malaysia for 3 months and becoming a divemaster. He has been on the road almost constantly since 2015 travelling to destinations that aren’t on the mainstream tourist trail.