The problem with some online resources for finding coffee shops or tea rooms is that there’s no street name or number posted. This seems always to be the case with FourSquare, Instagram, often with Facebook and even on some venues’ own websites.
It’s all very well having lovely pictures of the coffee shop or the cool people hanging out there, but if you can’t actually find the place, then it becomes all the more frustrating.
In the case of Baku Roasting Company, they went to all the effort of having a website in English, which made the place sound great. They roast their own coffee, they have great cakes and all in all it looked like THE place to go for a decent coffee in Baku.
We got to Baku about 7am, but without wifi it was hard to research fully how to get to the place. The website page I had open listed two venues and although one of them said ‘closed’ next to it, we didn’t know if that meant soon to reopen for the morning or closed down, and the ‘helpful’ map with directions didn’t make it clear which branch was which.
So we began walking in the direction indicated on the website map for one of the venues. And 50+ blocks or 90 minutes later were distraught to find Baku Roasting Company advertising boards still there, and even the coffee machines and tables still inside, but no sign of the place being open. (We found out later that this branch has indeed closed down – so don’t go to the one in the university area).
The second venue gave its address simply as ‘near Space TV’. Even with a map, this proved hard to find. We didn’t even know what Space TV was, let alone where it was. And when we did find it and walked down every alleyway anywhere near it, we still didn’t find Baku Roasting Company…
I got lucky when I asked a guy who looked like the sort of person who’d know (not a ‘coffee type’ in the UK/Australia sense, but he just felt right, and I was right).
He led me round three corners and about 500m away from ‘Space TV’ to the coffee shop I wanted. ‘Near’ must be a relative thing in Baku, and I can guarantee these guys find no new customers via their website with directions like these…
That said, it was worth it in the end.
Great coffee (a rich, darkish roast, though I didn’t get to find out origins) and a nice cake. Quite high prices for Azerbaijan, but when you’re that desperate for that morning coffee and it’s 11.15am, who cares?
So the Baku Roasting Company gets our enthusiastic nod for coffee in Baku. Oh, and if you’re new in town as we were, the address is: on the corner of Ayna Sultanova street and Alaskar Alakbarov near the Technical University.
Finding the tea house I’d heard about proved just as difficult, though.
The Old Baku Tea House surely had to be in the wonderful old walled town of Baku, given its name.
The Facebook page for this tea room gave me a vague idea of where in the old town it might be, but had no address. And nobody we asked knew where it was, or if they did they weren’t letting on, mostly because it just so happened they served tea in their establishment and it was just as good as the place we were looking for…
One hour later, we did finally find the tea house, and actually our walk took us right round the walled border of the old town and down some of the lovely narrow, winding streets several times. It’s actually a lovely area to get lost in, a bit like Venice in that way.
And in the end we found the place quite by chance, just off a street we’d walked past at the start of our search.
This place is full of atmosphere. It’s dimly lit, dark even, with coloured glass lanterns giving a pale glow to corners where small groups of mostly young people sat and sipped tea or smoked a nargile (water pipe).
It’s clearly a place you come to just to chill and hang out. Tea is kind of a by-product of that overall aim, it seemed to us. But the tea was very welcome and a pretty good brew.
This was another of those places where the food ‘on offer’ was a bit vague. There was no menu as such; when we asked about food, they mentioned club sandwiches, which sounded OK for lunch so we said yes to those.
But when we asked later if they had anything sweet to have with the tea – meaning cake or baklava or something local even – they brought us a plate of chopped up chocolate, a bit like a Galaxy Bar cut up into segments.
Not the first time we had seen chocolate offered to go with tea. We accepted it but to be honest, I probably wouldn’t bother for a future visit.
No, if you’re going to the Old Baku Tea House, it’s the tea and the atmosphere you’re going for. Oh, and the company too, of course…I was goaded into giving a nargile a go, then given conflicting information on whether it should be fully inhaled or not (I can tell you now, my full lung inhalation nearly knocked me sideways, so I’m not really sure what’s in these things, but I didn’t take another drag, and returned with much laughter from the locals to my simple pot of tea.)
Lovely place, though, and if you’re anywhere near Baku old town this is the spot to go for tea.
And again to save you the wear and tear on your shoes, here’s the address: Icari Sahet, Qulle 22 and the phone number is 012 437 08 18.