Cafe Culture

Cambodia is full to bursting with NGO’s (non-government organisations). In fact, The Diplomat quoted in an article in 2013 that Cambodia had the most NGO’s in the world, second only to Rwanda.

Quite a few of recommended eateries in Phnom Penh are NGO cafes. They’re usually filled with tourists and expats. So, I’ve compiled yet another list of some I’ve visited. And also one cafe that’s not an NGO, just because they do good coffee.

Daughters of Cambodia

Daughters is an organisation that was set up to stop human trafficking, with a focus on helping woman escape from lives of prostitution and sex slavery in Cambodia. The cafe is only one of several businesses run by the organisation. Daughters offer recovery programmes to victims, which include counselling, medical treatment, life-skills training, a place to live and work at one of their businesses.

CNN wrote an astounding article on the state of Cambodia’s sex slavery industry back in 2013. Families in poverty often feel forced to sell their children into sex slavery to pay off huge debts. See the article here. The Guardian also wrote an article regarding the awful virginity trade in Cambodia, see it here.

Daughters cafe is located right on the tourist heavy Riverside.  It’s on the 2nd floor, in a blissfully air conditioned room. The room is full of light, the walls painted an eggshell blue, with stories of the ‘daughters’ written across the walls in italic script.  Downstairs, is a shop which sells delightful souvenirs such as t-shirts, laptop bags, earrings and teddy bears. The food is tasty and fresh and the service absolutely lovely.

If you’re interested in learning more about Daughters of Cambodia, or donating, please visit their website.


Friends the Restaurant

Friends the Restaurant has been around since 1994, according to their website. Again, their restaurant is just one of their outposts, a shop sits next door and a school nestled between. Their main work is ‘working to build the future of former street children’ in Phnom Penh, using the restaurant as a training ground.

The food here restored my faith in Khmer food after weeks of decidedly drab volunteer house food. Every time I go, I’m always in a state of shock at the rediscovery of my taste buds. And while the food is fresh, there is no air con, so best to cure that with one of the creative smoothies on the Friends menu. A gulp of hot peppercorns hidden in a fresh berry smoothie definitely makes you read the menu in more detail.

I only managed to take pictures of the food at Friends, I couldn’t focus on anything else.

If you’re interested in learning more about Friends, visit their website here.


Jars of Clay

Jars of Clay specialise in Western inspired homestyle cooking, they have two cafes in Phnom Penh. They began in 1998 as a small enterprise, looking to offer sustainable employment to disadvantaged and at risk young Cambodian woman. They are locally owned and operated, and they also give 10% of their profits to local NGO’s.

I was surprised and excited to find crepes on the menu, served with sugar and lemon! A slice of cake is relatively cheap at $1.50USD, although sometimes they can be quite dry. The wifi is free and the atmosphere warm.

Visit their website here to learn more.


Joma Cafe

Joma Cafe is by no means an NGO. In fact, it’s chain cafe, with several branches in Vietnam and Laos as well as Cambodia. For all of that, their website says that they also give back 10% of their profit, investing in the communities around the cafes. They also work with NGO’s to provide job training and employment to the disadvantaged and victims of abuse. Pretty awesome!

I’m hopelessly addicted to their coffee, the best place I’ve found so far in Phnom Penh. Even though it’s pricey for Cambodia, at $2.50USD a cup, I keep going back. Being a bakery, Joma also have a delectable selection of breads and baked goods. And I admit, after one particularly woeful volunteer house meal, I cracked and got a Boston Creme doughnut. It was worth the troubles it caused later.

Absolutely delicious.

If you’re interested, visit Joma’s website here.


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