Cape Town loves its coffee, and these days you can’t walk for five minutes through the city centre and not bump into a painfully trendy coffee shop claiming to serve the finest flat white or the city’s best cortado. The truth is, you could probably spin around five times and point to a building in Cape Town that’ll provide you with an adequate caffeine fix. But if you’re looking for something extra special, be it a topnotch venue or a stellar cup of coffee, these are the best places to start.
Truth is likely the best-known coffee shop on the continent, which brings with it pros and cons. Its slew of accolades and magazine features mean it’s almost always chaotically busy, and staff can be somewhat arrogant and abrasive about allocating seating unless you’re able to fill an entire table. But the controlled chaos and buzzing atmosphere are worth braving for a visit if you’ve yet to venture inside. The decor is on point and the food and coffee are good, and in many ways it’s the most theatrical coffee experience you’ll have in the city. There’s a long communal table if you’re looking to rub shoulders with freelancers or eavesdrop on your neighbours, as well as separate tables and booths if you come in a group.
Bean There is very vocal about being an ethical coffee shop. From their small beginnings they’ve grown to have several outlets around the country, and you can pick up their beans in national supermarkets. But the friendly spot on Cape Town’s Wale Street is still the original and best place to sample their coffee. You’ll find a great cup at reasonable prices and get to witness some of the roasting action at the back, and you will always be greeted with a warm and friendly smile.
Origin was one of the first quality-focussed coffee shops in the city, but just because they’ve been around for years it doesn’t mean they’re getting stale. The buzzing venue in Cape Town’s De Waterkant is industrial, chic and intriguing, and the coffee and light meals there are superb. It’s a great coffee shop whether you’re a serious snob about the brewing process (they’ll make your coffee pretty much any way you like it), want a quick cup to go or plan to soak up the electric atmosphere for a while longer as you hammer out a few early-morning emails.
Rosetta may not have been the first quality coffee shop on the block, but they’ve certainly forged a way for themselves as one of the finest in the city. These guys don’t mess around when it comes to brewing you the perfect cup, and their friendly service and incredible attention to detail make this a firm favourite of many Capetonians. The original Rosetta in the Woodstock Exchange is still their biggest and best, but the new store in the Waterfront’s Silo District is the perfect spot to fuel up for a visit to the nearby Zeitz MOCCA.
Deluxe proves that the best doesn’t always have to be the most expensive. While other coffee shops in the city have slowly but surely put the squeeze on consumers with increasing prices, Deluxe seems content to serve up some of the city’s best coffees at amazing value. Their welcoming coffee shops dotted around town focus on quick, quality coffees rather than diluting their offering with food or accommodating all-day laptop sessions. The original store on Church Street is worth a visit for its charming hole-in-the-wall style and authenticity, but the shiny new headquarters on Buitenkant Street is where most of the action seems to go down these days.
If you find yourself at the Old Biscuit Mill and hankering for a superb cup of coffee, look no further than Espresso Lab. The clinical lab-like decor may seem impersonal, but the staff are warm and welcoming, and masters in the art of the perfect cup. They use various brewing methods and use only the best beans to ensure that you’ll leave with a broad smile, and plenty of caffeine coursing through your veins.
Field Office is a great, laid-back coffee shop with multiple branches that welcome remote workers with open arms. Doubling up as showrooms for furniture company Pedersen + Lennard, each of their stores is also a feast for anyone with an eye for design. Light snacks, good wifi and great coffee make this a perfect base for an hour or two.
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Jarryds has become one of the city’s most popular breakfast and brunch restaurants, and for good reason. They offer excellent coffee, to have in or to go, as well as quality fresh breakfast and lunch options served fast and professionally. Though they’re more than just a coffee shop, they’re a great place to pop in for a good cup of coffee, too. And with two branches, one in Sea Point, and a quieter version hidden away just off trendy Bree Street, it’s now easier than ever to get your Jarryds fix.
This popular chain of coffee shops walks a fine line between widespread franchise and neighbourhood coffee shop, and somehow they’ve got the balance just right. With stores around the country it’s possible to pop into a branch and know what to expect – a good selection of coffees and snacks, professional service and a laptop-friendly environment – but each branch still has its own personality. It’s also a firm favourite among wifi-hungry workers, and with plenty of seating options in most branches it’s a great place to set up shop for an hour or two of work.
Clarkes may be more diner than coffee shop, but if you’re looking for a good place to kickstart your morning in the centre of the city, you can’t go wrong here. Early morning specials, great coffee, a vibrant atmosphere, the city’s hippest patrons (and waiters) and plenty of seating at either indoor tables, the counter overlooking the action in the kitchen, and even outside on Bree Street, means no two visits ever feel the same.
Four & Twenty, in the suburb of Wynberg, has been around for several years now, and many consider it one of the Cape’s best-kept café secrets. Though the focus here is undeniably on food (owner and chef Tracy-Leigh has a Grande Diploma from Silwood Kitchen Cordon Bleu Cookery School), it exudes a tranquil and welcoming coffee-shop charm that makes it an ideal spot to visit for a quick cup of coffee and a delectable snack. If you have more time, stick around for one of their all-day breakfasts, salads or sandwiches, or treat yourself from a wide selection of sweet cakes and pastries.
Coco Safar exudes an intentional air of opulence and elitism. But if you’re looking to be served high-end single-origin coffee on a personal wooden tray by a suited waiter in immaculately designed surrounds, then this Sea Point café, which could just as easily be tucked away in the back of an exclusive Parisian hotel, will make you feel at home. A luxurious café and patisserie with a ‘capsule emporium’ and espresso bar sporting a state-of-the-art espresso machine, it has prices and an atmosphere to match. But as far as carefully curated café experiences go, there’s nothing quite like it in the Mother City.
Molten Toffee Longmarket Street | Courtesy of Molten Toffee
Molten Toffee is the type of neighbourhood coffee shop and café that has a staunchly loyal following, and yet you’ve probably walked past it a dozen times without venturing inside. They have two branches, on Kloof Street and Longmarket Street, and both serve superb coffee and a range of breakfasts and light meals. The food and coffee are first class, and the vibrant, friendly staff, free wifi, and carefully thought-out and designed store layouts make this a great coffee shop to serve as your Cape Town regular.