Finding a decent cup of coffee in Karachi used to be a constant struggle. However, with new cafés breaking ground in recent years, the perfect pick-me-up is now easy to come by.
Pakistan’s bustling metropolis is synonymous with chai dhabas (roadside tea shops), providing the drink of choice for most people in the city. However, growing demands for a strong americano, a frothy cappuccino or a smooth flat white have solidified that a weak brew just won’t do anymore. Several coffee shops have opened to satisfy coffee cravings; here are a few that stand out.
Coffee Shop, Contemporary
Since opening its first shop in April 2018, Coffee Wagera has established itself as a frontrunner for good coffee in the city and stayed true to its no-frills facade. Its owner, Mush Panjwani, lost his job in 2013 and began working out of different cafés for a while before turning his 10-year dream into reality. Excellent coffee made with freshly roasted Brazilian beans, and served by passionate staff, is the top priority here. It’s also the perfect spot to work (power and USB ports are available), and the drinking water here is free, which is rare for a café in Karachi. Unlike other establishments, Coffee Wagera’s menu offers snacks made by female home chefs, at very reasonable prices. It’s both a social and commercial enterprise, as Panjwani and his team support several organisations – such as the Special Olympics of Pakistan and Garbage Can – and promote zero-waste and eco-friendly practices.
Esquires Coffee, a New Zealand-based franchise, launched its first branch in Karachi in early 2018. The café at Zamzama boasts an urban-chic decor: shades of white, metallic grey and blue accentuate its walls, with plants and memorabilia scattered around to add to its warm ambience. There’s even a separate area with workstations for anyone looking to study or work. Esquires offers 100 percent organic Fairtrade coffee that has thus far been a crowd-pleaser. Even the tea-drinking crowds are in for a treat with its selection of organic blends. People love visiting the coffee shop for breakfast or brunch thanks to its assortment of bakery items that include freshly made croissants, scones and artisanal bread. If that doesn’t tickle your fancy, the café’s club sandwich is guaranteed to hit the spot.
Coffee Shop, Contemporary, $$
MOCCA is yet another great addition to Karachi’s coffee scene. It describes its MOCCA Espresso blend as “smoky, dark and slightly acidic”. However, for coffee purists, or those who prefer their order black, the café recommends trying its range of micro-roasted single-estate coffees. If it’s a special occasion (or not), give one of the flavoured hot signature coffees a go – swiss chocolate latte, hazel nocciola and gingerbread cap are just some of the many fun choices on the menu. On a hot day (Karachi is famous for its sweltering temperatures), place an order for a cold blended frappé, such as a berry white choc, ferrero coffee or caramint frappé. While it serves lunch and dinner items, the café really shines when it comes to its all-day breakfast and selection of desserts. It’s often frequented by people looking for a quiet place to work or hold a meeting since the room is well lit and the architecture, inspired by Scandinavian design, offers a relaxing experience.
FLOC – For the Love of Coffee
Coffee Shop, Contemporary, $
As the name suggests, FLOC is a coffee enthusiast’s dream. It even offers nitro coffee on its menu – a perfect addition to battle Karachi’s intense heat which dominates for almost eight months of the year. The beans for the nitro coffee are left to steep for 12 hours, and while the result is a less bitter version of the average cup of black brew, the caffeine content is almost 30 percent higher. If this doesn’t scream pick-me-up, what does? There are plenty of board games and books available for customers to stay entertained as they eat, drink and chat. It’s also another hit for breakfast or brunch – the steak eggs benedict with a devil’s dark chocolate frappé is a favourite order for many. Since the keto diet has a strong following in Karachi, FLOC’s done its part to embrace the trend and has added suitable food options to its menu.
Coffee Shop, Cafe, Pakistani
Caffè Praha delivers on its promise of providing an Eastern European coffee shop experience in the middle of Karachi’s hustle and bustle. It serves good (really good) coffee and has an extensive menu. Order the widely popular Vietnamese iced coffee made with condensed milk to shake things up or one of the quirky lattes whipped up with either matcha, turmeric, cinnamon and honey, or activated charcoal. The café’s food menu also impresses in equal proportions. Its signature dish is the baked chimney cake, also known as trdelník, normally found on the streets of Prague. These hollow pastries come with sweet or savoury fillings. However, it would be almost criminal to leave the establishment before trying its Nutella french toast or the lusciously creamy and soft lotus pancakes that will make you sing its praises.
Coffee Shop, Cafe, Pakistani, $$
For a timeless classic, nothing tops Espresso, one of the first home-grown coffee shops to open its doors in Karachi back in 2005 and develop an almost cult-like following. Despite the number of cafés that have popped up since then, most of Espresso’s branches remain crowded until the late hours of the night. Some of its locations offer a more intimate setting (such as the Zamzama branch); while others are big, crowded and noisy, which is part of its charm. It’s the perfect spot to hang out with friends and family, and you’re almost guaranteed to bump into a familiar face. Besides gaining popularity for its regular coffee, the affogato has been a standout item for many years. The coffee shop is also a crowd-pleaser for its range of comfort food, which includes pizzas, pasta (don’t forget to try the alfredo), sandwiches, mozzarella sticks, potato skins and so much more.
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