In 2016 The British Telegraph voted Truth Coffee in Cape Town as the best coffee shop in the world. Their review had the following to say about this unique establishment: “There are few cafes in the world as stunning as Truth, a ‘steampunk inspired’ artisan coffee shop that is filled from top to bottom with metal piping and quirky old machinery. But people don’t just flock there for the decor – the coffee is all hand-roasted in a vintage cast iron drum, and the company supplies many of South Africa’s top hotels.”
This affirmation firmly positioned Cape Town coffee culture in the mind of the global traveler. This however is something that we as Capetonians have been enjoying for many years. We are proud of our independent and innovative culture. Coffee shops have become an integral part of the Cape Town social culture and everybody has their favourite spot to get their fix. As a visitor you will be spoilt for choice.
We will not be able to do justice to all the great coffee hang outs in Cape Town, so we have decided to give you an idea of how Cape Town culture has blended its way into some of the coffee shops in the heart of the CBD. We will be covering other areas in future blogs. But first lets look at the roots of Cape Town’s coffee culture.
History to producing the best coffee shop in the world
The year is 2005. There are only a handful of speciality coffee shops around, which is something Canadian Joel Singer notices the moment he lands on Cape Town soil. This reason, coupled with a strong passion for coffee, led him to open his very own company, Origin Coffee Roasting in the City Centre. The brand is now widely regarded as the pioneer of the new coffee culture in Cape Town.
Fast forward to 2006 and another java maestro, Mikhael Bou Rjeily, makes his way to the Mother City, this time from Lebanon. He too sees a massive gap in the market and makes a plan to do something about it. And so the award-winning barista moves here permanently, trains countless baristas, and later opens two cafes (mischu in Sea Point and Byblos in Woodstock) and the mischu Coffee Academy that trains baristas, teaches coffee lovers how to prepare the perfect cuppa at home, and even how to start their very own java shop.
Today, the Mother City is bursting at the seams with cafés, restaurants and, as an extension of this, really good coffee.
Skinny Legs and All was originally opened in 2012 and fast became a CBD institution well known for its emphasis on quality homemade food. The mother and daughter team, Deidre and Donnett Dumas make everything themselves, other than the bread, and everything is sourced locally. Décor is minimalist, but the art on the walls changes every three months and is reflected both in the menu and on the website. The art is for sale and there are regular exhibitions supporting local artists.
70 Loop Street www.skinnylegscafe.co.za
Yours Truly steals our heart for many reasons, but mostly it is for the superlative amount of greenery- plants in pallet boxes, plants hanging, flowers in vases, plants in tubs and pots. One feels cocooned in an oasis almost instantly. There is space for people to work, space to wait for take-aways and outside seating in the plant oases when the weather is good. And then there are the sandwiches- gorgeous super fresh, with just the right mixtures of creamy and crunchy and above all super fresh bread.
175 Long Street www.yourstrulycafe.co.za
What is known as East City Cape Town is one of those areas that has just been quietly becoming cooler. Kamili is a place to linger, there is a delicious breakfast menu and a delightfully quiet and hidden upstairs area with views of Devils Peak and Table Mountain. In keeping with this being a working roastery, the hessian bags of the very first shop are still very much present. You have the feeling that all is imminent and that you are sharing in the moment of delivery of the green beans, soon to be roasted and served as a well-crafted cup of coffee.
48 Harrington Street, also c/o Long and Shortmarket Street www.kamilicoffee.co.za
House of machines
If you are thinking of coffee shops as twee places that serve a careful slice of carrot cake on flowered porcelain, then think again. The House of Machines started off as a boys club and has retained that industrial urban vibe. The place is always buzzing or people are chilling over a board game. At the back of the shop is a dream machine – a motorbike originally built for the owner. The Evil Twin coffee is sourced exclusively for House of Machines. The beans are from Peru and roasted in Barcelona.
84 Shortmarket Street www.thehouseofmachines.com
Dapper Coffee Company
Dapper coffee is just that – very dapper. Staff are dressed in bowties and hats and the coffee shop is situated in the Club9 showroom of iconic cars. There is Inspector Morse’s Jag, a lovely cream Mercedes Sport from the 80s, or a classic Porsche. A column in the middle of the coffee shop is decorated in 50s style advertising filled with interesting facts about coffee. Featured artwork and artists change regularly. But although the waiters and cars take you back to another era, the shop itself is open and light and there is distinctly modern approach to the coffee, their own special blend, and the menu, which is all about fresh, yet wholesome approach.
c/o Bree and Strand Streets www.dappercoffeeco.co.za
Folk Coffee Anthropology
This industrial-chic coffee house got its name from owner Leanne, who is intrigued by the culture that has developed around coffee and coffee drinking in the last few years. She feels that what you drink, and where you choose to drink it, has become a part of peoples identity – a ritual and a celebration of the beloved brew. The furniture looks as though it may have been upcycled from a school hall or even a prison – definitely on the gritty side of realism – but the effect is softened by the sun pouring in through the huge windows, a giant comfy sofa, and a comforting row of old books on a shelf at the front of the shop. Every second Wednesday of the month join the informal book and wine club to discuss all things bookish. Altogether it makes for an edgy, exciting space.
7 Bree Street www.folkcoffee.co.za
Hard Pressed Café
Hard Pressed is a kind of living tribute to a great era of rock music. Proprietor Yaron Wiesenbacher used to be a DJ and his passion for vinyl is evident everywhere. Flipping through his collection of old LPs (Bowie, Dylan, the Beatles, Beastie Boys) is a trip down memory lane. The shop recommends and sells records to fellow vinyl addicts, and the soundtrack provides a terrific background to the vibrant, easy going vibe of the place. Every morning and at lunchtime there are queues of loyal customers outside the shop, waiting for their coffee and a nice bite.
1 Bree Street www.hardpressed.co.za
Of course, no review of Cape Town’s coffee shops will be complete without including Truth Coffee, voted the best coffee shop in the world for two years by the Daily Telegraph. The steam punk décor, with Colossu, the vintage Probat coffee roaster at centre stage, means that this is a coffee shop with attitude. There is a central long table with industrial light fittings and plugs dangling from the ceiling, enticing the urban worker to stay a while and enjoy the coffee.
But on Saturday mornings the mood is not about work. Cyclists, virtuous after their morning ride, mix with bleary eyed and the tourists, insistently stabbing at maps. By 9h00 the place is packed. The breakfast menu is extensive and good, the coffee roasted on site, superb. Truth is, first and foremost, a roaster and they provide both introductory and professional barista training. However, this aspect is hardly of concern as you take that first sip of delicious brew and your first taste of scrambled egg and smoked salmon on a lazy Saturday morning.
36 Buitenkant Street www.truthcoffee.com
As mentioned it is impossible to do justice to all the great coffee shops in Cape Town CBD but please feel free to let us know about your favourite coffee hangout, we will be happy to also answer any questions you might have on Cape Town’s coffee culture.
If you are a coffee connoisseur, or you are on the journey to discover the best coffee shop in the world you have to purchase The Coffee Route – A guide to Cape Town’s hottest coffee spots as a memento of your visit to South Africa’s coffee shop capital. This publication which is updated every year is also great for preparing before your visit to Cape Town.
Photos: Featured image: @truthcoffee
Other images: @skinnylegscafe @yourstrulycafe @kamilicoffee @odessamoll @dappercoffeeco @folkcoffee @hardpressedcafe @truthcoffee
Find more info on Cape Town coffee shops at www.coffeeshopblues.co.za
www.thecoffeeroute.net The Coffee Route – A guide to Cape Town’s hottest coffee spots – N.Elliot; Y.Wilsenach – check them out to order your copy