When it comes to coffee in South Africa, Cape Town ranks high in the scene, pulling some of the best shots of coffee and some of the most overrated too.
It’s not strange to find 5 coffee shops on one road but there are only few that stand out, few worth missioning for and a great handful of those you should just stay away from.
The depth to a good coffee is far more than just a well-roasted bean. High quality coffee is not only dependant on where or how it’s grown, how it’s prepared and roasted or what machine is used to make it. Coffee is an art.
Exceptional coffee truly begins with passion for the art of coffee, so don’t be mislead by the name of a coffee shop – that’s just good marketing.
Two weeks in Cape Town granted me the chance to visit a few high ranked coffee shops and well, these are the ones you should and should not go to.
Coffee You Want
When we talk about good, classic coffee – Giovannis always comes to mind. This well known Italian deli is always my first stop when landing in Cape Town. Their coffee is served at a drinkable temperature, foam is smooth, a light hazelnut flavor and topped with cocao powder. It is no surprise that they have been around since 1989.
#1 Coffee! Tribe roast their own magical beans and know how to get the most out of them. The milk was perfectly frothed, coffee served at perfect temperature and the taste on my tongue lead me to buy 3 canisters of beans. It didn’t take me very long to announce that this is my favourite coffee I had this Cape Town trip.
The design and concept of this coffee shop perfectly expresses or should I say espressos, haha, what coffee is. Not only is coffee an art but it is a science and the passion in this space is evident. The baristas know their coffee and despite the over priced beans – the coffee itself was extremely affordable and delicious.
Shift is a cafe I fell in love with over 4 years ago. The raw truth of my life displayed on the walls “death before decaf” is somehow so inviting. They are known to have the worlds strongest coffee – and while I believe that is unnecessary, the house roast is the best I’ve ever had. I purchased 3kg and regret not buying more. Their staff are friendly and passionate too and that, to me, always enhances a coffee experience.
Early morning, quick stop on the way to work. Knead served me the best almond croissant I have ever had. The coffee was good enough for me but if anything I would return just to enjoy that almond croissant with my coffee – over and over again.
Located on the corner of main road, Seapoint this coffee shop is always busy and for good reason. The present atmosphere is a perfect space to meet with friends or for business. The coffee served is strong, flavorful and allows you to enjoy every sip.
I struggled reviewing Kofi coffee shop. While I am always drawn to extremely minimalistic design, this shop was eerily similar to others I’ve seen. The cortado I initially ordered was served way too hot and the technique could definitely be improved. On the other hand, I shared a delicious pour over with another coffee enthusiast. While I do recommend the pour over coffee, I would not recommend the espresso based drinks. It is worth the visit and this is why I decided to place it in my “Coffee You Want” list.
Coffee You Don’t Want
Claps for Cafe Paris for being open on Christmas day. I need my coffee fix every day but when it comes to over extracted coffee, I shall pass and rather deal with the withdrawals. Also, in what world does any Cafe serve margarine with a croissant instead of butter. Gross.
If I had a rand for every time Bootlegger was recommended to me, I’d be rich – OK not quite but I’d be able to at least buy a cup of coffee and let me tell you, I wouldn’t buy that cup from Bootlegger. While the flavor of their coffee hit the right spot, I do find the strength of it, highly unnecessary. As a person who enjoys drinking 3-4 cups a day, I’d prefer to not experience heart failure after my first morning cortado. The croissant I ordered was dense and in my opinion – highly insulting to the French and the pure art that is a croissant. To make it worse, the staff shared with me that they’ve had countless complaints but nothing has been done about it.
Where do I even begin. Yet another overrated coffee shop, beautifully designed but lacking in standards. To judge their coffee may not be fair because, well, I didn’t even have a coffee there. The level of service was so incredibly dissatisfying that I did not even bother ordering a coffee and instead, walked straight out. This is a common issue I find with many well-known coffee shops. They start off with great standards and as they grow, those standards fall to the waist side. Not to mention, the entire shop was empty. The branch in Johannesburg exccessed my expectations but the Cape Town, Seapoint branch was horrible.
Surprise, surprise. It’s only fair to give McDonald’s a shot (excuse the pun) when trying out coffee. In the past, I’ve heard many say it’s not the worst they’ve had & while I agree with them, I also do not suggest settling your caffeine needs at McDonald’s. I ordered a Hazelnut Iced Coffee, it is highly likely that this was my first mistake. Second mistake, I returned and ordered a second – this time I requested less syrup. Better, but still too sweet for my liking.
Coffee vs Atmosphere
When it comes to good coffee, for the most part I am still learning how to recognize different flavor-notes and find that coffee preference is very personal. Not everyone is a coffee connoisseur and neither am I.
While I am able to recognize a bad coffee but the idea of what a good coffee is, can often be influenced by the atmosphere, anesthetics and overall service of the space itself. This works both ways, sometimes people think a coffee is bad just based off of those three criterias and not the coffee itself.
A good coffee is most often backed by a lot of passion, understanding and authenticity. A good cuppa’ should have recognizable aromas and flavors that are not overpowered by a sour or an overly bitter taste. A sour taste is caused by under extraction and a bitter taste results from under extraction. Both mistakes are so easily made based on time, temperature and roast and grind used.
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