The journey to reach coffee nirvana is different for each of us. It’s a path littered with obstacles: you may have started out scooping granules of Ricoffy from a giant tin and feeling very grown-up to be drinking it (with loads of sugar and milk, of course). You might remember your very first sip of a proper cappuccino, wiping the glossy white froth off your top lip; or when campfire moerkoffie, dark and thick with condensed milk, first touched your virgin tastebuds. And now, there’s no greater pleasure than wrapping your fingers around a cup of hand-selected single-origin micro-roasted perfection. For the pleasure of those who are coffee devotees as well as food lovers, we’ve rounded up a list of great coffee shops in the big cities, with details on their beans, brews and snacks on offer.
4th Avenue Coffee Roasters (Parkhurst)
The secret house blend is 100% pure Arabica, comprising six beans (three from South America; three from Africa) to create a complex, full-bodied cup. Hand-roasted on the premises in a big pink coffee roaster and packaged in the same colour, the blend is known by locals as Legendary Pink. Sit down to a slice of cake, a chocolate brownie or lemon square.
The Argentinean (Linden)
Renowned for croissants (plain, cheese, almond and chocolate flavours), which take 72 hours to prepare, The Argentinean is located in a corner shop on the Linden/Emmarentia border, and serves only Lavazza pre-ground coffee purchased in pods. They keep about seven types of the coffee: crema, decaf, intense single and intense double, dolce and ricco.
Bean There Coffee Roastery (Milpark)
Located in the west wing of the Stanley Market and favoured by the hipster crowd, Bean There is particularly well known for its Olga’s Reserve AA grade coffee sourced from the Congo or Kenya. They only receive two bags at a time, so they can run out of stock rather quickly; alternatively, order Ethiopian certified Fair Trade coffee from the Idamo region (or buy it the supermarket). Don’t expect a huge menu here, but they do serve a super cheesecake and carrot cake.
Beans About Coffee (Stoneridge Mall)
Initially established in Dullstroom by Thomas and Evette Yamnick (now running their own shop in Riebeek-Kasteel), Beans About Coffee has grown into a successful franchise business. This branch currently offers 14 different coffees, six of which are single-origin from places as far away as Guatemala, Brazil and Colombo. The house roast, the Black Gold Roast Master Choice, is a medium-dark roast with a hint of sweetness, making it excellent for cappuccinos. Their red velvet cake and cheesecake, made especially for the shop, are hugely popular.
Croft and Co. (Parkview)
They serve the well-known Italian Illy brand in 170ml cups, claiming that this results in the best volume distribution between espresso, milk and froth for the perfect cappuccino. This is an owner run and managed shop with a decidedly Iberian feel: juices are freshly pressed, sausages handmade, and they host regular tapas and prego evenings. Ask for a slice of carrot cake made by a lady around the corner.
This shop, co-owned by the Satemwa estate from Malawi, is extremely particular about the origin of its beans. Their ‘backbone’ coffee comes directly from Satemwa, from which they make all the usual espresso-based drinks as well as filter methods such as syphon pots, cold drippers and pour overs. They are happy to suggest particular brands/blends/roasts, such as the Cowbell Seasonal Blend for a flat white or Kenya AA Top Masia Micro for espresso and pour-overs. Bagels and croissants are recommended fare with any of the high-end coffees.
Father Coffee (Braamfontein)
Blonde wooden walls, counters and furnishings make this a tranquil escape from the city bustle. Father Coffee roasts, blends and bags coffee on the premises. There’s a year-round heirloom blend made from central American and central African beans, as well as a special offering of unique single-origin beans which changes every couple of months. The snacks are simple and streamlined, including a sandwich of the day and pastries brought in daily and sold on a first-come first-served basis.
Holi Cow (Fourways)
At this coffee shop, deli and cooking school in one, shabby-chic and Indian elements combine to create a quirky but welcoming interior. They use Origin coffee from Cape Town, and their blends change with the seasons. Select from their array of old-fashioned cakes (with real butter and cream) such as the burfee cake, white chocolate and cardamom cake and chocolate hazelnut cake.
Coffee roaster and blender Julian Platt blends single-origin coffees brought in from countries all over the world, including Uganda and Ethiopia. He focuses on blends, as they have more depth than single origins, but he will make a bean available if that particular plantation has enough character. Chew on a poached pear and French custard Danish or one of the many other sweet delights from the bakery.
Moemas (Parktown North)
Moemas is well known among the well-heeled Johannesburg set for its signature display of glass-domed cake stands with piles of meringues, excellent chocolate tart, cheesecake and croissants. Situated at the back of one of the busier Parktown shopping corners, this is the place to take a break, sit back and enjoy a cup of Illy at its best.
Their flat-white, made from Cazza d’Oro – their own specific blend of South American and African beans – is hailed by many as one of the best in Jozi. (You can also buy it to take home.) This little coffee shop, which sits diagonally across from the Neighbourgoods Market, makes a small number of pastries, with chocolate brownies and milk tarts selling particularly well.
Voodoo Lily Café (Birdhaven)
Any shop with such a quirky name should warrant a second glance. They serve only Bean There Coffee, and particularly Ethiopian beans that they grind on demand. It’s a lovely glass-fronted shop with an elegant interior, but the real action takes place downstairs where they have a separate bakery to make anything from bread to pecan pie, cashew pie, old-fashioned custard slices, blintzes and croissants.
The Whippet (Linden)
Visit on a Monday for their special on cappuccinos at a ridiculously cheap R12 a pop. They roast their blend of Costa Rican and Ethiopian beans off site. (They also make a mean espresso and peanut smoothie.) Their gourmet French toast is legendary in the area, and they have an array of boutique cakes such as the milk tart-inspired Whippet cake, comprising layers of milk tart and pastry with a lemon zest and condensed milk topping.
afro-boer (The Willows)
It’s almost on the edge of Pretoria and feels a bit like an escape from the routine, which is perfect as you sip single-origin Tanzanian Kilimanjaro (from Tribeca), which has been specially roasted and delivered at their door. Going in the opposite direction, customers also line up for a traditional moerkoffie, which works well with their moreish bacon and egg panini.
Aroma Gourmet Coffee Roastery (Brooklyn)
Aroma roasts some the best Arabica beans from around the world (Ethiopia, Uganda, Guatemala and Colombia) on site. Freshly baked croissants are a popular choice to accompany the coffee.
BICCCS (Waterkloof Heights)
Coffee flows through their veins here and is prepared the Neapolitan way. BICCCS has its own proprietary blend of certified Fair Trade African coffee beans, roasted and blended by coffee specialists Sprada. Start your day with a double espresso or cappuccino and tuck into creamy scrambled eggs on Giovanni Mazzone’s ciabatta.
Café 41 (Ashlea, Eastwood, Hazelwood)
Start with a Greek coffee and work your way to an upside-down cappuccino, paired with one of their exclusive desserts designed by owner/chef Minas Ioannou with distinct Greek flavours. Try the marinated orange segments with a secret mix of spices, served with thick Greek yogurt and honey.
Carlton Café Delicious (Lynnwood)
With a nod to serious coffee, the café serves Bean There Fair Trade coffee from Africa. But they also have their playful moments, with their tongue-in-cheek taai coffee with condensed milk. Go all the way and indulge in Oreo baked cheesecake with a brownie base and a caramel topping.
Deli On Duncan (Hatfield)
You might have to ask for explanations of the menu items, as they run from the ubiquitous cappuccino to a macchiato, affogato or an almond café granita – and more. They advise that their rich and moist apple syrup cake is the perfect coffee companion.
L’Èpis Doré (Lynwood)
You simply must go the luxurious croissant and coffee route at this traditional French bistro and bakery. They order Segafredo beans (extra-strong) in from Italy, and grind them on site. Have a strong richly flavoured espresso with a plain croissant flown all the way from Paris and baked first thing that morning.
It’s no surprise that our winner of the 2013 Eat Out Produce Award for best bakery also does great coffee. Single-origin beans are roasted in small batches to give the most defined taste and are served in a variety of ways, from Aeropress to Chemex and pour-over to cold-brewed, which they can do on their custom-made Lucky Mirage Espresso machine. Grab a sandwich made with their artisanal freshly baked bread and filled with seasonal garden veggies, creamy farm butter, locally crafted cheese and smoky charcuterie.
You can’t think of coffee in the Pretoria and not pop into Pure for one of the best cappuccinos in town. With some of the best expertise and equipment, they get the balance perfectly and it doesn’t take long to grab one on the go. Order French cinnamon toast drenched in maple-flavoured syrup for an indulgent morning snack.
The Bean Green (Glenwood)
This quirky space is owned by father-daughter team Peter Winter and award-winning barista Mel. The organic beans are Ethiopian, roasted in small batches on the premises and served as single origin or in blends like their signature The Bluff, Bru. The comforting crackle from the working record player adds to the home-away-from-home charm and time seems to slow down as you sip on the perfect coffee paired with a triple chocolate brownie.
Café Jiran (North Beach)
It’s all in the detail: five pages of the menu are dedicated to coffee alone and it’s brewed within four minutes of grinding. Beans are hand-cultivated Arabica beans from Africa, Costa Rico, Guatemala and Columbia, and are served as either single-origin coffees or a blend. Pavement tables are prime real estate on weekends as coffee drinkers soak up the sun and relish close proximity to the sea.
The Corner Café (Glenwood)
This green café is saving the world one cappuccino at a time with their all-African coffee with a small carbon footprint, biodegradable takeaway cups and lids, and sugar pourers to save on wasted paper sachets. We recommend popping in for a leisurely breakfast to hang out with the ‘hood, laugh with owner Judd (he really is funny) and partner the lonely hearts breakfast with the ultimate cappuccino of Colombo coffee and beautifully micro-textured milk.
Duke & Duchess Coffee Shop (Umhlanga Rocks)
Vintage motorbike chic meets serious coffee… who would have thought? A super-cool space that has successfully combined a motorbike showroom with a café that attracts businessmen, bikers and everyone in between. The coffee menu is highbrow enough for fanatics (they offer pour overs) and provides enough explanation to hopefully coerce leisure drinkers into trying something new. Barista Niki likes to mix things up and uses single origin coffees from Burundi, Ethiopia or Uganda as the mood takes her and recommends the hummingbird cake. If you find yourself wanting to head to Italy and wend your way from one café to the next on your Vespa, we get it.
Earthmother Organic (Glenwood)
For those who like their caffeine with a clear conscience. In keeping with their ethos, Colombo Coffee provides beans that are seasonal, single origin (currently they are from Honduras) and organic, and all coffees are made unhurriedly and with love. Your cuppa is best enjoyed smugly with a piece of the delicious raw cocoa tart which happens to be gluten-, sugar- and dairy-free.
The Factory Café (Congela)
Coffee geeks unite at this café ensconced at Colombo Tea & Coffee’s warehouse. The industrial space has been embraced and you may even see beans being roasted while you ponder the finer coffees in life. Passion is matched by knowledge and every morning a panel have a cupping ceremony to test the quality of the coffee being served. Blends alternate between the Sweet & Clean (a fruity, fully washed espresso blend from central and South America and Indonesia), Aggressive Chocolate (a seasonal blend designed to stand out over milk) or the Fedora Classic (a classic Italian-styled blend). If you cannot live on caffeine alone, contemplate a savoury Mexican muffin, which combines spicy corn, coriander, jalapeno and feta.
The Glenwood Bakery
The heady smell of baked artisanal bread is almost tangible at this bakery that revels in its cult status. There can be little more satisfying than the simplicity of a freshly ground and pulled shot of coffee (beans that alternate between those from neighbourhood suppliers Colombo and The Bean Green) with a light, flaky croissant.
Resident celeb Ard Matthews (Just Jinger’s front man) owns this coffee shop with its own radio station. Ard celebrates his roots with the silky smooth The Bluff Bru, a three-bean blend from The Bean Green. Decaf coffee drinkers need not fear ridicule here as they will be served the Racemosa coffee bean, which is only found growing wild in the coastal forests north of Lake St Lucia and But the really big thing about Indigenous Racemosa coffee, is that it’s naturally so low in caffeine you could happily call it naturally caffeine-free. Head there at lunchtime for a coffee and the ultimate sandwich of chicken mayo and coriander between hunks of homemade bread. Like iwantmycoffee on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/IWMCoffee?fref=ts and get updates on where you can find their mobile coffee van.
Jacksonville Coffee (Stamford)
Tucked into the underskirts of Durban’s landmark soccer stadium, Jacksonville Coffee has a simple setup and DIY service. A full menu of traditional coffees is prepared with an Arabica blend of Malawian and Kenyan beans, otherwise try a Zim shot (a double shot of espresso with a spoon of condensed milk to take the edge off). Don’t overlook the dark chocolate-chunk biscotti.
Love Coffee (Morningside)
Converts are easy to spot, as bumper stickers boldly emblazon their cars. A single roadside garage has been converted into a central coffee rendezvous point for aficionados. It’s mostly a hit-and-run concept and their bespoke blend from Ugandan and Ethiopian beans is reincarnated as textbook-perfect coffee in all guises. Try the Africano (a localism for Americano) with a raw chocolate and coconut macaroon.
Stretta Café (Hillcrest)
It may be more restaurant than coffee shop, but Stretta has serious caffeine credentials. It’s the exclusive supplier of Lineage coffee brand, which belongs to SA’s 2014 champion barista, Craig Charity. A coffee is the quintessential accompaniment to delicious breakfasts like the gutsy homemade panini filled with tomato salsa, pork sausages, caramelized onion and fresh rocket.
This farm has been roasting beans since 2004. There’s a wide selection of coffees with flavour profiles ranging from floral and fruity to robust and bright, and green beans sourced from South America, Indonesia, Ethiopa, Uganda and Tanzania. For those with a sweeter tooth they have flavoured coffees (hazelnut, English toffee and French vanilla) made from 100% Arabica beans and syrups. A recommended coffee accompaniment is the cinnamon and walnut baked cheesecake.
Verve Café (Umhlanga)
There was no chance Verve was going to fly under the radar in an outlet park. The news soon hit coffee circles that single origin Nicaraguan beans were being transformed into everything from cortados to flat whites and also undergoing the including the lesser-spotted Aeropress method. The double volume space basks in natural light and the eclectic décor embraces a vaguely kitsch retro lounge area, canary yellow metal stools, vintage objet including a wall-mounted bicycle and open plan kitchen area which displays delicious goodies like the chocolate, nut and cranberry biscuits and freshly baked cheesecake.
Bean There Coffee Roastery (City Bowl)
Bean There is South Africa’s first roaster of certified Fair Trade coffee. Dedicated to make a sustainable difference in African coffee producers, they personally select coffee beans from African neighbours such as Ethiopia, Kenya and Rwanda. Enjoy your coffee with a sandwich, slice of carrot cake, chocolate brownie or choc-chip cookie (or two).
The Blend (City Bowl)
This spot supports Deluxe, Baseline and Flat Mountain roasters and suppliers. Have a jam and cheese croissant or waffle with your coffee.
Deluxe Coffeeworks (City Bowl)
The blends of coffee are unique, sourced from all over the globe and roasted in-house. All coffees are certified green organic. Beans to take home can be freshly ground to your specifications. They do not serve food here, but it’s no hardship when you have this selection.
Espresso Lab (Woodstock)
Based at The Old Biscuit Mill, this lab roasts coffee beans selected from all around the world, including countries like Burundi, Costa Rica, Columbia and Ethiopia. Espresso Lab’s all about coffee, so there are no snacks, but you’re welcome to pop into the deli next door and bring your sweet treat across to the lab to enjoy with your favourite cuppa.
Haas The Coffee Collective
This quirky coffee shop and art gallery offers single-origin beans sourced from as far afield as Brazil and Indonesia and roasted ‘in-haas’. Enjoy a latte, cappuccino, or double espresso with fresh savoury and sweet muffins and croissants (with fillings of chocolate or nuts) or tuck into a breadbasket with cheese and preserves.
Hard Pressed Café (Foreshore)
Our editor loves this spot for its drink called The Amy, comprising a double espresso, a spoonful of peanut butter, scoops of ice cream and sprinkling of white chocolate chips. Apart from their coffee (a medium-roast blend with a subtle chocolate aftertaste), they sell vinyl records, have cool staff and their quirky décor attracts both very trendy customers as well some suits from the law firm upstairs.
House of Machines (City Bowl)
It may seem a little dark from the outside, but the cool décor and art on the walls of this coffee house and bar keeps things super cosy. Make sure you sample their ‘Evil Twin’, made from 100% certified organic Arabica beans roasted by a master roaster in Spain. The beans are single origin and grown in Honduras. Then tuck into avo and tomato on rye and watch the world go by.
Jason (City Bowl)
While they’re secretive about the brand of coffee they serve (yes, we asked), everyone knows how delicious Jason’s croissants are. Choose from plain, almond, chocolate and bacon.
Kamili (City Bowl)
All coffee is store-roasted from beans sourced world-wide. The house blend is the Kamili Khaya, which is all-African, from Ethiopia and Uganda. They offer a variety of brewing methods, ranging from pour-over and Chemex to French press and cold brewed. Grab a toasted sandwich topped with ham and emmenthal, a freshly baked pastry. or one of the popular gluten-free vegan cupcakes made with quinoa flour and topped with almond butter and coconut.
Knead (Kloof Street, Sea Point, Wembley Square, Dean Street, Palmyra Junction, Muizenberg)
Walk in to be greeted by aromas of just-baked bread, almond croissants and freshly ground coffee beans. The beans are sourced from Africa and have been roasted in-house and tested to create the perfect Knead blend for you to enjoy with their baked goods.
Moka Coffee Roasters (Kraaifontein)
This family-owned roaster freshly roasts 100% Arabica coffee and hand blends it to suit your palate. Grab a seat and enjoy the aroma and taste of a fresh blend coupled with a delectable chocolate brownie.
Motherland Coffee Company (City Bowl)
This Fair Trade coffee house sources Africa’s finest Arabica beans that are roasted to perfection for you to buy and enjoy at home. Else pull a chair up and one of their baristas will brew a wicked cup for you to enjoy with a wrap, panini or toasted sandwich.
Rcaffe (City Bowl)
Rcaffe’s house blend is made from 100% Arabica beans sourced from India, Brazil and Ethiopia. The design and ambience of the café is enjoyably bohemian and old-school. Select something to nibble from their range of sandwiches, wraps, pasta dishes, quiches and salads on offer.
Rosetta Roastery (Woodstock)
This roaster, located in the creative hub and hipster-magnet of the Woodstock Exchange, sources single-origin and estate coffees from South and Central America, Africa, and Asia. Visit their coffee bar and enjoy your choice of coffee with a fresh croissant, muffin or tart.
Origin Coffee Roasting (De Waterkant)
This artisan roastery and barista school’s tasting room can be mistaken for a café: tables of people chatting and sipping their favourite brew, boxes of roasted coffees, an espresso machine and coffee grinders, a chalked up menu on the wall (that includes great bagels), and baristas on call.
Shift Espresso Bar (Green Point)
This hip bar has a chilled atmosphere and décor reminiscent of New York. Their premium organic Fair Trade coffee is sourced and roasted in Africa, and they’re known for throwing curve balls by adding Lindt, Oreos and condensed milk to their drinks. If you’re lucky, you might manage to get a peanut butter and salted caramel brownie.
Before settling down to a cup of coffee with a muffin, croissant or pastry from the confectionary, take a walk through the roaster and meet ‘woman of steel’ Bertha the roaster. She is responsible for roasting the beans that come from organically certified farms from Columbia, Ethiopia, India and beyond.
Truth HQ (City Bowl)
With its exposed metal pipes, vintage typewriters and sewing machines, and huge coffee machine hissing in the background, this is not your average café setup. Enjoy this unique steampunk-themed space whilst sipping a cup of ethically selected green coffee that’s been micro-roasted in-house. Compliment your drink with a muffin, croissant or slice of cake.
Beans About Coffee (Franschhoek)
Located inside Dutch East Restaurant, Beans About Coffee is passionate about offering the best coffee blends with quality, rich flavour and freshness. The 100% Arabica coffee beans are sourced from Guatemala, Brazil, Ethiopia and Columbia. Complement your choice of coffee with a treat such as the deep-fried milk tart from the res