We drank a lot of coffee during a caffeine-fueled month in Cape Town South Africa. Find out our picks for 10 cafes serving some of the best coffee in Cape Town.
The specialty coffee scene in Cape Town exceeded our high expectations.
With a mind-blowing number of independent shops with onsite roasteries, the Mother City has more cafes per capita than any city we have ever visited. Many of these cafes provide great working environments, each with its unique style and vibe.
But, for us, the best part of the Cape Town coffee scene is the artisan coffee itself. Freshly brewed, single-origin coffee is the norm at Cape Town coffee shops, and local baristas raise the bar in terms of creative coffee art.
Much like baristas in cities like Berlin, Budapest, Bucharest, Copenhagen, Dublin, Hamburg, Amsterdam, Lisbon, Paris and Chiang Mai, Cape Town baristas use some of the latest forms of coffee extraction from Siphons to Chemex to Aeropress. However, we know of no other city where you can drink a perfectly brewed cappuccino with an elephant “painted” in the foam.
We selected our apartment based on its close proximity to four of the third wave coffee shops that made our list. We often use this technique when we travel, an easy task in Cape Town due to the vast number of coffee shops in the city. This savvy maneuver gave us easy access to some of the top coffee shops in Cape Town as well as other cool spots that tend to be near specialty coffee shops.
Table of Contents
- Cape Town Coffee Shop Guide
- Bonus Picks – Cape Winelands
- Cape Town Coffee Shop FAQs
- Planning Checklist
Cape Town Coffee Shop Guide
The Cape Town metropolitan area has less than 4 million residents, but you wouldn’t know it by the seemingly endless number of Cape Town coffee shops. The good news is that it’s easy to find a good cup of joe wherever you are in the city.
The bad news is that choosing a cafe can be overwhelming to tourists. Based on our month-long Cape Town coffee odyssey, we confidently recommend starting with these cafes:
1. Truth Coffee Roasting
The team at Truth Coffee could easily rest on their laurels after being dubbed the “World’s Best Coffee Shop” by the Guardian in 2015. However, the lauded coffee shop continues to prepare coffee with “the joy of extraordinary truth” on a daily basis.
Though prolific owner David Donde takes coffee very seriously, Truth’s atmosphere is funky and fun with its gear-laden, ornately gilded, 19th century influenced steampunk decor. (Think Martin Scorsese’s 2011 movie Hugo and you’re on the right track.)
This decor almost hits you in the face the moment you walk into the Truth Coffee Cape Town location, but the coffee itself is the real standout. Donde’s goal is to not screw up the coffee by eliminating all bitterness from its flavor profile.
Impossible you say? Once you taste his expertly brewed coffee with distinctly rounded flavors, served with an artistic flourish to boot, you’ll agree that he has accomplished his goal and then some.
We joined in on Truth’s cupping ritual and then interviewed Donde. Watch our YouTube video to see his insightful thoughts about coffee, Truth and Cape Town.
Treat yourself or a friend to a barista class at Truth. Classes range from a couple hours to five days.
Truth Coffee Roasting is located at 36 Buitenkant Street, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa.
2. Kamili Coffee
Flying under the radar compared to some of the other one-word-named coffee shops in Cape Town, Kamili is quietly creating a coffee empire with its coffee served in many of Cape Town’s best restaurants. We loved drinking coffee and working at Kamili’s original location, a wonderful cafe and roastery in District 6. The shop serves a small selection of sandwiches and desserts in addition to the main event – the coffee.
Friendly baristas brew this coffee to order using Chemex, Syphon, AeroPress and V60 equipment, though we usually opted for their espresso-based flat whites. Important to mention, the coffee beans roasted at Kamili are excellent, finishing with a wonderful bitterness that provides an optimal counterpoint against the richness of the steamed milk found in most espresso drinks. We could drink this coffee all day, so we did.
Sit upstairs if you plan to work at Kamii. Not only will you find a good workspace and fast internet, but you’ll also enjoy the aroma of freshly roasting coffee while you work.
The original Kamili Coffee is located at 29 Shortmarket Street & Long Street, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa.
3. Origin Coffee Roasting
A pioneer of the Cape Town coffee scene, Origin has been roasting and serving specialty coffee since 2005. This coffee shop can take credit for starting the city’s craze for coffee excellence.
Over ten years later, the folks at Origin continue to roast and serve well-crafted coffee using ethically sourced beans in their industrial-chic warehouse cafe. A visit to Origin is a must to fully understand the origin of the Cape Town coffee scene, plus their freshly baked bagels and croissants never disappoint.
During our first visit to Origin, Barista Campbell Colledge gave us a coffee education as he prepared coffee using Syphon, v60 and Aeropress technology. This experience gave us the chance to taste the difference in the three techniques. Though the coffee beans sourced from Rwanda were the same in each cup, the profile varied based on the preparation technique.
Origin is located between Bree Street and the Bo Kaap neighborhood, making it a great stop during a day of touring in Cape Town.
Origin Coffee Roasting is located at 28 Hudson Street, De Waterkant, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa.
4. Deluxe Coffeeworks
Deluxe is an anomaly in the Cape Town coffee scene since their cafes provide neither food nor wi-fi. Yes, you read that correctly – there is no wi-fi at any of Deluxe’s locations. What Deluxe does do is roast and serve excellently crafted coffee in a friendly environment. For true coffee lovers, this is enough.
During our time in Cape Town, we drank a lot of coffee at Deluxe and bought a few bags of their freshly roasted coffee to brew at home. They offer some of the best coffee in town, friendly service and the kind of atmosphere that facilitates enlightening conversation.
Deluxe’s Buitenkant Street location shares a space with YARD where you can eat globally inspired tacos during the day and tasty hamburgers at night.
Deluxe Coffeeworks has multiple locations. Our favorite location is at 171A Buitenkant Street, Gardens, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa.
5. Tribe Coffee
Tribe Coffee’s original location in trendy Woodstock attracts a hip crowd due to the neighborhood’s plethora of cafes, galleries and restaurants. We liked Tribe for its artisan coffee beans, comfortable space and fun soundtrack. In fact, we rarely left Tribe without humming a happy tune.
Interestingly, Tribe’s second location is in a BMW motorcycle dealer situated in the Cape Town CBD. It’s a cool space and the coffee is good, but we preferred the more welcoming, comfortable vibe at the Woodstock location.
Tribe offers free parking at its Woodstock location, a true bonus in this popular hipster neighborhood.
The original Tribe Coffee is located at The Woodstock Foundry, 160 Albert Road, Woodstock, Cape Town, 7915, South Africa.
6. Espresso Lab Microroasters
Also in Woodstock, Espresso Lab lives up to its scientific name by treating the art of coffee like a science. Where better to practice coffee science than in a lab?
Keeping to the science theme, Espresso Lab’s decor is reminiscent of a laboratory with its clean lines and monochromatic colors. Not surprisingly, the baristas brew the shop’s freshly roasted beans with sophisticated coffee methods including V60, Aeropress and Chemex. Service is efficient and friendly and the coffee is good.
Kill two birds at one time by combining a visit to Espresso Lab with a trip to the Saturday market at the Old Biscuit Mill.
Espresso Lab Microroasters is located at 375 Albert Road, Woodstock, Cape Town, 7925, South Africa.
7. Rosetta Roastery
Our third recommended Woodstock coffee shop is Rosetta Roastery in the Woodstock Exchange. This funky coffee shop serves freshly roasted coffee with a side of fun. This doesn’t mean that the coffee isn’t good.
To the contrary, the Rosetta team expertly roasts and serves a range of single origin and estate coffee sourced from Africa, Asia and South America. This is the cafe to go to when you’re in the mood for a slow-drip Kyoto coffee served with a macaron on the side.
You can order a Rosetta pour-over when you buy meat at nearby Frankie Fenner Meat Merchants, proving that you’re never far from a good cup of coffee in Cape Town.
Rosetta Roastery is located at 66 Albert Road, Woodstock, Cape Town, 7925, South Africa.
8. Bootlegger Coffee Company
Thanks to its unlimited wi-fi and long operating hours, Bootlegger is a haven for digital nomads and locals who like to work remotely. These would be reasons enough for many to go to Bootlegger, but the cafe doesn’t stop there.
Bootlegger serves great food like the flapjacks piled high and layered with maple bacon that we shared one morning. Beverage choices range from typical coffee drinks, (cappuccinos, flat whites, etc.) to craft beer from Cape Brewing Company (CBC)
Two words: Unlimited Wi-Fi
Bootlegger Coffee Company has multiple locations in Cape Town. We frequented the location at Forest Glade House, Tokai Road, Tokai, Cape Town, 7966, South Africa; however, we really liked the vibe at the Kalk Bay location.
9. Haas Coffee
Located in a historic building just a block from the District 6 Museum, Haas Coffee serves coffee in a stylish, comfortable space. Specializing in espresso-based drinks using luxury beans procured from countries all over the world, Haas Coffee is more than a typical coffee shop.
Haas, which interestingly translates from Afrikaans to rabbit, is also an art gallery and advertising enterprise.
Stop for a coffee after you visit the District 6 Museum. This coffee break will give you a chance to chat about the moving experience.
Haas Coffee is located at 19 Buitenkant Street, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, 8001, South Africa.
10. Dapper Coffee Co.
The coffee is solid at this Bree Street cafe. Unlike most Cape Town coffee shops, Dapper serves a blend that is roasted off-site plus a full lunch menu with the favorites like hamburgers, smoked salmon and more.
The stand-out feature at Dapper is the decor. The cafe’s exterior is marked by an expansive window that offers a front-row view of the busy sidewalk traffic.
Inside Dapper, you’ll find a collection of vintage vehicles for sale by Club9. An impressive fleet is on glorious display with cars like Ferrari GTOs and Porsche 911s as well as classic Mercedes SL convertibles.
Leave your credit card at home if you’re easily tempted. You don’t want to accidentally buy a vintage Porsche when you meant to buy a flat white.
Dapper Coffee Co. is located at the corner of Bree Street and Strand Street, Cape Town City Centre, Cape Town, 8000, South Africa.
Bonus Picks – Cape Winelands
But wait, there’s more!
As a bonus, we’re including our two favorite Cape Winelands coffee shops. Think of it as an extra shot of espresso in your cappuccino or flat white.
1. The Blue Crane and the Butterfly
Ironically, the most exciting coffee shop that we visited in Cape Town wasn’t actually in Cape Town.
Nearby Stellenbosch’s The Blue Crane and the Butterly has more than a fanciful name derived from a bedtime poem that owner Michael Jones wrote for his son. At first glance, the cafe is a pleasantly decorated cafe serving equally pleasant cups of coffee brewed with El Salvadoran beans. But a quick walk across the street reveals so much more.
Charles-Napier Joubert, a trained chef, runs BCCC as his personal coffee laboratory. The BCCC space has a decked out lab with all of the latest coffee gadgets plus a roasting room, lounge and coffee bar.
We plowed through a slice of gluten-free chocolate olive oil cake while Joubert explained how his cold brew coffee takes 24 hours to drip on BCCC’s Kyoto dripper. For coffee geeks like us, life doesn’t get much better than this.
Go to The Blue Crane and the Butterfly to drink the best coffee in town when you need a break from drinking too much wine in Stellenbosch. Trust us, it happens.
The Blue Crane and the Butterfly is located at 146 Dorp Street, Stellenbosch Central, Stellenbosch, 7600, South Africa. BCCC is across the street.
2. The Hoek Espresso Bar
Franschhoek is known for its wine, food and scenery. But what about the coffee?
The Hoek is an adorable cafe serving solid coffee. This should not be a surprise since The Hoek uses beans procured from Deluxe Coffeeworks (see above).
Don’t hold it against The Hoek for not roasting their own beans. The baristas here craft a mean flat white and serve it with a side of free wi-fi. We approve.
Sit outside when you drink your flat white or cappuccino at The Hoek. The atmosphere is pleasantly chill.
The Hoek Espresso Bar is located on Huguenot Street, Franschhoek, 7690, South Africa.
Cape Town Coffee Shop FAQs
Yes. Coffee is popular all over South Africa and Cape Town is no exception.
Cape Town coffee prices are in line with prices in other global cities. Expect to spend about 40 to 45 rands for a quality flat white in Cape Town.
Yes. Cape Town is a leader in the specialty coffee movement and is home to some of the world’s best specialty coffee shops.
Top Cape Town specialty coffee shops include Truth Coffee Roasting, Kamili Coffee, Origin Coffee Roasting and Deluxe Coffeeworks. Try them all plus more to find your favorite.
Yes. Cape Town’s first Starbucks location opened in 2020. There are now multiple Starbucks cafes in Cape Town and the surrounding areas.
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About the Authors
Daryl & Mindi Hirsch
Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.
Original Publication Date: July 20, 2017