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No Sleep for Cape Town’s Thriving Coffee Culture

24 May 2021

Any Capetonian will tell you how hot the city’s coffee culture is; locals and tourists alike are spoiled for choice, with a wide variety of chic and trendy cafés serving up some of the best brews in the business. 

Modern-day Cape Town is a coffee-lovers paradise, but the rise of coffee culture in the city is surprisingly recent.

Since coffee beans first arrived on South African shores in the 1800s, our nation has been passionate about getting that daily caffeine fix. Historically, Kwazulu-Natal has been the hub of South African coffee farming, with crops grown in warm, temperate climates at altitudes between 200 and 800m. 

In Cape Town however, tea remained the drink of choice and plain old instant coffee was a staple in most households – until the explosion of modern-day coffee culture that percolated through the Mother City in the early 2000s. 

A handful of coffee connoisseurs noticed a gap in the market and set up shop in Cape Town. Customers started flocking to these hip new spots, and the rest is history.

Since then, the local coffee industry has flourished. Cape Town boasts the largest number of independent roasters in South Africa, and the CBD alone is home to more than 70 coffee shops.

Did You Know? Coffee consumption in South Africa during 2016-17 came to a total of approximately 589,000 x 60kg bags. During 2019-20, this rose to a total of 675,000 x 60kg bags!

Cape Town is now known as an international coffee capital. The biggest trends in the city’s coffee brands show a high demand for quality and sustainability.

Cape Town’ Top 10 Coffee Spots

Today, the Mother City is home to a variety of homebrewed beauties, with many beloved coffee brands and roasters established in the city. If you’re looking for the best cup of joe Cape Town has to offer, these local businesses are the cream of the crop: 

1. Bootlegger Coffee Company

You’ll find Bootlegger coffee shops in more than a dozen locations in and around Cape Town. They brew their coffees locally at a Woodstock-based micro-roastery, using 100% sustainably sourced beans from Central Africa and South America.

2. Truth Coffee Roasting

The Truth HQ is a much-loved Capetonian coffee spot, known for its captivating steampunk-themed aesthetic and delectable in-house blends, made using their vintage Probat coffee roaster. Barista classes are also on offer for those who want to take their love of coffee to the next level.

3. Tribe Coffee Foundry Café & Roastery

Join the tribe to discover some truly satisfying and creative coffee blends including the famous ‘Malawi Gold’ and ‘Sunday Morning’. Tribe is a vibrant, laid-back café located in Woodstock, with a smaller and more business-like location in the centre of town. 

4. Origin Coffee Roasting

Origin is a long-established Cape Town coffee company that has been a part of the city’s coffee culture since 2006. These specialists are known for their seasonal espresso blends, and for producing 50+ single-origin coffees a year, using an artisanal roasting process.

Origin has also founded a successful barista academy, offering courses in everything from professional brewing to latte art. 

5. Espresso Lab Microroasters 

Espresso Lab is a speciality roastery that produces small boutique batches of coffee, using a precise, scientific approach. 

As the name suggests, this sleek modern roastery takes its inspiration from a high-tech laboratory; visitors can expect to see their coffee orders meticulously created in glass beakers, while the coffee menu itself resembles the periodic table. This unique aesthetic makes enjoying your micro-roasted coffee an especially memorable experience.

6. Rosetta Roastery 

Rosetta was founded by three friends and bandmates with a passion for good coffee; while their African Nu Metal band never hit the big time, their award-winning coffee has certainly made its mark in the Mother City. Rosetta uses only single-origin speciality grain coffees, sourced from South and Central America, Asia and Africa.

The Rosetta brand has a café on Bree Street and an intimate coffee bar in the Silo District at the V&A Waterfront.

7. Haas Coffee

The Haas Ko-Op brings you the perfect blend of delicious coffee and inspiring art. Enjoy a cappuccino and a fresh-baked pastry surrounded by creative curios and limited-edition décor pieces for sale. Haas is a proud stockist of the famous Black Insomnia coffee blend, said to be ‘the strongest coffee in the world’!

The Haas coffee shop also hosts regular exhibitions by local artists.

8. Deluxe Coffeeworks

You’ll find a selection of premium hand-selected coffee bean varieties available at Deluxe. The brand has coffee shops in Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Namibia, and supplies premium arabica coffee blends to cafes, hotels and restaurants around South Africa.

Deluxe’s locations are ‘unplugged’ with no Wi-Fi – ideal for coffee-lovers looking to log off and live in the moment.

9. Bean There Coffee Company

Bean There is a brand that’s committed to sustainability at every step of the production process. They were the first South African roaster of fair-trade coffee. Bean There is Ecocert, Fairtrade and Rainforest Alliance certified Their single-origin coffees bring you the rich flavours of Africa, from Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi and the DRC.

10. Against the Grain Coffee Co.

Situated in the colourful Bo Kaap area, Against the Grain Coffee Co. was nominated for Coffee Magazine Awards’ Best new cafe and best cafe design last year. Besides their delicious coffee, a must try is their Gesmoorde Eggs Bagel. We absolutely love Against the Grain’s ethos of “Creating a comfortable space for all to be comfortable, enjoy great coffee and stay connected to the surrounding community”.


Coffee Companies in Cape Town Lockdown

How has the COVID-19 pandemic impacted Cape Town’s love for coffee? Lockdown measures introduced to South Africa in March 2020 took a serious toll on Cape Town’s restaurants, cafés and hotels. However, it’s interesting to see that coffee-centred businesses in the city are weathering the storm better than most, thanks to the strong local coffee culture. 

Despite the tough financial challenges that have come with lockdown, local coffee brands say the loyalty of their customers has helped to get them through. We’ve even seen several new coffee shops opening their doors in the city centre lately.

Cape Town coffee brands continue to draw the attention of top international travel blogs, and the future of the city’s coffee culture looks bright. Visit some of Cape Town’s favourite coffee shops, and you’ll soon see why!