Single-origin flat whites, pourovers and nitro brews everywhere and not a single Starbucks in sight: these days Cape Town coffee culture is as much a part of city life as a visit to the beach or a hike up Table Mountain. Whether it’s found in unassuming side street hole-in-the-walls, flamboyant city centre cafes, no-nonsense roasteries or friendly neighbourhood coffee shops, coffee is a key part of Cape Town life. Here are the ten best places to grab a cuppa.

A smiling barista looks out a huge open window with a broad smile; behind him is the steampunk interior full of pipes and industrial pieces - it's an iconic scene in Cape Town coffee
While Truth's steampunk interior is the stuff of Instagram magic, it's the coffee that still stands out @ Truth Coffee

1. Truth: a warehouse-like steampunk café

Any list of Cape Town coffee haunts would be incomplete without mention of Truth. The warehouse-like steampunk café in a regenerated corner of the city has been named best coffee shop in the world on more than one occasion. The focal point is Colossus, a beast of a roaster built in the 1940s, who sits at the centre of a scene that looks like it was designed by Tim Burton, complete with waiting staff clad in top hats, flying goggles and Victorian bustles. But as uber-hip and Instagrammable as Truth is, it’s not just style over substance. The coffee here is truly great as well.

Espresso pours out of a large chrome coffee machine in two streams; both ball into a small black cup with an Origin logo (a barista)
Origin's menu may be complicated, but at the end of the day it's just great coffee @ Origin Roasting

2. Origin: the birthplace of Cape Town’s micro-roastery culture

This aptly named café is generally considered to be the birthplace of Cape Town’s micro-roastery culture. The understated café is filled with laptop-toting freelancers, coffee-loving travellers and breakfasting families. The menu can be a little daunting for the coffee novice, filled with options like aeropress, Hario V60 pourover and Yama siphon, but staff are knowledgeable, unpretentious and ready to guide you through the various blends. Pop upstairs to check out the roastery or book ahead for a cupping session with the roaster.

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3. Rosetta Roastery, who have roasting down to a fine art

If you quiz a few Cape Town caffeine connoisseurs on their favourite cup of joe, the name Rosetta keeps coming up. Based in the unashamedly hip Woodstock Exchange, Rosetta has roasting down to a fine art. Beans are sourced from across Africa, Latin America and Asia and roasted on site, with staff talking customers through intricate tasting notes for each available bean and blend. There are a couple of simple pastries on the menu, but it’s really all about the beans.

A short coffee with a small topping of milk sits in a jade-coloured cup on a matcher saucer with spoon; next on the wooden table is a deep blue bowl with some pink Turkish delight; an example of cultural variety in the Cape Town coffee scene
At Byblos, Turkish sweeteners can accompany your cup of joe @ Lucy Corne / Lonely Planet

4. Byblos: a quiet place for a sip

If you’re looking for a quieter place to sip, put Turkish-inspired Byblos on your list. Based in the architecturally arresting but curiously under-visited Palms Centre in Woodstock, Byblos is a place to linger and play games of backgammon while sipping on an apple tea or a classic flat white. On the menu you’ll find simple breakfasts, Middle Eastern-inspired light meals, great coffee and Turkish sweetmeats. For something different, go for the Turkish coffee for two, served with slices of syrupy baklava.

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5. Haas: home to the 'strongest coffee in the world'

Those who enjoy a good dare will be drawn to this east city café – it serves Black Insomnia, a local blend that’s been endowed with the title of strongest coffee in the world. For more modest types, there’s a fine selection of single origin beans to choose from, or the carefully curated house blend. Managing to be both homely and stylish, Haas is one of those friendly spots where you could happily linger all afternoon.

Behind an open garage door in a simple, dark grey box-like exterior is a simple cafe with a wooden bar
At home with a cappuccino: Siki's Coffee Kafe operates out of the owner's family garage @ Lucy Corne / Lonely Planet

6. Siki’s Koffee Kafe: a garage cafe like no other

It was local coffee chain Vida e Caffe that gave Sikelela ‘Siki’ Dibela his start in the coffee industry. After helping open Vida branched in the UK, Siki moved back to his home suburb of Khayelitsha and launched a neighbourhood café based in the garage of his family home. The menu is small, the coffee is good, the muffins are home-baked and the welcome is as friendly as any you’ll receive in a Cape Town coffee shop.

A smartly dressed barista in a flat cap, waist coat and tie concocts a coffee; the rich wood interior includes numerous shelves full of boxed coffee (each shelve holding matching coloured boxes)
Style meets substance at Coco Safar, with unique coffees, fabulous patisseries and African tastes @ Coco Safar

7. Coco Safar: for rooibos in cappuccino form

If pretty things make you smile then Coco Safar in Sea Point is sure to make you grin. Picture-perfect patisseries are served in glamorous surrounds and any coffee you order comes beautifully presented. There is also a concerted focus on South Africa’s home-grown tea, rooibos: try it in cappuccino form, in a citrus tart or chilled and poured on tap from SA’s very first botanical micro-brewery.

A white interior with chairs from various vintages, all sporting rich pink fabric cushion coverings; a few patrons sit at tables
The interior of Four & Twenty is welcoming, though its bougainvillea-covered courtyard is a great spot for coffee and cake @ Four & Twenty Cafe & Pantry

8. Four & Twenty: a step outside the city

You don’t have to be in the city to find good coffee. This neighbourhood hangout in the southern suburbs is popular with breakfasting locals and is an easy detour if you’re heading from Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden to the wineries of Constantia. The breakfast menu is expansive, but it’s the exquisite pastries and cakes that draw people in – along with the excellent coffee of course.

9. Espresso Lab Microroasters: where coffee is an exact science

Decked out in bright white tiles and with coffees poured from science-lab beakers, Espresso Lab has a distinct identity in Cape Town’s coffee scene. Beneath the clinical décor lies a deep passion and a team of extremely knowledgeable baristas. No food is served, but the roastery sits within the Old Biscuit Mill complex, so there are plenty of places to grab a bite – you can even order from the neighbouring deli and eat on Espresso Lab’s terrace.

A grey, single storey building sits behind some trees on a wide cobbled street; there is an umbrella and some tables and chairs out front for patrons
Tribe's coffee has proliferated Cape Town's dining and hotel scene, but a visit to their HQ cafe is a welcome treat @ Lucy Corne / Lonely Planet

10. Tribe: a leafy corner in an urban suburb

One of Cape Town’s most established roasteries, Tribe’s coffee is poured at restaurants, bars, cafes and hotels around the city. For the full experience, head to their HQ at the Woodstock Foundry – a shopping centre filled with art studios and one-off shops. The friendly staff serve light lunches as well as, of course, great coffee. Enjoy it in the courtyard – a rare leafy corner of a very urban suburb.

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