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House of Machines café, Cape Town
Photograph: House of Machines

The 17 best cafés and coffee shops in Cape Town

From boutique gems to innovative roasteries, these are the finest spots for a Capetonian cuppa

Written by
Richard Holmes

If there’s one thing to love about Cape Town’s coffee culture, it’s the sheer diversity of experiences on offer. Fancy a post-surf flat white? There’s a beachside barista ready and waiting. Want to delve into the geekery of roasting regimes and pour-over versus espresso? A passionate connoisseur will happily debate the finer points. And if you want to extend a simple cup into a lazy lunch? Well, you’ll find plenty of laid-back cafés across the city dishing up inspired menus of fresh, seasonal fare.  

And while there are a handful of global brands promising to deliver your caffeine fix, do us one favour: go local. Spend your money with small businesses. Seek out people passionate about the perfect pour. Because in South Africa’s ‘Mother City’, the coffee culture is simply too vibrant to settle for a bad cuppa. These are the best coffee shops and cafés in Cape Town, according to local writer Richard Holmes.

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The best cafés and coffee shops in Cape Town

Regularly ranked amongst the world’s best coffee shops, Truth Coffee Roasting is far more than any old place to grab a cuppa. It is, rather, a cathedral to coffee; a hallowed hall to bow before the bean. Interior designer Haldane Martin has transformed a century-old warehouse into a steampunk fantasyland of leather-clad bar counters and pressed-tin ceiling panels. Be sure to pay your respects to ‘The Colossus’ (a 1947 Probat coffee roaster run entirely on bio-diesel) and ‘Professor Jones’ Fabulous Coffee Bean Contraption’, a huge blender that takes pride of place and blends much of the beans roasted on-site. There’s an extensive coffee menu – be warned, asking for sugar is frowned upon – but you’ll also find superb pastries and a menu of light meals.

The OG pioneer of craft coffee in the Mother City continues to impress. Housed in a charming warehouse-style café space in the cosmopolitan De Waterkant precinct, Origin offers a bewildering array of beans and a choice of brewing methods. Always wanted to try a Kenyan Riakiberu hand-poured through a Hario V60? Well, you’ve come to the right place. There’s a solid daytime café menu of light meals, but also look out for the Café Noir evenings that offer African-inspired small plates from talented local chef Mongezi Mzoneli.


Ever since Carl Wessel and Judd Nicolay began roasting coffee beans in 2009, Deluxe has become synonymous with some of the best-value, high-quality beans in Cape Town. Little wonder you’ll find the coffeeworks’ beans everywhere from suburban homes to fine-dining restaurants. Today Deluxe has five coffee shops across Cape Town – and one in London – selling roasted beans and brewed coffee, but the tiny Church Street location is the original, and the most charming.

There’s motorbikes. There’s booze. There’s coffee. Honestly? It’s hard to put The House of Machines into any sort of box. And even if you tried, the no-nonsense barkeeps would likely tear it into pieces anyway. THoM brims with character and charm and has no shortage of attitude, but follow the motto emblazoned on the front windows – ‘don’t be a dick’ – and you’ll be just fine. Their house negronis are legendary, but in the daytime, this Church Street café does a mean flat white, with counter seating to sit and watch the world walk by.


Most locals know this acclaimed roastery from its flagship café in the city centre, but travellers exploring the waterfront Silo District can also tap into their micro-roasted small-batch beans. Hidden inside pan-Asian restaurant The Yard is a tiny outpost of Rosetta that brews up a variety of single-origin coffees. It’s opposite the remarkable Zeitz Museum of Contemporary African Art, a must-visit in the city.

Jason Lilley is the baker who first made Capetonians fall in love with the heady scent of a great sourdough loaf. But that isn’t all he’s known for. Oh no. His lobster rolls, decadent ‘doughssants’ – with a new flavour each month –  and pies packed with wagyu have all made Lilley a legend in the city. His bakery on the main drag through Green Point is a hive of activity any day of the week, with savvy locals pre-ordering their favourite pastries for collection. Beyond its baked goods, Jason Bakery’s coffee is excellent, whether you wait for a table or have it ‘to go’ and head for the nearby seafront promenade nearby.


Here’s a new game for tourists to Cape Town: try and find a counter seat at Giovanni’s on a sunny weekend morning. Good luck – you’ll need it. Perched on a busy road in Green Point, this Italian-style café is ridiculously popular with locals, who’re as much here to sip on a great espresso as they are to shop at the impressive deli in the back. It’s the perfect place to stock up for a beach picnic, with beautiful paninis, fresh salads and vegan-friendly meals.

The Green Point Urban Park forms part of the wider Cape Town Stadium precinct, and on a fine weekend you’ll find it filled with families enjoying the fynbos-lined walkways, outdoor play areas and wide lawns. In the heart of it all is the Park Café, where the best tables are out on the terrace overlooking the lawns and Mouille Point lighthouse beyond. The friendly staff don’t take their coffee too seriously, but the combo of a decent brew, a fab selection of fresh bakes and a diverse green setting makes this a charming place to hang with the locals.


Coffee and creativity combine at this chic neighbourhood coffee shop on the border of De Waterkant and the Bo-Kaap. Superb coffee comes courtesy of their own bespoke blend of Arabica beans, but it’s worth settling in for breakfast or lunch too. Savour gorgeous mountain views while you browse an extensive menu that runs from health-focused breakfast plates to generous paninis and hand-rolled bagels. Look out for the dedicated art wall, featuring a roster of local artists.

If you like your macchiato with a side order of coffee geekery, then Espresso Lab is for you. Located in Woodstock’s design-driven Old Biscuit Mill complex, the apron-clad coffee crew here is fixated on meticulously roasting small batches of carefully sourced beans. A globetrotting menu offers a taste of the coffee-growing world, while the stark white store is deliciously trendy – so much so that when the popular Saturday morning market is on you’ll have to join a queue. But it’s worth the wait, especially if you can bag a table in the sheltered courtyard.


Hidden away behind towering hedges on a busy road in Claremont, this wonderful suburban café isn’t easy to find. But you should most definitely persevere – because once you step through the iron gates you’ll find a charming cottage and secret garden that locals love to keep to themselves. And little wonder, as it’s already hard enough to get a table and you can’t book in advance. Expect to wait (especially if you want a seat outdoors) but the coffee is excellent, as is the compact menu of breakfast and lunch plates. The Eggs Benedict is a favourite, but also try the distinctly local curried mince on toast.

This cosy coffee spot adds community goodness to the simple pleasure of a great coffee. I Love Coffee offers skills training and employment opportunities for the city’s deaf community, and a full 70 percent of the staff employed here are deaf or hearing-impaired. At the till, a handy guide helps you to place your order in sign. The coffee is superb, too, and the in-house bakery piles the counter high with breads, pies and patisseries. Don’t miss the butter chicken pie, wrapped in the flakiest pastry in the city.


In the heart of historic Chelsea Village, owner-chef Tracy-Leigh Genricks brings a dollop of playful creativity to her charming neighbourhood café Four & Twenty. The menu rambles widely across a wide choice of breakfast and lunch dishes, but the variations on Eggs Benedict and Shake-a-leg Shakshuka are ideal for lazy Sunday mornings. Come lunchtime you’ll want to tuck into the katsu-style chicken stack, with a kick of sriracha. Sweet tooth? There’s a tempting array of cakes and pastries on offer too.

‘High tides, good vibes and great coffee’ is the mantra of this laid-back café on the Muizenberg beachfront, where surf and coffee culture collide. With a micro-roaster at the front door you know the beans are going to be good, and the décor at this supremely chilled seaside café – come with sandy feet, nobody will mind – is all about organic tones and sea views. The menu of all-day breakfasts – don’t miss the bacon butty – is ideal for refuelling after a session in (and on) the waves.


Sure, this is a franchised coffee chain – there are more than a dozen Bootlegger Coffee Company outlets across the city – but unlike a certain starry-eyed American import this coffee is reliably excellent. Larger stores offer an extensive all-day breakfast menu ideal for the morning after the night before, but also sell beans, ground coffee and compostable pods to take away. The best Bootleggers branch is just above Bakoven beach on the Atlantic seaboard; perfect for warming up after a dip in the icy ocean.

If you’re looking to experience the best of Observatory’s offbeat, laidback vibe, Ground Zero is your spot. This all-day café embodies some serious Rasta vibes, from its vividly-painted walls to its hidden rooms filled with antique rarities. Specialising in coffee and vegan bites, Ground Zero’s menu is approachable and affordable while its setting is ideal for kicking back and enjoying one of the many art, music and other community events in the café’s cultural programme. 


A cosy café filled with books, vintage finds and local art, Sonder is a perfect pit-stop at which to grab a casual – and very, very good – cup of coffee whilst wandering the funky streets of Observatory. Born out of a desire to create a space for quality coffee and conversation, this independent spot also serves food that is fresh, homecooked and simply divine – and the vibe is welcoming and chilled-out... much like the rest of Observatory, for that matter.

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