As I sit down to write this blog, it crosses my mind that this post will be biased and absolutely not comprehensive. The wonder of the speciality and third-wave coffee movement is that new shops are popping up everywhere (some sadly also close their doors again shortly afterwards), and so my choice of favourite coffee spots includes places that have been there for a while and would probably still be there when you find yourself in said city. Also, I have used the term “coffee spots” as some places on the list are not necessarily speciality coffee cafés.
All of that said, I am counting on you, the reader, to share your favourite coffee spot with us and other coffee lovers.
Greeted by a cheerful and smiling doorman in full Steampunk attire upon our arrival for our course at their Barista Academy, I remember thinking that the coffee must be really good here. Why? Because nobody looks this cool and energetic at work, this early on a Saturday morning in Cape Town. And I was right! I am not the only person who loves this café and coffee roaster. The Daily Telegraph named them “the world’s best coffee shop” and their TripAdvisor ratings is something to aspire to. The Steampunk décor is quirky and beautiful. Coffee, roasted on site, is prepared by skilled baristas and served by friendly staff. Although coffee is the star here, the food served is delicious. All that said what makes this spot stand out is their passion and attention to detail.
People go to Barcelona to see the wonderful work of Gaudi. No offence to Señor Gaudi’s work but my first stop is always at the third generation owned artisanal coffee roaster Cafés El Magnífico located in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona. There is very limited seating and no tables but that doesn’t matter when you sell coffee this good. When buying coffee here you are presented with a little file and knowledgeable staff will take the time to answer any questions you may have and help you to choose a coffee to match your taste and budget. Enjoying my coffee on the house while waiting for my kilos of coffee to be packaged in their beautiful coffee bags it strikes me how here different generations blend seamlessly all brought together by great coffee.
I guess sometimes my mind is one big cliché because every time I think of New York Frank Sinatra starts singing “If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere”. I know, painful right? But unfortunately, also true for a lot of coffee shops. Considering this, my coffee spot for New York has been roasting and selling coffee (and other wonderful foodie delights and coffee gear) for over 80 years and 3 generations later they are still going strong, cupping, selecting and roasting their own coffee. A place I would happily move into if given half a chance, it is Zabar’s. So, if you “wanna wake up, in a city that doesn’t sleep” make your way over to West 80th Street and Broadway.
In a city with more than 5,000 chain coffee shops, it feels like there is a Costa, Starbucks or Caffe Nero at every tube station. And then there is Workshop Coffee. I guess you can call them a micro-coffee chain as they have 4 shops now but please don’t let that put you off. They roast their own coffee, from small single-estate farmers, and it is the work of roasters and baristas at the top of their game. Their staff is well trained, friendly and very helpful. I love the Fitzrovia Coffeebar. It is small but I adore the Victorian Bohemia décor, which beautifully reflects the avant-garde history of its neighbourhood.
At first, I thought I would write about De Taart Van M’n Tante as I adore this uber-kitsch cake shop but truth be told I can’t tell you a lot about their coffee. Then there were a few other shops I liked, but which one to choose? To settle the matter, it was time to call a local coffee aficionado and the best cook I know. His verdict is Bocca, which is pretty much gold standard there. I love that 15 years ago the two brothers started roasting in a garage when the “Third Wave” of coffee was still rather new in The Netherlands. They haven’t stopped since and their “Operation Cherry Red” project in Ethiopia, Cape Verde and Indonesia is an example of their commitment to the industry. Their beautiful shop in Kerkstraat is a celebration of their experience and passion.
I know there are many shops that could have made this list but then the magic of coffee is that every person experiences a cup differently. I continue my search for great coffee, delicious food and friendly and knowledgeable service in a unique setting across the world.
So, tell me where was the last place you had an amazing coffee?