Like any list of specialty coffee shops, this one – of more than 20 in Johannesburg – is totally biased. A few of them serve food too (like the British coffee shops) but most follow the Australian and New Zealand models of just damned good coffee. (The asterisk* is for places I’ve heard are meant to be outstanding but haven’t tried yet.)
Hill Brewed Coffee, New Doornfontein
This corner of Voorhout Street seems a bit jinxed, because two other coffee shops have tried to make a go of it before. But having tried both of them, I can definitely say Hill Brewed makes great coffee and has what it takes to keep going.
Dear Maria, Bedfordview
Stuck down an arcade near where Van Buren does that kink to the right at Nicol Road, there’s a reason this place has been going for a while despite its out-of-the way location.
Consistently good coffee in a great setting, with roasting machines and an espresso lab in the back.
Rebel’s Playground, Victoria Yards
A new addition in a hidden back corner of Victoria Yards.
* Old School Coffee, Newtown Junction
At the top of Kent Street, the fact that the store has doubled in size speaks for itself.
The Grind, Melrose Arch
Part of a bicycle shop, and not the easiest place to find parking, it’s worth the stop.
A great little spot opposite 27 Boxes that was opened by Lia and Wayne, and is one of the stopovers for bikers doing the increasingly popular coffee ride on Sundays, going from coffee shop to coffee shop.
Craft, Parktown North
Its second shop, after the long-running cafe and roastery in Newtown.
The Richmond, Richmond
A former photographer and his partner changed his old studio, in a great corner location in a cute suburb, Richmond, near the Johannesburg Country Club Also on the bikers’ Sunday coffee run.
* Ophelia, Emmarentia
* Bloom Coffee, Parkhurst
* 4th Avenue Coffee Roasters, Parkhurst
Bean There, 44 Stanley, Milpark
There is a large roaster in the middle of the store, but most of the roasting goes on in the Braamfontein branch.
The Whippet, Linden
It’s more about the food here than the coffee, but the coffee is great.
* Third Space, Fourways
Africa Black, North Riding
You might miss Erina Nigrini’s place in the Northlands Shopping Centre, on Witkoppen Road, but it is well known for the aroma of roasting beans wafting out of the corner shop and its usually entirely female staff, baristas included.
Naked, Melrose Arch and Sandton City
You might miss it if you blink, but it’s at the bottom of Simmonds Street, opposite the Standard Bank complex. Perfect place to get a coffee before joining or leaving the M2.
Started by the same people who have Whippet (see above). Probably the best coffee you will get downtown.
Home of the Bean, Maboneng
In the home of what used to be Firebird Coffee, in the courtyard behind the Cosmopolitan.
Probably the longest-serving coffee shop in the city centre that is still going.
The first outpost of the very Brooklyn, New York-like coffee shop.
Bean There, Braamfontein
Not in the most obvious location, off Smit Street, the small seating area fronts a massive roasting section.
when all else fails
Woolworths, numerous locations and usually very good coffee. I would vouch for them, and the one at O.R. Tambo Airport is usually a first port of call on entering the country.
Motherland, 9 locations around Johannesburg and one in Cape Town. Sometimes good, sometimes not so. The hit-and-miss nature of the coffee probably comes with the growth of the chain.
Bootlegger, 16 locations in Cape Town (and 3 more coming) and 4 in Johannesburg. I’m not a fan, but as I said, this is a very biased list.