On a recent trip to Johannesburg, curiosity took me to the new Starbucks outlet in Rosebank, South Africa’s first. I know Starbucks from the United States, and even though I’m not a big fan of their brewed coffee – it’s not as bad as people say it is, but just not for me – I do like their beans.

What I found at the flagship store was this: The line at 2 pm was so long, it went through the premises onto the sidewalk. The coffee beans, meanwhile, cost R139 for the same bag that anywhere else (250g) would cost, at the very most, R70. Double the price?

Instead of waiting or being fleeced, I headed off to one of the other fantastic coffee shops in Johannesburg I had found that are equal to anything in the best coffee capitals around the world. And they are certainly better than Starbucks.

  1. The Grind Coffee Company, Melrose Arch. It’s got a lot of publicity for its coffee in a cone, which is really just a capuccino or espresso in a chocolate-coated ice cream cone. But the coffee in a cup is fantastic.

    coffee joburg
    The ‘coffee cone’ at Grind.
  2. Naked Coffee, Melrose Arch. It gets overlooked because of Grind and because it’s not on the main drag, but it’s great.
  3. The Whippet, Linden. Who knew that Linden would become such a trendy place, full of restaurants and this fantastic coffee hangout?

    coffee joburg
    The Whippet.
  4. Post, Braamfontein. The original. The first coffee shop to open in Braamfontein. Locals are passionate about it.
  5. Father, Braamfontein. One of the first to start the new coffee wave in Joburg, this sleek coffee shop is pure Brooklyn, New York.

    coffee joburg
  6. Doubleshot, Braamfontein. Around the corner from Father.
  7. 4th Avenue Coffee Roasters, Parkhurst. Long a focal point of the ever-growing Parkhurst strip.
  8. Royal Coffee Roastery, Modderfontein. Yes, who goes out to Modderfontein? Well, this place is worth the trip.
  9. Cramers Coffee, Joburg Downtown. Downtown Joburg for coffee? Yes, Cramers has been near the corner of Harrison and Main in the CBD for several years now, building up a solid following, and it is great. It’s also a good place to reintroduce yourself to the revitalised Joburg downtown.

    coffee joburg
    Outside Cramers.
  10. Origin, Maboneng. Started in Cape Town, the outlet near Arts on Main actually has a better vibe than the original.

    coffee joburg
  11. Craft Coffee, Newtown. Hidden down a side street near the Newtown Junction mall, I’m definitely heading back to this one. It’s a keeper. (The shop can be seen in the main picture.)
  12. Bean There, near Auckland Park. Tucked away inside the funky 44 Stanley shopping zone, this is one of the Joburg standards.
  13. Guru, Parktown North. A definite find and one of the early coffee-shop pioneers. I’ve been told that if you see the friendly owner Roger in the shop, he makes the best brew.coffee joburg

And there’s more. This list is not exhaustive (a man only has so much time to explore coffee shops in a week!). So keep exploring. I’ve also heard that the coffee shop at Hyde Park Exclusives Books – now known also by its new trendy restaurant name EB Social Kitchen – is a must. And then there are the standards like Doppio Zero and Motherland. Which all calls for another coffee-finding trip to Joburg.

UPDATE: According to locals in Joburg these coffee shops are also worth checking out: Urban Grind, Parkhurst; Brewtown, Sandton; Perfect Cup, Parkview; Loof, Norwood; State 5 Coffee Roastery, Greenside and Jozi Blue, Glenhazel.