Coffee in the Shadow of the Grapevine

Monday, 14 January, 2013
Coffee in the Shadow of the Grapevine
All words by Paul Callaghan

Living in the Winelands it’s very easy to be carried away by the wine culture that is almost completely ubiquitous. Although far from insidious, it is pervasive and the tourism aspect inherent to the industry breeds an impersonal storefront aspect where one is fed wine in order to buy it. One longs for soul, comfort and a local haunt where you and your usual drink are well known. This is what sets coffee apart. It accompanies us through late nights and pensive sit-downs with the newspaper and this is the essence of a coffee shop. So it begs the question of how coffee is faring in the shadow of the Western Cape’s pre-eminent industry. This is my mission as a citizen of coffee exiled in the land of wine.

Franschoek is the ultimate embodiment of what the Winelands aspire to be. A conglomeration of wine farms, the mountains of the Franschoek valley and restaurants all built on the vast well of Huguenot history, who left behind an indelible mark. And it’s here where I started trying to find my coffee shops with soul.

Since the area is mainly tourist orientated most of the main road coming into Franschoek is filled with restaurants and boutiques. With limited space most new shops fight more established eateries for a spot, forcing them into all sorts of attractive nooks and unassuming crannies. One of these new restaurants is the Café des Arts.

At the bottom of a side path and next to a verdant courtyard, des Arts has an open plan restaurant and kitchen surrounded by an eclectic but incredible collection of art that leaves one wondering how the illegitimate child of an art studio and coffee shop could appeal. But appeal it does. With beans supplied by Origin of Cape Town and great baristaship, they have developed a strong local base which should help them develop into a Franschoek stalwart.

Another gem in a fantastic little corner is Deluxe Coffeeworks - an offshoot of its big brother in Cape Town. Squeezed in between a culinary lingerie store (who knew?) and an aeroplane-restaurant hybrid known as Reuben’s, Deluxe seems to be a microcosm of the burgeoning coffee scene in Franschoek. Squashed and fighting for room but shaking a caffeinated fist at the wine farms and demanding to be heard. Easy-going, friendly and personable, Deluxe earns this man’s humble praise as his best coffee in years.

Slightly less out of the way is Sacred Ground. Although with the façade of an Americanised deli, the coffee is fantastic and there’s a whimsically personal touch for the locals. A customer can leave a mug hung on the wall of the restaurant so his/her coffee is poured and served with their own mug. This brilliant idea provides a warm homeliness to a restaurant with the potential for detachment.

It’s easy to pass Franschoek off as a play area for tourists without ever finding these coffee shops with soul but they are there and they seem to be doing a great job of bringing coffee out the shadow of vineyard to create something truly unique.

Where is your favourite spot in Franschoek? Tell us about it!

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