A heady homely brew
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As Durban slowly picked up the pieces after a week of looting and violence, and with Florida Road opening up again, we decided to finish our coffee quest.
With Durban restaurants battling to get staples like bread and milk, we wondered how our coffee shops would fare, but fresh milk was on the menu everywhere. It seems the coffee shops had made a plan.
The change in coronavirus regulations allowing sit-down service in restaurants has made a world of difference. Something of the vibe was back. The digital nomads were back in their “offices” tapping away at keyboards. Although quiet, things didn’t seem quite so desolate.
The added bonus is we didn’t have to drink our coffee out of a paper cup. The real thing definitely tastes better.
Skyline Coffee in Gordon Road is an independent roastery that has always been a geek haven. I’ve been there in pre-covid times where the big table at the back has been turned into an impromptu boardroom, where people were already headphoned up and placing video calls with New York or Mumbai. We sat outside in the warm winter sun and enjoyed a top class cappuccino (R28), rich, full flavoured and decidedly rewarding. My friend’s latte got the thumbs up. That’s too much milk for me. We washed it all down with a superb chocolate brownie. The shop offers a small range of artisanal baking, and a few sandwiches with fillings like brie, bacon and onion marmalade.
Unfortunately Savior Courtyard was closed the day we trawled the strip, although it’s worth a visit for its scrambled egg croissants and signature coffees.
Next up was the coffee shop inside the Apple Shop on Florida Road. As we drooled over the latest selection of drones (we didn’t ask the prices), we enjoyed another superb cappuccino (R30) made from Tribeca beans, and pulled by DC who many will remember as the barista from Mark Gold. It was one of those where coffee, milk and foam had merged into a deliciously rich flavourful beverage. His genial personality also removed us from the fact that we were in a tech store. The latte too was good.
We popped into Kauai next door, where the coffee was disappointing. Known for their delicious and healthy smoothies and wraps, the cappuccino (R29) was scaldingly hot and when it cooled tasted of little more than boiled milk. It even looked blonde.
Further down the road is the Seattle Coffee Company, whose cappuccino (R30) was unfortunately erring on the bland side. It was pleasant enough but certainly not challenging. One was left with that pasteurised, homogenised feeling.
A little lower down, on Eighth Ave off Florida Road, is Col’tempo, the Italian deli and charcuterie that also serves light lunches and excellent coffees. We sat in the courtyard enjoying another beautiful, rich cappuccino, made from a lovely dark roast. And we couldn’t leave without a packet of goodies that included artichoke ravioli and amaretti biscuits.
Right at the bottom of the street is City Roast, the coffee outlet that shares premises with Fresh Flowers International and the Falafel Fundi, giving a decidedly unique feel. Etched onto the glass shopfront is “Coffee can’t solve all your problems, but it is a great start”. And their cappuccino (R27) certainly was a great end point. Another beautifully rounded full flavoured beverage. It regularly accompanies a falafel salad for lunch when stuck in the office.
Walking back up Florida Road to the car we decided we were peckish and we could face one more shot of coffee, so we stopped in at Istanbul for their signature Turkish coffee (R30). Comparing this to a cappuccino is a bit like comparing apples and oranges, but it is one of the street's distinctive offerings. This was an espresso cup full of intense coffee goodness that is a real wake up call. We shared a kunefe (R60), a Middle Eastern pastry made from shredded semolina dough wrapped around cheese and pistachio nuts and soaked in a rose water syrup. Delicious.
We thought back on the many coffees we had drunk. We weren’t going to declare winners because most of them are winners, but the overriding impression was that the small independent outlets outplayed the big commercial coffee chains, certainly in terms of quality, and usually in price.
The Independent on Saturday