Bean There, Cape Town
Cape Town’s first Fairtrade coffee shop

It was my first day in Cape Town. I knew I had 8 hour workdays to deal with and I was on a mission to discover the city. Work-life balance, trial one.

Cape Town is 3 hours behind Bangalore. Which means I woke up with a jolt at 6.00 am and felt like I was already running late. The city as it lay below me, while I watched from the 23rd floor was sprinting already. The skies were red, Table Mountain that was staring me in the face across the street was rolling out its table cloth, the streetlights were dimming out, people were pouring out of the railway station, breakfast was being served. You get the picture. Living on Strand Street, bang in the middle of the Central Business District (CBD) - didn’t seem like such a bad idea at all.

Mark, Eb’s friend, had emailed me about a few coffee shops in the neighborhood. I decide to venture out on my own and map these out. Cape Town has its history and as with any city in the world - just the right amount of caution is advised. Even the brochure about the hotel and the city in the room kept reiterating, “As with any city in the world…”. Ok, then.

Be over-cautious and you’ll be cooped up in your room all day, all night, all life long. Also it didn’t help that the concierge at the hotel was a little over-cautious: Don’t go by yourself, take a cab, it’s early to go out, it’s too late to walk around, blah blah blah. Pockets of the CBD are decidedly unsafe - they reminded me of Los Angeles’ Skid Row. So this what I do: I stay on the main roads, hold my bag close and don’t do absolutely racist things like crossing the road and on to the other side just because there are a bunch of black men heading to work. (I reprimanded someone for doing exactly that, BTW).

6.45 am and tt’s time for coffee at Bean There on Wale Street, just off Bree Street. I arrived at Bean There at 7 am. One of the baristas had to repeatedly tell me that they open at “half past 7.” (Too early to parse things like “half past”).

Could I sit inside then? Remember, nobody says no if you ask nicely.

Bean There is cheerful and inviting, cozy and warm. Just the coffee shop everyone wants in their neighbourhood.

The main coffee and cash counter have beautiful lampshades hanging above.  Glass jars containing beans from different countries are lined up on one side of the cash counter and on the other, cake stands containing baked goods are covered by glass bell jars. There is a bicycle on the wall and a sunburst mirror on one side. Cushions with funky prints dot the seating area. For the ‘What about the poor hungry children in Africa?’ crowd, they were also selling Coffee Sacks for 10 Rand.

Interestingly, Bean There is the only Fairtrade coffee shop in South Africa that roasts its beans on the premises. 

It’s half past 7 and time for the Cappuccino, my first for the day and the first one Bean There is serving on the day. It’s mellow, it hits all the right spots - no sugar and yet not bitter. Not too milky but just about strong enough to send me skipping to Jason Bakery. Where I picked up another coffee, because who can have just one? I come from the land of coffee from Cafe Coffee Day, remember.

I’m just another girl in the middle of a big unknown city. My cuppa has a perfectly shaped heart in the centre. The baristas are nice, the roads are shiny. Jason Bakery is a 2 minute walk away. Cape Town, I can’t be complaining.