There’s more to Switzerlands’s largest city than financial institutions and chocolate. As Maria Teresa Mancuso discovers, it’s also the place to go for great coffee. Photo : Ricardo Gomez Angel.
The city of Zurich is consistently voted as one of the world’s best places to live, and one of the reasons for this may be its vibrant coffee scene. Among the traditional coffee houses serving the classic caffè crema and countless branches of Starbucks, you can find a growing number of next-generation cafés bringing speciality coffee to local and visiting Kaffeeliebhaber (coffee lovers).
To experience the best coffee, you need to know your way around. To help you out, here are some of the city’s top cafés that will not only sell you a great cup of coffee but will also guide you through the scene’s history.
Despite its name, there’s no televised sport to be found here, just great coffee. Sport Bar (Kanzleistrasse 76; sport-bar.ch) is one of the founder members of Zurich’s coffee scene: it was one of the city’s first cafés to serve speciality coffee, the first to join the SCAE (in 2009) and was once home to influential Swiss barista Shem Leupin.
On entering, you may mistake it for a hip local bar rather than a café, but head over to the counter and you’ll see the classic La Marzocco, ready at the touch of the barista’s hand to extract a perfect Stoll espresso.
The success of Sport Bar and a passion for speciality coffee have led manager Kaspar Fenkart to open a second location on Langstrasse. ACID has a unique name and concept, and serves coffee roasted locally by the Sanchez brothers at Miró Coffee.
In the same year that Sport Bar joined SCAE, La Stanza (Bleicherweg 10; lastanza.ch) made its mark. This centrally located, elegant café gave the Zurich coffee scene the kick it needed. Suddenly, people were discussing where to drink good coffee. Locals started talking about espresso, cappuccino and latte art – all of which can be found here – while taking in the italianità atmosphere, which is still present to this day.
The concept was a popular one, and the owners went on to open two more successful cafés: Café Lang (Limmatplatz 7) and Hotel Rivington & Sons (Prime Tower, Hardstrasse 201). But with its dedicated and friendly baristas and staff, La Stanza remains a favourite among locals and visitors who are looking for a touch of Italy in the heart of Zurich.
Zurich’s coffee scene wouldn’t be the same without this long-standing café, located in the Altstadt (Old Town). With its extensive coffee menu, Henrici (Niederdorfstrasse 1; cafe-henrici.ch) is the perfect place to reconnect with life.
Manager and coffee innovator Tito Huber developed this once-traditional coffee establishment into the trendy, well-known café it is today. “The idea of ‘speciality coffee’ wasn’t on the radar in the beginning,” he says. “It was more about really good coffee and products that fit that. The last three years have been a fantastic journey – developing the drink, finding the right beans, using the right process to be able to scale up, looking at filtration, shelf life, customer feedback and finding new partnerships.”
And what does the speciality coffee scene in Zurich mean to Tito and his establishment? He quotes his sister, Olivia. “You know the places that take care of their beans. It’s that simple.”
Around the corner from Henrici is Grande (Limmatquai 118; grande-zurich.ch), which also continues to be a favourite on the Zurich coffee scene. The big sister to Bovelli (Sihlstrasse 20) and Le Raymond (Bleicherweg 8) offers speciality coffee from two leading Zurich roasters, Henauer and Stoll.
The varied menu allows customers to take a traditional coffee trip or something a little more adventurous. Grande also has a strong tradition of latte art thanks to barista Madia Sabirova (it was previously home to current Swiss Latte Art Champion Milo Kamil). Whether you choose espresso, cappuccino or latte, you’ll enjoy good service, a relaxed atmosphere and consistently great coffee.
BANK, COFFEE AND BORÉAL
Among the well-established Zurich cafés are a fast-growing number of new cafés, with fresh ideas and speciality coffee as their focus.
Bank (Helvetiaplatz) opened its doors in early 2016. It is the first and only café in Zurich with a Modbar and, being Zurich’s largest capacity café, has its work cut out. The barista team is led by the understated Benjamin Prager from Bear Brothers & Cow, working closely with roaster Stoll to bring customers the best speciality coffee. This isn’t easy by any means, in a city that still has a strongly traditional coffee-drinking crowd.
If you like what you find at Bank, it’s worth visiting Auer & Co (Sihlquai 131) where Bear Brothers & Cow co-founder Kai Keong has helped to establish a speciality coffee experience with roasters Stoll and Miró.
If you’re looking for an intimate coffee experience where you’re treated more as a guest than a customer, the recently opened Coffee (Grüngasse 4; coffeezurich.com) is the place for you. Here 2013 Swiss Barista Champion and Stoll head coffee guru Shem Leupin and partner Thomas Leuenberger welcome you to their world. Espresso, cappuccino and filter are all available. If you’re curious about what you’re drinking – the roast, country of origin, roasting method – all your questions will be answered. These guys know their coffee. Thomas and Shem’s concept is simple – to sell great coffee and to show people something different.
A recent little surprise addition to the Zurich speciality coffee scene is Boréal (Talacker 41), which opened in October last year. This branch is the fifth for the company, which is already well-established in the French-speaking part of Switzerland, having opened its first café in Geneva six years ago. Boréal also has its own roastery in Geneva, and the company’s focus is on bringing its customers the full speciality coffee experience from bean to cup.
With its central location, a flair for friendly customer service and plenty of high-quality coffee, you can be sure the guys from Boréal intend to have an impact on the Zurich coffee scene. The coffee menu is broad, from the traditional espresso and cappuccino to AeroPress, cold drip and Hario V60.
BEST OF THE REST
If that isn’t enough to whet your appetite for great coffee, there are plenty more cafés to try in Zurich. Maximilian Cafè & Bar (Weststrasse 112), Milchbar (Kappelergasse 16), ViCafe (vicafe.ch), Salon (Weststrasse 20), Café Noir (Neugasse 33), Grand Café Lochergut (Badenerstrasse 230) and more offer good coffee and great customer experiences.
Also look out for MAME Coffee Shop (Josefstrasse 160). A collaboration between 2015 and 2016 Swiss Barista Champions Emi Fukahori and Mathieu Theis, it’s sure to be a winner.
Despite this extensive list of great cafés, Zurich’s speciality coffee scene is still in its infancy. Work still needs to be done on creating a friendly, welcoming, coffee experience that opens up the conversation about what people are drinking and coffee’s journey from bean to cup. The word “speciality” may not yet be winning the race with local coffee consumers, but there is a growing love of high-quality coffee and an increasing interest in alternative brewing methods.
Whether it’s traditional or speciality, the Zurich coffee scene is thriving. Good coffee and amazing chocolate – what’s not to love about this city?