Great coffee is very hard to find in Sri Lanka for some reason. We're better as tea-people. Still, Colombo's handful of coffee shops continue to be as popular as ever - here is a roundup of where you can get a freshly ground cup in the big city. If you know of any places we might have missed out on, even restaurants that do a great coffee, share it with us in the comments.
Whight & Co grows their own coffee and roast it in the 'Roasting Room Cupping Lab', which you can peek into from the main restaurant. The coffee has a distinctive, high quality flavour, and they do a superb cold drip coffee for Rs. 340. The food here is quite good too and very well presented - you can get a flavoursome, filling burger dish in the Rs. 700 range, or go for a more Sri Lankan meal for Rs. 1000. This is one of those few places in Colombo that's total value for money.
Charcoal is another one of our favourite haunts in the city, tucked away quietly down a road in Mount Lavinia. The ambience and service is always very welcoming and pleasant, especially in the evenings. They serve some very good food in the Rs. 300 range, and the iced mocha we got here for Rs. 350 really hit the spot. It's a slightly milkier version of the caffe mocha with a good amount of espresso and a mild bit of chocolate - fun fact: they use Hansa coffee.
The Brown Bean Coffee has always been a favourite of ours at The Good Market. Now they've got a permanent stall at the Good Market Shop at Lakpahana. They use Peruvian Coffee beans which have a unique smokey flavour which works well with both cold and hot coffees. If you're looking for a place to get a really good cup coffee, The Brown Bean Coffee is one place we'd definitely recommend. Their coffee is organic, tastes great and is quite affordable.
Java Lounge is one of the better ones as far as mainstream franchise-type coffee shops are concerned. Besides their main branch at Jawatte Road they've also now got an outlet in Bamba , next to the Kapruka office. The food and coffee are alright, though nothing to brag about (we like their ice caramel machiato, Rs. 430), but it's mostly the typical comfy-and-efficient ambience that makes it popular and constantly full of regulars. With drinks in the Rs. 500 range, it's a tiny bit more expensive than some other coffee shops, and it's one of the few grab-a-coffee-to-go options in the city.
Cup Cafe is the lovable underdog on this list. It's a 'no-frills coffee shop', a small space hidden in plain sight opposite ODEL, popular among tourists. The coffee is good - we got a nice big, refreshing glass of iced coffee for Rs. 380. They also have a tasty range of burgers, sandwiches and desserts that haven't disappointed us (Rs. 500). If you're stopping by here for a tall cup then also try the lime tart.
Hansa Coffee is one of our favourites, mentioned time and time again on different reviews as a reference point. They have been consistently good, and they have their very own brands of coffee and chocolate. It's another small, understated coffee place, with comfy cushions and a staff of one or two, a great place to read a book and enjoy a hot, steaming cup. They've got a small menu of chocolatey desserts and sandwiches, and some interesting drinks, all very affordable - from Rs. 150 to Rs. 350. The Brownie Shake and the Espresso Chocolate Truffle are some of the best on the menu, while there's a variety of coffees to pick from (Thai coffee, condensed milk coffee, spiced coffee).
Coco Veranda is one of the oldies, competing with the likes of Coffee Bean and Java Lounge. They used to be quite good, though lately they're just alright - still, they've got a steady and loyal customer base that isn't afraid of throwing a dignified hissyfit if you say anything bad about the place. On our last visit we tried the lattes - mocha and creme brulee - and for Rs. 540, they weren't impressive. Still, it's a very cool, chic place to hang out at, and ambience is what makes our coffee shops so well frequented. You also get some decent desserts and savouries here in the Rs. 400 range.
The Coffee Bean is another popular go-to for coffee, albeit it's more expensive than the other coffee dons, with drinks in the Rs. 650 range and food for Rs. 750. It is definitely a notch above the other mainstream coffee shops in terms of quality - the desserts are always fresh and reliable, the lattes are good (caramel all the way), and the food is nothing spectacular but satisfying. Besides the Matiland Crescent HQ and the one you get at the airport, they also have a more central outlet now at Liberty Plaza. Service is generally good, and it's an ideal spot for a business meeting or a quiet read, so if you don't mind chalking out about Rs. 1500 for a coffee date, this is one of the good ones.
Barista is the most successful coffee franchise in the city. It puzzles me as to why, because there's nothing fancy about the coffee or food here, which is alright at best. It is however, like Coffee Bean, a very convenient place to meet up at, especially since you get one in all the big neighborhoods now (Horton Place, Bambalapitiya, Kirulapone etc). Plus their standard of service and drinks has been consistent. We personally like the ambience best at the outlet in the Laksala building opposite Viharamahadevi Park - it's an old colonial style structure, sharing space with the Laksala store, and a lovely green park of sorts. Things are affordable, with sandwiches in the Rs. 200 range and coffees for Rs. 400.
The Commons Coffee House despite its name is better known for its food and ambience than the actual coffee served here. It's a comfortable, large space that works as a cafe but also doubles as a chic place to have dinner. They do some great rottis and interesting desserts in the Rs. 350 range, and we think the coffee tastes alright as far as coffee in Colombo goes, somewhere between Barista and Java lounge.
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