Antwerp is truly heaven for coffee lovers, with coffee bars on practically every street corner. But how are they different from each other? Where to find the ultimate cuppa that suits your taste and what is the story behind it? Coffee roaster Koen Bleuzé shares his top 10 favourite coffee bars and explains his choices.
Kolonel Koffie is within walking distance of the Royal Museum of Fine Arts, on the corner of Troonplaats. “This really is the place to go if you’re looking for a great atmosphere”, says Koen. “And soon they will be taking things to the next level as they recently bought their own coffee roaster, by German speciality brand Probat. Soon they will start roasting their own coffee.”
Tip: pop in on a sunny day and score a place on the terrace.
“Caffènation played a pioneering role in the Antwerp coffee scene”, says Koen. “They launched a new way of drinking coffee and have really upped the ante. They take coffee very seriously, whether roasting or serving it, and you can really taste the difference. They concentrate on the quality, the origin of the bean is crucial here. You’ll only find trained baristas here.” Caffènation supplies coffee to various bars and restaurants in Antwerp and is a fixture on Antwerp’s coffee scene. This popular coffee bar is just a stone’s throw from Theaterplein and Mechelseplein.
Tip: Check out the amazing array of coffee gadgets at Caffènation. So you can also enjoy a tasty cup of quality coffee at your own kitchen table.
Normo followed in the footsteps of Caffènation. Here coffee is served in its purest form, black, as an espresso or a drip brew. Not the place to go if you have a sweet tooth. “Normo is simply the best, along with Caffénation if you’re looking for specialty coffee. They roast their own coffee with an American Loring roaster, which is unique in Antwerp. The quality is very good and they don’t have many staff. The baristas are real professionals”, says Koen.
Tip: Visit the nearby Saint Charles Borromeo's church in magnificent Conscienceplein.
Just a short walk from Normo you will find Cuperus, the oldest coffee and tea bar in Antwerp. Cuperus has been supplying a nice cup of coffee to Antwerpers for over 190 years. “This former family business survived two World Wars. In recent years, they rejuvenated and reinvented themselves. They are keeping up with the current trends”, says Koen. The three-storey building looks youthful and in addition to selling a wide range of coffees and teas, they also organise workshops.
Tip: Cuperus is near Antwerp’s main shopping street making it the perfect place to revive yourself in between shops.
Mokkakapot is just outside the city centre but according to Koen, it is definitely worth a visit. This colourful bar is on a corner of Moorkensplein. The owner is an artist as you can see when you walk in. Definitely an alternative look and feel. “The atmosphere in this colourful coffee bar is just great. Everything is just right”, says Koen. “They serve Cordon Coffee, which I deliver to them every week, they use the right techniques and organise several exhibitions and activities. The atmosphere here is genuine”.
Tip: every Friday they organise ‘1 pot, 15 talloren’ in Mokkapot. “There is one pot in the centre of the table and everyone eats together”, says Koen.
You will find Me & My Monkey opposite Antwerp’s largest comic strip wall. This cosy coffee bar slash vinyl record store is owned by a father and son. They serve coffee which they source from Taeymans, a family business in Hoogstraten. “If you’re going to pop in to Me & My Monkey for coffee, then visit Jespers next door. There are bags full of coffee beans in the shop window of this traditional family-owned supermarket and an old American Gothot coffee roaster, which they no longer produce”, says Koen.
Tip: Visit this coffee bar on Sunday, when the antiques stores in Kloosterstraat and Hoogstraat are open.
Broer Bretel lives in the Eilandje, in the sunshine, surrounded by bridges, locks and docks. The MAS | Museum aan de Stroom and this cool coffee bar with its retro interior opened their doors roughly around the same time. “Broer Bretel has been serving excellent coffee to visitors of the nearby museums and other passers-by for about five years now”, says Koen. “This coffee bar is just about to change hands so I am curious to see what will happen next.”
Tip: Take the escalator to the MAS’s panoramic roof and enjoy a stunning view of the city and port.
Snackbar koffie is a great mix of different nationalities: an Italian espresso maker, a Belgian brand and a Hungarian barista. “This is a tiny coffee bar, but I really like coming here”, says Koen. “They source their coffee from Caffènation and they also adhere to their principles. They mainly serve black coffee.”
Tip: Snackbar Koffie is just a three-minute walk from one of Antwerp’s must-sees: the Rubens House.
“Barnini is the place to be for people who don’t drink their coffee black”, says Koen. Maltesers, marshmallows and Smarties… your coffee is so colourful that just looking at it will make you smile! Add a tasty bagel and find a seat on the sunny terrace which gives out onto Theaterplein and you will immediately see why it’s always packed.
Tip: Visit Barnini on the weekend when the market is up and running, and find the stall of Koffie Verheyen. Take home a bag of tasty ‘Amberes’ coffee, the perfect souvenir after a day trip to Antwerp.
Caffe Mundi is just a stone’s throw from Grote Markt. “I haven’t been there yet”, Koen admits, “but I’ve heard and read good things about them, which is why I chose to include them in my list. They roast their own coffee, train their staff and have a diverse range of products.” Every day you can choose from at least six different types of coffee beans at Caffe Mundi.
Tip: Do you dream of being a barista? Then check out the workshops Caffe Mundi organises.
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Antwerp is a pocket-sized city. Many of the attractions are within walking or biking distance of each other. Another way of getting around the city is on the trams and buses of De Lijn. Tip: buy your tram or bus ticket in a point of pre-sale (newsagent’s, supermarket, the vending machines at the various stops or in the visitor centres of Visit Antwerp), where tickets are cheaper.