Switzerland is a nation of coffee enthusiasts. On average each resident drinks about 1,200 cups of coffee a year, making the country the third largest consumer of the drink in Europe, after Finland and Norway. It’s no coincidence that Switzerland is home to Nespresso, whose headquarters are in Lausanne.
Offsetting such big business is the growing popularity of café culture in Switzerland. Traditionally the Swiss drink coffee at home rather than in bars, as their neighbours in Italy do. But a new breed of coffee purveyors has been gently changing the nation’s habits. These small-scale speciality companies are frequently cafés, roasteries and shops combined. They’re proponents of the growing trend of slow coffee, which celebrates freshness, sustainability and quality.
Generally the Swiss like strong, robust brews. Dark roast espresso and kaffee crème, a long espresso-based drink with milk, remain the most popular coffee beverages. Yet from Bern and Basel to Geneva and Zürich, greater subtlety of flavours and a wide choice of beans and blends from across the world are increasingly enjoyed thanks to Switzerland’s new wave of coffee specialists.
Be prepared to queue. Café Noir is rated by locals as one of Zürich’s best places for coffee, so it’s often crowded. It’s an intimate space, seating about 12 people inside and with a few tables outside on a leafy terrace. Furnishings are shabby-chic and the laid-back atmosphere is often enhanced by background jazz music. A small and enticing selection of cakes and pastries is offered and there’s also a little shop section where you can buy beans to take away. Roasting takes place here several times a week and customers are welcome to watch the process.
Café Noir, Neugasse 33, 8005 Zürich, +41 (0)43 535 4677
Boréal is a small, independently owned company with four cafés, all in key locations in Geneva. Set within easy walking distance of Cornavin station, the Mont-Blanc branch is dedicated to third wave coffee, a movement that champions small, high-quality growers and that aims to elevate artisanal coffee to a status on a par with wine. The branch offers its own range of roasted beans in addition to other specialities chosen by the team. Customers are encouraged to try alternative brewing methods such as Chemex filtered coffee, and the talented baristas are on hand to talk you through the options.
Boréal, 15 rue du Mont-Blanc, 1201 Geneva, +41 (0)22 732 2490
This bright, retro-stylish café offers a great choice of innovative coffee-making methods, including super-fast Aeropress and cold brews, for which grounds are steeped in room temperature water for a good 24 hours. Also on the drinks menu is Hario filter coffee, the key for this Japanese technique being to pour the beverage very slowly. Sustainability and flavour are of prime importance: beans are carefully sourced and the food menu emphasises local organic produce. Breakfast is a feast of cold meats, cheese, muesli, croissants and more, and is served all day.
Cafe Frühling, Klybeckstrasse 69, 4057 Basel, +41 (0)61 544 8038
Locals say that a visit to Bern would be a wasted trip if you fail to take in Adrianos. By day this is a buzzing café, proud of its reputation for offering the best coffee in town. In the evening it also becomes a cocktail venue and bar, serving beer from its own microbrewery. The owners frequently travel far and wide to research trends in coffee, and they are steadfast exponents of fair trade. Roasting takes place here every Tuesday and Friday, with customers very welcome to watch. There are a number of blends available to take away and these make perfect souvenirs of a break in Bern.
Adrianos, Theaterplatz 2, 3011 Bern, +41 (0)31 318 8831