12 July 2019

Three Speciality Coffee Shops To Visit in Lausanne

As soon as the train pulls out of Geneva station just after noon on a sweltering Sunday, I am captivated by the glorious views of Lac Léman (also known as Lake Geneva). I am bound for Lausanne, 45 minutes along the train line, for a conference and despite the heat, I can't stop gaping at the clear, turquoise waters of the lake, bordered by rolling green hills and mountains.

I don't have much free time in Lausanne but I've researched speciality coffee options, and after a quick brunch at Blackbird (one of the few restaurants open on a Sunday) with an Ibex Coffee cortado, I head straight to The Coffee Project, a small coffee shop on Rue Marterey in the old town. The friendly barista talks me through their beans, and I opt for a Colombian Gesha from ELDC, which is new in. Although they serve iced coffee, I order the coffee as a hot V60 pourover. The notes of jasmine and lemongrass come through beautifully and it is extremely refreshing.

There is another branch of The Coffee Project further west, on Rue du Grand-Pont, which is close to my hotels and which I visit almost every day on the way to the SwissTech Convention Centre. This cafe is also on the petite size but still offers a pourover bar alongside espresso-based drinks. Like its sibling, it only has a few seats, but is always busy with takeaway customers. I try a cortado one morning, which is nice, but the best drink of the week is the Ethiopian Dambi Udo natural coffee, which tastes delicious brewed as a V60 pourover.

A bag of the Ethiopian beans costs 25 CHF (£20) while the Gesha is 50 CHF — like the city itself, on the steep side, although well worth it given the quality. Lausanne is not a cheap city in general, of course, but, for reference, a speciality coffee pourover runs at about 5.90 CHF (£4.75) — not much more than some London equivalents.

On my morning off, I go to Sleepy Bear, a coffee shop on Rue Simplon in the Grancy neighbourhood. While I wait for the barista to finish serving another customer, I eye up the coffee menu. The coffee is from local roaster, The Coffee Society, and there are a couple of varieties available: a Brazilian and an Ethiopian. After inhaling the aroma of both, I go for the Ethiopian, and take a seat at the window seat while I wait for the barista to prepare it. I order my coffee as a V60, but they also use Aeropress, Chemex and French press brew methods. My pourover tastes great, with delicate floral notes — just what I need to help me cool down on another hot day.

The cafe is cosy and rustic, with wooden panelling on the walls and on the L-shaped coffee bar that occupies most of the space. It's a very welcoming place with friendly service. They also do coffee tastings and classes from time to time.

Things to do, places to eat...
On the day I arrive, after my visit to The Coffee Shop, I explore the old town but it is so hot, I find myself hurrying down the hill to the Ouchy neighbourhood by the lake. I only plan to dip my feet in the cool, clear waters, but in the end, glad that I have worn my swimsuit, I jump right in.

It cools down slightly at night and, after a (very good) burger at Holy Cow, another rare Sunday-night opening, my colleague and I walk up to the 13th century cathedral, which has good views of the city. The following day, I take lunch at Café des Artisans, a great neighbourhood cafe-restaurant (the lunch menu du jour was good value for Lausanne at 21 CHF).

Most of the rest of my trip is spent at the conference, but there are a couple of particularly special socials. One evening, we go to the Olympic Museum for a drinks reception overlooking the lake. Unfortunately, I don't have time to visit the highly rated Musée de l'Elysée next door. The following morning I run up the very steep hill to the Olympic Stadium.

On our last night, we are taken up into the UNESCO-listed Lavaux vineyard terraces. The village of Grandvaux is closed down for our conference, and we are able to visit many different caves, enjoying the wine and local food with stunning views of the vineyards and the lake. I'm more of a gin drinker than a wine connoisseur (and I also enjoyed trying some Glyph whiskey), but this visit makes me want to schedule another trip to Switzerland as soon as possible.

On the first night, I stay at Hôtel des Voyageurs in the Flon area just north of central station. It's a small, well-run boutique hotel in a great location. A buffet breakfast is included and my room is clean, quiet and comfortable. There is no air con but a powerful fan was provided. For the final four nights, I move to the Ibis Lausanne Centre, a very basic business hotel that I pick for several reasons: 1) it complies with my company's hotel rate policy, 2) there is air con and 3) it's in a quieter location, albeit still very close to the Vigie M1 metro. It is fairly characterless but the staff are very friendly, and after hearing about aircon-less nightmares of fellow conference attendees, I am happy with my choice.

One thing to note about Lausanne is that if you stay in a hotel, your city tax includes a free pass for all public transport within the city. As the train from Geneva airport costs 27 CHF, this is a good way to save a little money. Lausanne is small, but because of the hills, the M2 line, which runs up the hill from the Ouchy port, is a boon for tired legs.

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