Seville is undoubtedly one of Spain’s most visited destinations. It is a hugely historic city, also referred to as Spain’s city of kings and it’s the birthplace of Flamenco. It played a crucial role during Spain’s discovery and conquest of the New World and it has a unique heritage that combines the legacies of many different peoples into one unique persona.
It’s not surprising then that the city is teeming with tourists even in a traditionally more low season month like January. I recently visited the city for the second time in my life to spend a weekend with my parents and to celebrate my mum’s birthday. She loves going to a different city every year. Last year, it was Lisbon. (Read my Lisbon coffee guide here)
These annual trips give me a unique opportunity to get under the skin of a new city and to drag my parents around with me when I swerve off course and try to visit local specialty coffee bars. The first one I found in Seville happened to be conveniently located right in the centre of town, next to a McDonald’s actually. No kidding.
Run by two sister who are half American and half Guatemalan, Torch Coffee Roasters is one of the city’s only micro-roasters and contrary to most other cafés, it doesn’t close for siesta at lunch time. This, and maybe the fact that it’s coffee beans are packed in 12oz bags as opposed to 250g bags, might be the only indicators that this is an American-run business. But’s who’s complaining when you can enjoy great coffee from 9 am till 8 pm every day?
My parents who are usually a bit more hard to please when it comes to coffee (they like their full-flavour coffees if you know what I mean), actually gave their thumbs-up after taking their first sips from their flat white and cappuccino. My mum even ordered a slice of cake given that it was her birthday. “Mmhhh,” she went with her cheeks full of carrot cake.
The café itself is airy and full of natural light and faces the Canal de Alfonso XIII. You might think that most of its pundits are tourists but when we visited, twice, most customers were students and locals. Co-owner Sara Parish happened to be in one day when I was taking photos and told me a bit of the history behind this wonderful venture that has even seen the opening of a franchise in China, Thailand and the Middle East.
“When we came here as exchange students in 2011, there was nowhere you could get a decent cup of specialty coffee from,” Sara explained. “It was so strange, right? People here really care about good quality produce, nice wines and olive oil but when it comes to coffee, it has to be bitter and cost €1. We had to offer an alternative.”
I know it’s always super appealing when you think you can change the minds of people but it’s always risky. Just look at the struggles of cafés like Orsonero or Legs Eleven. Yet, Torch Coffee Roasters has the perfect location that renders the question of changing locals’ preferences worthless because it is always busy.
The roasting is done on a small 1kg Toper coffee roaster that is kept behind a glass door and it’s usually Sara’s sister Victoria who takes care of that. Sadly, on the day of my visit, there were no beans for sale on the counter. Luckily, I had plenty of coffee with me back at the hotel room just in case.
What’s great about Torch is that it combines the convenience of a city center location (very few specialty cafés can afford that) with great coffee and lovely customer service. We didn’t get a chance to try the food, except the cake obvs, but from what I saw in pictures, the breakfast and brunch options are super tasty too.
In addition, Torch Coffee founder Samuel Gurel continues to support a local coffee farm in Guatemala that was once donated to the owner of an orphanage and who was unable to turn the farm around on her own without abandoning the orphanage. With Samuel’s help, the farm became the producer of Cup of Excellence coffees and continues to thrive today. If that’s not a bit of feel-good news, I don’t know what is.