My coffee education started at around 6 years old with my grandmother who was born in an impoverished Irish/English Midwestern American family. She reminded me daily of how, when she was young, she “… did just fine on crumbled cornbread in a cup of coffee every day.” I, however, was too young for coffee. It was really a drink for grownups. She continued to say that I would “get the shakes for sure, not like Parkinson’s though.” I just replied with a blank stare, too young to understand what Parkinson’s Disease was. Looking back on those daily conversations make me laugh now. I took her so seriously, duly noting, “avoid the shakes … and parking.” I’ve been pretty successful adhering to those notes. I keep my coffee intake down and I rarely drive these days.
Staying in the Latino Upper Westside section of Manhattan with my Uncle Charlie, I learned about the importance of properly made Latin American coffee. He practiced a meticulous coffee making process using a coffee sock. I carried one with me while traveling Central and South America. It’s feather light and does the job. Needless to say, traveling through Central and South America has been a coffee heaven for me!
The stellar coffee grounds of Colombia are a consistent winner of my taste buds. Every day is a robust magnificent cup of magical caffeine that wakes me up and motivates me to say, “¡Buenas!”, “¡Hola!”, and “¿Cómo estás?” to all living creatures as they pass by. Whether purchased from the Thermos Vendors in the street for 25¢ or the fancy Italian themed coffee shop for $1.50, Colombian coffee stays true to it’s mission of keeping your energy switch in the “on” position. Let’s talk about my top 5 places to get a damn good cup of coffee. Read carefully because what you are about to read is real coffee business.
#5 Thermos Vendors
Average cost per cup, 600(COP)/.20¢ There will always be a special place in Heaven or the Universe for a hard working street vendor. Thermos vendors don’t need advocacy. Their coffee sells itself. That high level caffeine kick pumps lustfully right into your blood circulation. Part of the Thermos Vendor allure is that the coffee is available on demand. The vendors constantly walk up and down the streets carrying or pushing several thermoses. Every time I walked out the front door, the Thermos Vendor would be right there saying, “Café Señora.” They don’t ask me if I want coffee, they tell me that I need it. The thermoses are separated into coffee categories of black, with milk and with milk and sugar. This coffee never disappoints.
#4 El Laboratorio de Cafe
This coffee shop gave me the feeling of home in Manhattan, New York. I attribute this coffee shop to be a posh situation that I’d treat myself to on a New York Sunday afternoon because a crafted cup of coffee could cost upwards of $6. A better cup of posh Colombian coffee will run you around $1.50/$4400(COP) in Medellin. El Laboratorio is next door to the Medellin Botero Museum where I’d bought Rosita, my coffee cup. She travels with me wherever I go.
Rosita, my travel companion.
I ordered the Caribbean Cold Brew mistakenly without milk. I could’ve picked up and moved a 4 bedroom house on the caffeine strength of my first sip. I promptly asked for milk and their wifi password and then proceeded to instant message my son chatting on and on about random things at the speed of light.
#3 Ikaro Cafe has breakfast in bed. Me-ow~
Ikaro is a lovey family owned establishment. Without A/C they manage to pull off a strong cross breeze that keeps you cool and comfortable. The vintage architecture allows for large windows in the front, the main dining area is furnished with powerful ceiling fans and they maintain a live wall. The dining room provides a fresh airy atmosphere while protecting you from the heat.
Organic air purifier.
Artfully made vegetarian meals run triple the cost of a traditional Colombian meal at about $6.50/$20,000(cop) per plate. The special includes an appetizer, entrée, fresh fruit juice and sometimes a small vegan brownie. The wifi is good but not 100% video call worthy. Audio wifi calls work fine. The combination of cozy atmosphere, intelligent cross breeze and healthy food make this coffee shop a top contender on my list for sure. They pride themselves on serving various coffee drinks at an average cost of $1/$3000(cop) per cup where the grounds come fresh from their organic farm. It’s the most comfortable place to work.
#2 El Amanuense Libros & Cafe
Average cost per cup $1/$3000(cop). This shop was such a pleasant find. It’s a traditional bookstore and coffee shop. The space is vintage post WWII. It's run by an older couple who sell Spanish and some English books with a side of tea English tea and local baked goods. I went there to pick up a Spanish dictionary to resolve my lagging language transition. They keep the shop well air conditioned and provide whip fast internet, specifically for customers who want to work on their laptops, and table service. My coffee was brought to me on a victorian service tray adorned with doilies and poured in a blue china cup. Wine is also on the menu. This is a great combination for a romantic workstation.
#1 The Bendito Cafe
Average cost per cup $1.50/$4500(cop) I was referred to this cafe by my Italian friend, Bruno. He raved on about it and boy was he right! This cafe has a strong enticing atmosphere. The space design is retro, late 60’s Italian lounge balanced with Euro furnishings. Light bulbs and coffee cups hang from the ceiling at different lengths bridging the gap between vintage and modern.
Coffee cup mobile.
Swirling in air conditioned temperatures, the shop lures you in from the door with a fresh brewed aroma and smooth retro bossa nova standards in soft tones reminiscent of Michael Franks. This place had my name all over it. Unlike many other coffee shops in Magdelana, they offer several hot and cold options including cappuccino, which was my order.
Two wise men discussing the importance of family.
Bendito is strictly an old school place to drink artfully made coffee drinks and have organic face to face conversation. They choose not to provide wifi. That’s right, this coffee shop has no wifi at all. I did no work here. I enjoyed my cappuccino made by a divine angel located behind the bar, melted into their leather bench and watched the people go by the cathedral outside. This is the place to unplug and let your creativity flow. It's a perfect place to write your heart out.