Can You Find Good Coffee/Café in Chile?
“Sure, I’d like a coffee.”
I had no idea what was about to happen. A cup of hot water, spoon and can of Nescafé (or as one of our friends describes … “no es café”) were placed before me. Now what?
Coffee is one of those things some of us can’t do without. For others, it’s something we’d just rather not do without. I’m part of latter crowd, but can sympathize with the former. While I’m no snob, I am a bit of a connoisseur when it comes to these wonderful berries. As such, I have to tell you that finding good coffee in Chile is a bit of a challenge. In fact, I recently posted these words regarding my experiences here:
Drinking café in Chile is like kissing your bride through the veil, unless it’s Nescafé. Then it’s like kissing her on a monitor.
Okay, I know – that’s not really fair. Ultimately, good coffee is based on personal taste. If you like Nescafé, then that’s good coffee – for you.
On the other hand, when ordering a cappuccino, one has certain expectations in mind. A cappuccino consists of a shot of espresso and equal portions of hot milk and froth. There are slight variations, but a cup of somewhat strong coffee with whipped cream on top isn’t one of them. That doesn’t mean that such a drink isn’t good – just that it isn’t a cappuccino. So where in Chile do you find one?
My diligent search was finally rewarded. Along the crowded streets of Santiago is a bustling little shop that probably contains more coffee knowledge than the rest of the city combined. Upon entering, one is immediately impressed with the large coffee roaster in the corner, surrounded by several large sacks of the precious green (unroasted) berries.
Welcome to Café Cultura, a safe haven for coffee lovers who know the difference between an espresso and an Americano (Suecia 0130, Providencia). Juan Mario started the shop after years of studying what makes a great coffee – a pursuit that resulted from his passion for coffee actually making him ill. Because of the chemicals that are often associated with conventional coffee, he started feeling the effects physically. Rather than give up on his craving for his favorite brew, he set to the task of figuring out how to make better and healthier coffee.
The result of his diligence includes wonderful aromas, roasting, beautiful latte art, a barrista school and what is likely the best coffee experience available in Santiago, if not all of Chile.
Juan Mario has also developed some of his own brewing techniques, including this “warm” drip method. He explained that he’s able to extract just the right flavors at a slightly cooler temperature because it doesn’t allow the aromatic vapors to escape so easily in the steam. Having tasted his creation, we had to agree with him. It was one of the most full-flavored coffees I’d ever had, balanced in a way that was in some ways unfamiliar, and quite delicious.
My favorite coffees always involve milk. It just seems like a perfect marriage to me. So I gravitate toward the cappuccinos and lattes. However, to understand the flavors coffee has to offer, one must try various means of extracting the gasses and soluble solids. Café Cultura can help you experience these flavors on a level you may have never considered before. And our experience was absolutely wonderful, incredibly educational and, of course, very tasty.
Not too long after finding this gem, I was off to Viña del Mar. Being a much smaller city, I despaired of finding a match for Café Cultura. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find a great little coffee shop, though certainly not as advanced as it’s Santiago counterpart. Nevertheless, the You Café has certainly lived up to the challenge of finding good coffee. Here’s their cappuccino.
Owned by another Juan who also knows the finer subtleties of what makes excellent specialty coffees, You Café is nestled between a couple buildings on Nueve Norte just a couple of blocks east of Libertad in Viña del Mar.
A good cup of coffee is a great social event and opportunity to meet new people, explore new ideas and build new relationships. Through our efforts and networking, we’ve been able to put together some incredible connections – such as a local expat owner of an organic coffee plantation in Panama who’s looking to import green beans. And you might see more on these pages from our friends in Viña, Barrett and Gabe.
We’re looking forward to seeing how these things develop. Regardless, no matter how you enjoy these wonderful berries, if you look hard enough, your search is bound to be rewarded.