Now that there is a little bit more free time in my world, the simple pleasure of grabbing a coffee for no apparent reason is shooting its way up to the top of my to-do list. That’s not to say that I haven’t had the luxury of taking five, but it’s often in the name of duty. And to have the opportunity to turn that concept back around – eat or drink somewhere for the sheer thrill of it – and then make a story out of it, is quite flipping marvellous.
Take Tuesday. I was wandering the streets of Recoleta vaguely searching for L’epi, a French bakery that makes an extremely accurate pain au chocolat, when I chanced upon Companía de chocolates (Rodriguez Peña 1847). An upscale choccie shop that has rows of tempting truffles infused with Malbec, ginger, Earl Grey tea and yerba mate among others, it seemed wrong to dive into a four-pack for breakfast so I snapped up a cookie instead.
That was the best consumption decision of the day. Buttery, with ragged edges to indicate humans had been in contact with its production, top-quality chocolate had been used as it wasn’t overly sweet. Then there was the pièce de résistance ingredient, Maldon sea salt. The salt delicately enhanced the overall flavour of the cookie, and it wasn’t savoury in any way. Delicious! And for 10 pesos, repeat!
Meanwhile, last weekend, an old mate in town from Madrid needed brunch so that was a chance to cycle to Villa Crespo. With cool coffee shops lingering on every corner, there’s plenty of choice but one spot on that do-list list is Café Crespin (Vera 699). Getting there at 11am guarantees a table, and although the sandwich and brunch menu is fairly extensive, they are rather officious about schedules, so bagels, eggs and the like can only be ordered from midday. It’s a tiny kitchen, so it’s understandable, however, I required more than toast and jam and doggedly waited out the 40 minutes with a voluminous pineapple shake for company.
My barbecue pork sandwich (54 pesos) was super succulent and backed up by perky frilly lettuce. Tasty and an unusual brunch time alternative, the only letdown was that the barbecue sauce seems to have been squeezed straight out the bottle. No matter, there will be a return visit to spy on muffins and give the coffee a shot.
Now, another mate was just given a new Labrador puppy for his birthday. Reluctant to leave the little one alone, it took some persuasion to get him out of the house so we rocked up for a late lunch in Chacarita.
Full City Coffee House (Jorge Newbery 3663), run by Anglo-Colombian couple Allan and Victoria, was the destination of choice and yes, that’s right, I said the C word. Colombian. Vicky’s history with the bean is a long one, given that her father runs a barista training and coffee school in Bogotá: she moved to Buenos Aires with a suitcase stuffed full of his own roasted blend with the intention of selling it.
And sell it at local markets such as El Galpón she did. Eight years on, Full City now has a permanent location, which has allowed the couple to garner a rep for making great coffee.
Let’s take the average coffee in Buenos Aires. A cortado at Martinez café, for example, is bitter and watery, leaving a bad aftertaste. That’s probably due to careless over-roasting combined with low quality beans.
On the other hand, US import, down to its cup holders, Starbucks brews a vat of the stuff in a paper cup, and overcompensates on milk and foam so much so that the coffee is an afterthought. Neither beverage from either café floats my boat.
But because Full City brings in green beans and roasts them themselves in Chacarita (the three offerings are Excelso, Exótico Guayatá – picked by a community of women farmers and also sold in Colombian café chain Juan Valdez – and Excelso Supremo), so much care only serves to ensure the steaming finished product in a white cup is top-notch. They know exactly what is going on – bad beans are chucked out instead of bring thrown into the mix, and no sugar is added into the process.
We ordered macchiatos or cortados (10 pesos) that were creamy and pure. An average price for an above-average product.
Full City also has a decent line in all-day brunches which includes ham-and-cheese arepa (34 pesos). If you’re going to go J&Q, you might as well sex it up a little with an arepa, right?
Living with a caffeine addict means searching out the best quality in town, and Establacimiento General de Café is usually it. However, FC’s Excelso Supremo is the current blend of choice at home. Again, for a similar price to a 250g bag of Cabrales – and it’s always a mission to find the sugar-free one – snap up an FC blend, and remember that great coffee shouldn’t be a luxury.
Full City Coffee House
Jorge Newbery 3663, Chacarita
Published in the Buenos Aires Herald on January 13, 2013