Coffee Cravings

The best cafe in Salento: Jose Martin

Before moving to Colombia, I spent a lot of time daydreaming. I pictured myself in the kitchen, learning how to make traditional delicacies with someone’s grandmother. I saw myself dancing salsa in local clubs, like I had been doing it my whole life.  I imagined the coffee shops I’d frequent, and the buzzing effects of their strong Colombian drip.

If you haven’t noticed, I tend to romanticize things a little bit. The truth is, my kitchen is the size of my closet. I eat out most every night, and haven’t met any of my friends’ grandmothers. I’m on about a first grade reading level in Spanish, and my hips will never move the way Shakira’s do. But the most disappointing realization during my time in Bogota is that most of the coffee here is just not that good.

I know what you’re thinking. Either my expectations are too high, or I’m one of those Starbucks-obsessed Americans. True, I do have high expectations, and I do really like pumpkin spice lattes. But there seems to be a general consensus among Colombian residents: most of the coffee tastes like dishwater.

Coffee Country

To get to the bottom of this, my parents and I took a trip to beautiful Eje Cafetero, or Colombia’s coffee axis. We stayed in Salento, a quaint little town about an hour bus ride from Armenia or Pereira. It was the perfect base for day trips to coffee farms and Valle del Cocora, a valley in the Los Nevados National Natural Park, famous its tall wax palm trees.

The famous wax palm trees in Valle del Cocora

On our second day, we drove to a coffee farm called El Ocaso (about a 15-minute drive, or an hour-plus hike) for a tour. It was a gorgeous property, full of tropical fruit trees and lush coffee plants. One of the owners took us around the farm, taught us about the industry, and had us pick berries. At the end of the tour, we were rewarded with fresh coffee.

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While sipping the smooth, mild roast, the owner showed us two piles of beans: one rich and healthy-looking, and the other shriveled and dried-up. She explained that the “good” beans are mostly exported, while the “bad” ones are used to make the coffee that most Colombians are drinking.

It all made sense. And it made me a little sad. Everyone should be able to enjoy a great cup of coffee.

When I returned to Bogota, I made it my mission to find a café that roasted fresh, “good” Colombian beans. Sure, there’s Juan Valdez, Colombia’s answer to Starbucks (which, don’t get me wrong, is good), but the romantic in me wanted something a little more authentic. And boy did I find it.

The entrance to E&D Cafes in Chapinero Alto

E&D Cafés in Chapinero Alto (Carrera 4 No.66-46) is part coffee house, part coffee laboratory. They roast several varieties of Amor Perfecto beans, and offer you several preparation options, from espresso and French press methods to the high-tech Aero-press and siphon. The baristas are knowledgeable and can recommend the coffee and preparation method based on how strong you like your cup of Joe.

Since discovering this place, I go nearly every weekend. It’s not only the best café in Bogota (my opinion), but it’s also my favorite way to spend an afternoon. Daydreaming.

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