April 5, 2016

5 Must-Visit Specialty Coffee Shops in San José, Costa Rica


Costa Rica: a country as famous for its coffee production as it is for its waterfalls and jungle-fringed beaches. Yet if you’re planning a trip to origin here, you should know that its specialty coffee houses are as equally worth visiting as its farms.

After all, you can’t go to all those wonderful coffee plantations without drinking some excellent coffee afterwards!

There’s been a surge of third wave cafés, particularly in San José, our quick-growing capital. We’ve decided to shortlist five must-visit places, so you can experience the Costa Rican coffee culture at its best.

Spanish Version: 5 Tiendas de Café que Debes Visitar en San José, Costa Rica

Why These 5?

It would be impossible to select the “best” five – especially in San José’s evolving coffee scene! Yet these five are unmissable. They serve excellent drinks, provide great service, and have a friendly atmosphere.

What’s more, they offer you a glimpse at the wide variety of coffee available in this country. With beans from all over the country, traditional brewing methods, and unique styles, they’ll take you right to the heart of the Costa Rica’s coffee culture.

1. Café del Barista

One of San José’s better-known independent cafés, Café del Barista is a cozy little place filled with – true to its name – excellent baristas. Some of them compete professionally, and all of them are keen to spread the third wave.

They roast their own beans here, dedicating themselves to highlighting the aroma and unique flavor of each coffee. Combined with the baristas’ passion for, and in-depth knowledge of, specialty coffee, this guarantees you an excellent drink.

Café del Barista interior

And as if that wasn’t enough, they also play some great music and serve healthy food. What’s not to like?

Where 150 meters east of the north entrance of the Calderón Hospital Guard
Atmosphere Laid-back and cozy, with an artisanal urban vibe
Espresso Machine La Marzocco – Linea Classic
Grinder La Marzocco
Brewing Methods French press, Chemex, AeroPress, V60, Bunn (filtered)
Coffee Offerings A sun-dried Villa Sarchí micro-lot from the Herbazú farm in the Valle Occidental, 1450 m.a.s.l.
Must-Try Drinks Cappuccino
Food & Other Drinks Breakfast and lunch menu, baked goods, pastries, chai latte, and Sangria Negra Pirat

Café del Barista interior

2. Cafeoteca

Cafeoteca serves 23 varieties from the 8 different coffee regions in Costa Rica – making it the perfect place for discovering the wide range of profiles offered by our coffees. And with two great baristas, and a variety of brewing methods, you can be sure of an excellent cup of coffee here.

Yet it’s not just the coffee that makes Cafeoteca great: its friendly atmosphere, its spot in one of the prettiest areas of the city, and its dedication to supporting local designers make this café unmissable.

Cafeoteca coffee shop

Stop by to learn about Costa Rica’s coffee varietals, to shop for beautiful souvenirs by local artists, or to just relax with a drink and a pastry – Cafeoteca is sure to be a highlight of your trip.

Where In Kalú Restaurant, 100 meters east of the Parque de Francia in Barrio Escalante
Atmosphere Boutique café
Espresso Machine Rancilio Epoca
Grinder Astoria
Brewing Methods French press, Chemex, AeroPress, V60, Kalita
Coffee Offerings With 23 different coffees from 8 regions, all from different elevations, and offering washed, honey, and natural, there’s no shortage of options!
Must-Try Drinks Espressos, cappuccinos, and Chemex
Food & Other Drinks They have a bakery and a pastry shop

Cafeoteca coffee shop

SEE ALSO: Top 5 Specialty Coffee Shops to Visit in Thailand

3. Café La Mancha

This café is an escape, an oasis in the city center, where you can forget about the cars and non-stop traffic mere meters away from you.

Café La Mancha hosts workshops on brewing methods, and you can also purchase the their own brand of coffee. The images of coffee producers on the packaging will underscore your impact at origin, helping you to understand your connection to the supply chain.

La Mancha café and studio

And as well as serving specialty coffee, the coffee house also grants you access to San José’s art world. The owner, a professional photographer, wanted to give his coffee a new flavor by serving it in a photography studio.

Where Calle Primera, between Avenida Central and Avenida 1
Atmosphere Cultural
Espresso Machine Rancilio Basic Line
Grinder Rancilio Rocky and Rancilio Kryo
Brewing Methods Kalita Wave, V60, French Press, Chemex
Coffee Offerings A honey-processed Caturra and red Catuaí micro-lot from the La Cabaña farm in the Tarrazú region, 1650 m.a.s.l.
Must-Try Drinks V60, cappuccino
Food & Other Drinks Pastries, sandwiches, and smoothies

La Mancha café and studio

4. La Cafetera

Please note: unfortunately, La Cafetera closed in August 2016.

This is a city-center coffee house with an old-fashioned soul. In fact, its mission is to bring the tico, meaning Costa Rican, traditions to the consumer. And it certainly does that, from its variety of homemade dishes and cakes to its Costa Rican brewing methods.

In Costa Rica, the traditional way to prepare one’s daily cup of coffee is by using a chorreador. The name comes from the verb chorrear, Spanish for drip. A chorreador consists of a wood support with a round hole in the upper part that contains a fabric stocking filter.

La Cafetera coffee shop

The wonderful thing about La Cafetera, though, is that they prove you can mix local brewing methods with specialty-grade coffee. Visit here for coffee like you’ve never had it before.

Where Avenida 2, Calle 11
Atmosphere Traditional
Espresso Machine A small electric machine.
Grinder Electrical Tiamo grinder
Brewing Methods Chorreador, Chemex, French Press, AeroPress
Coffee Offerings 21 different coffees from the country’s 8 regions
Must-Try Drinks Chorreador or Chemex
Food & Other Drinks Breakfast and lunch menu, along with pastries

La Cafetera coffee shop interior

5. Underground Brew Café

Underground Brew Coffee is the surprisingly well-fitting combination of electronic music and a good cup of coffee. In fact, you could consider this almost-hidden café a DJ center, making up for its hard-to-find location with plenty of good beats.

Underground Brew café

Located in Barrio Escalante, one of San José’s best gastronomic areas, it specialises in two different coffees that the barista-DJ owner roasts.

Where 50 meters to the east of Instituto Intensa Casa #3350
Atmosphere Urban and electronic
Espresso Machine Rancilio Classe 6
Grinder Nuova Simonelli Eureka Line
Brewing Methods Chemex, French Press, V60, and AeroPress
Coffee Offerings Medium-roast black honey from Finca Salaca in Naranjo, 1650 m.a.s.l., F1 Yellow Honey from Finca Alberto Camacho in Naranjo, 1500 m.a.s.l.
Must-Try Drinks Cold brew, V60, spicy latte (yes, you read that right!)
Food & Other Drinks Sandwiches and pastries

Underground Brew café

Translated from Spanish by T. Schrock.

Feature Photo Credit: @smedleyshots

Perfect Daily Grind.

All views within this opinion piece belong to the guest writer, and do not reflect Perfect Daily Grind’s stance. Perfect Daily Grind believes in furthering debate over topical issues within the industry, and so seeks to represent the views of all sides.