Choosing Cartagena, Colombia for your next holiday destination? You can expect 500-year-old colonial buildings, streets popping with colour, nearby beaches… and excellent coffee.
That’s right – I’ve already explored this city and hunted down some must-visit coffee shops. Here are my recommendations for how you can combine sightseeing with specialty coffee breaks.
Why These Five?
It’s impossible to choose the five “best” cafés – after all, everyone’s tastes are different. But after asking locals for great coffee spots, visiting them all, trying a lot of coffee, and talking to many baristas and owners, I’ve drawn up a list of five personal favourites.
What I love about these places is that they all offer coffee they bought directly from the producers, have a unique atmosphere, and are located in the historical city centre close to tourist sights. It’s easy to explore both the city and the Colombian coffee scene in a short holiday.
The third wave is just starting to flourish in Cartagena, and I’m sure that there will be more and more specialty cafés opening. So once you’ve visited these five spots, and you’re around for a little longer, why not go ahead and explore some more? You might just find your favourite coffee shop.
Café San Alberto. Credit: Angie Molina Osipna
1. Época Café
This recent addition to the city’s specialty scene can be found next to Plaza de la Proclamación in the historical city centre – making it a great start to your city tour. Nikole Cobo and Julian Gutierrez are a Colombian couple inspired by visits to the “Colombian Coffee Triangle” of Caldas, Quindío and Risaralda. After an intensive barista course at Arte y Pasión in Bogota, they then opened up shop.
They stock a wide variety of direct trade coffees, all roasted in-house, and they’ll even sell you green beans. What’s more, the food menu is a fantastic introduction to Colombian cuisine, with typical local pastries served all day.
Época, Cartagena. Credit: Angie Molina Ospina
|Where||Carrera 5 #34-56|
|Espresso Machine||A renovated 1956 Pavoni – the owners brought spare parts from Italy to renovate it|
|Roaster||They roast their coffees in-house|
|Coffee Offerings||A wide range of regions, and they also sell green beans|
|Must-Try Drink||Carajillo – Época style!|
|Food||All-day brunch and traditional Cartagenan pastries|
|Nearby Sights||Plaza de la Proclamación, a historical square where independence was declared in 1811|
Época’s slogan is “100% specialty coffee”. Credit: Angie Molina Ospina
2. San Alberto
This family of coffee producers now has three coffee shops in Colombia: one in Cartagena, one in Bogotá, and the final one near their farm in the Quindio Department. The shop, which is tiny but cosy, serves to showcase their coffees.
Luis Fabian, the head barista, is happy to explain how different brewing methods enhance the coffee’s profile. Of all the drinks we had, the syphon and the cold brew – which brought out spicy notes, juicy acidity, and sweetness – stood out.
Café San Alberto lies on a traditional Cartagenan street. Credit: Angie Molina Ospina
|Where||Calle Santos De Piedra No. 3 – 86|
|Espresso Machine||La Marzocco|
|Roaster||They roast their coffee at their café in the Quindio department|
|Coffee Offerings||Coffee from Finca San Alberto paired with a wide range of different brewing methods|
|Must-Try Drink||The syphon|
|Food||Pastries and cakes|
|Nearby Sights||Plaza Santo Domingo and Catedral de Santa Catalina de Alejandría|
3. Ábaco Café y Libros
“Coffee and books will always be the perfect mix!” barista Juan Daniel Baron tells me. This 16-year-old library added a coffee bar 10 years ago. Ever since then, it’s been a popular spot for people who love books just as much as they love coffee. It’s particularly busy during the Hay Festival, a literature festival that takes place in January every year. But no matter when you come, you’re likely to find writers and readers gathering round to discuss controversial topics.
As for the coffee, they serve beans from Hacienda Samaria in the Risaralda department. In addition to a barista, a professional cocktail mixologist also works behind the bar. Their specialty is three cold brew cocktails: Soul Brew, which is sweet; Mind Brew, which is more bitter; and Love Brew, with licorice notes.
Ábaco Café y Libros: a library with a coffee shop. Credit: Angie Molina Ospina
|Where||Calle de La Iglesia #3-86 (on the corner with Calle de La Mantilla)|
|Espresso Machine||Wega Orion|
|Coffee Offerings||Coffees from Hacienda Samaria served as espresso-based drinks or cold brew|
|Must-Try Drink||Cold-brew based cocktails: Soul Brew, Mind Brew, and Love Brew|
|Food||Banana cake, orange cake, chocolate cake, and cheese fingers|
|Nearby Sights||Restaurants, boutique shops, and the Spanish consulate|
A professional mixologist designed Ábaco Café y Libros’ three cold brew cocktails. Credit: Angie Molina Ospina
4. ADN Coffee
This pretty café serves coffees from three Colombian regions: Risaralda, Caldas, and Sierra Nevada. The coffee from Sierra Nevada includes organic Caturra and Typica processed by the indigenous Kankuama people.
Angelica Maria Osorio is one of the café’s founders, and she’s passionate about coffee education. Having created the city’s first Association of Baristas from the Caribbean, she’s now focussing on Specialty Coffee Association (SCA) certification. In the future, she envisions a barista training centre in ADN Coffee.
ADN Coffee. Credit: Angie Molina Ospina
|Where||Carrera. 5 #36 174|
|Roaster||Roasted by the producers|
|Coffee Offerings||Coffees from Sierra Nevada, Risaralda and Caldas|
|Must-Try Drink||Cold brew|
|Food||Milky Way cake, red velvet cake, and guava cheesecake|
|Nearby Sights||Universidad de Cartagena and Teatro Heredia, a church-turned-theatre|
5. Boundless Coffee
This cool coffee and cocktails bar lies close to Torre del Reloj, the historic Clock Tower that marks the edge of the Old Town. Founded by an Australian, a Mexican, and a Dutch, this place has been around for more than 15 years.
They serve their own organic coffee, cultivated at 1,700 m.a.s.l in Chinchiná, Caldas, as well as beans from Nariño. You can also do coffee and mezcal tasting, mezcal being an agave-based liquor (of which tequila is just one variety). Now that’s a fun way to improve your palate.
Boundless Coffee in Cartagena. Credit: @Boundlesscolombia
|Where||Calle 34, 7-33, Plaza de los Coches|
|Roaster||They roast their own coffee on their farm in Chinchiná Caldas|
|Coffee Offerings||Espresso-based drinks, cold brew, and espresso martini|
|Must-Try Drink||Espresso martini|
|Food||Pastries and sandwiches|
|Nearby Sights||The Torre del Reloj (Clock Tower) is the historic entrance to the Old Town, and you’re also close to Plaza de la Paz|
Coffee is just one more point on the list of reasons to visit this beautiful city. But it’s a very good point.
Each of these five cafés will introduce to our coffee culture, as well as being a good starting point from which to go sightseeing. So book your tickets, and get ready to take a sensory tour of Colombia’s coffee regions while also exploring the historical city centre.
And if you’ve visited all these five cafés, why not visit some of the other coffee houses in Cartagena? In a city with a growing specialty scene, there will always be more great places to try.
All views within this city guide belong to the writer, and do not reflect Perfect Daily Grind’s stance.
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