Cafés for Coffee Purists: Buenos Aires

Let’s get one thing straight: I’ll always be devoted to the old-fashioned bares notables of Buenos Aires, the staid waiters in tuxedoes, the grand piano in the corner. I’m a romantic at heart – but I’m also becoming something of a coffee snob. And the ancient espresso machines in this town just aren’t getting the job done. So this isn’t a post about my favorite cafés in Buenos Aires, it’s a post about three places in Palermo where I’ve recently had outstanding coffee.

Lattente

Without knowing a thing about it, I stumbled into this modest-looking coffee shop a few months ago. The Colombian barista made me a flat white (a double shot of espresso topped with microfoam, or steamed milk) that was remarkably smooth and balanced. It was probably the most delicious coffee I’d ever had in Buenos Aires.

What to know: Lattente isn’t much to look at. It’s more like an espresso bar with a couple of small tables, and a few benches on the sidewalk – I usually get my coffee to go. Then again, who cares about the seating area when you have such high-quality coffee beans, and baristas this precise. Not to mention that they’re sweetly patient when I come in with my three-year-old niece who wants to rearrange all the chairs and throw business cards around like confetti. Lattente, you had me at hello.

Coffee to go at Lattente

Coffee to go at Lattente – photo courtesy of Bridget Gleeson

Full City Coffee House

Just down the street from Lattente is the newly opened and much talked-about location of Full City, a Colombian café that was a coffee connoisseur’s favorite at its previous address in Chacarita. Word is out about this place: I went for the first time last weekend, and even as a solo customer, I could hardly get a seat.

Full City Coffee House

Full City Coffee House – photo courtesy of Bridget Gleeson

Because it was a thousand degrees outside, I ordered the cold brew iced coffee, made by brewing the rare Guayatá bean (harvested by a community of women in Boyacá, Colombia) for twelve hours in cold water. It was potent and creamy, the cool jolt I needed to get through the stifling summer afternoon. Added bonuses: arepas on the menu, and a cozy seating area with exposed brick walls. Oh, and a pair of outdoor tables – nice work if you can get it.

Cold brew iced coffee at Full City Coffee House

Cold brew iced coffee at Full City Coffee House – photo courtesy of Bridget Gleeson

Birkin Coffee Bar

Just yesterday, I paid my first visit to this sleek two month-old coffee shop in leafy Palermo Botánico. There’s so much to like about Birkin – where to start? The coffee, of course: I tried both the classic cappuccino, then the cappuccino on ice. Both were exquisite: the latter, served in a stemless glass that showcased pretty layers of milk and espresso, was a work of art.

Cappuccino at Birkin

Cappuccino at Birkin – photo courtesy of Bridget Gleeson

Cappuccino on ice at Birkin

Cappuccino on ice at Birkin – photo courtesy of Bridget Gleeson

Happily seated at the long banquette running along one edge of the café, I took a photo of the view in front of me – hipster baristas, a chalkboard menu, retro light fixtures, a high counter with stools, a charmingly vintage-looking tiled floor, large picture windows facing out to pristine white sidewalk tables – and uploaded it to Twitter. Immediately a friend in New York responded: ‘are you in Brooklyn?’ That response pretty much sums up the aesthetic at Birkin.

Birkin Coffee Bar

Birkin Coffee Bar – photo courtesy of Bridget Gleeson

What reminds you that you’re still in Buenos Aires? A gorgeous Chocotorta in the pastry display case – a cake that you usually see only at Argentine birthday parties and weekend asados. (When I first arrived in this city, someone told me, ‘if you want to be like an Argentine girl, learn how to make this cake.’) There’s a full menu, including a gourmet set lunch, and wines by the glass if you’re stopping by later in the day.

All of this, of course, is just icing on the proverbial Argentine cake. If anyone asks – I came for the coffee.

Explore Buenos Aires’ up-and-coming coffee scene with LAN Airlines and its affiliates, offering daily nonstop flights from Miami to Buenos Aires, plus daily connecting flights from New York and Los Angeles.

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