Following the Aroma of Quito’s Coffee Trail

Back in the 1980s, a man named Tom Miller came to Ecuador to explore the Panama Hat Trail, writing a book by the same title. The Panama Hat (despite what the name suggests) comes from Ecuador and Miller was in search of its origins. But along the way he had one very big frustration.  He could never find a good cup of coffee in Ecuador.

Today, Miller’s experience would be hard to duplicate because in the past eight years Ecuador has seen an explosion in great coffee and great places to drink it.

Ecuador, like its neighbor Colombia, produces excellent specialty coffee. Unlike in the day of Tom Miller, a good cup is to be had in every restaurant and café today in Quito.

Though a great cup of coffee should follow every meal, there are other times when it can be enjoyed to enhance your travel experience. It can be savored in the cafes of some of the city’s museums or enjoyed as you sit before one of the many panoramic city views. The flavor and aroma of a good cup of coffee will imprint those memories of Quito better than some of the photographs you will take.

I happen to think that the search for a great cup of coffee in Quito is really not much of a search. It is as common as the Panama Hat. What many people don’t know is that, just like the Panama Hat, so too, much of that famous Colombian coffee also comes from Ecuador. To find a good cup of coffee, we encourage you to stop at any place that looks inviting, but to put you on the right path, here are a few places that will not disappoint:

Woman making coffee with syphon, Ecuador

Photo by Lance Brashear

In the Historical Center

Café Tianguez: Since all travelers make it to Quito’s oldest public square, the San Francisco Plaza, go beneath the atrium to the Tianguez Café, an artisan craft shop and museum with a restaurant and cafe operated by the Sinchi Sacha Foundation. They serve locally made specialty coffee from different producers, but it is the combination of great flavor and the historic setting that will remain with you long after you leave.

San Agustin Heladería: For 150 years this cafeteria has been serving coffee, ice cream, and as many as 60 different traditional sweets along Guayaquil Street in the historic district.  San Agustin, located in front of the monastery of the same name, offers a chance to enjoy “café del pasado” – the way coffee used to be consumed – in a traditional home. The first floor has adobe walls that are more than a meter thick, with no windows (windows are on the second floor), illustrating the architecture of the time.  Location: Guayaquil N5-59 and Mejía.

La Cuchara de San Marcos: This vegetarian restaurant, art galería, and gift shop in the old San Marcos Neighborhood offers great local coffee prepared in a syphon at your table. San Marcos is one of Quito’s oldest neighborhoods and often missed by the main tourism crowds. Location: Junín E3-121 and Manuel Jijón, in the cul-de-sac, or “cuchara.”  Tel. 295-1713

Café Mosaico: A blend of Greek, American, and Ecuadorian, Café Mosaico sits on the eastern hillside overlooking old town.  Enjoy their espresso with an unforgettable view, following an unforgettable meal. Location: Manuel Samaniego #30 y Antepara, Itchimbía / 254-2871.

Águila de Oro: If you want some traditional coffee to take with you, Aguila de Oro, attracts people daily with aroma of their roasting coffee beans.  They have been operating for more than 60 years.  Their coffee is from the Loja region of the country and they offer three kinds: dark, medium, and light.  Buy it by the pound to make your own cup of coffee at home. Location: Benalcazar Street (N3-123 & Espejo) behind the Metropolitan Cultural Center.

Coffee and pastry, Quito, Ecuador

Photo by Quito Tourism Office

In the Mariscal District

Though everyone visits the historic district, many also find their way to the northern sections of the city.   The Mariscal District – the hub for travelers in the capital city –  is also great place to discover a good cup of coffee.

Café Galletti: This is a brand you find in all of the grocery stores. Locally produced, you can try a cup and buy a bag to take home. From their House Blend to Turkish Mis to the  Ecuadorian Mountain Coffee, all is home grown in Ecuador.  Location: Carrion & Juan Leon Mera. Tel. 252-7361.

Noción: Though it is in the Mariscal, it seems to be off the radar, but they produce some of the best coffee enjoyed in Quito’s finest restaurants.  Though they export their beans worldwide, they keep some of the best so local passersby can have a taste. Visit to buy directly from the source. Location: Mariscal Foch E8-57 & 6 de Diciembre. Tel. 254-5139.

Galería Ecuador Gourmet: This is by far one of the best places to buy your gifts before heading home – an artisan shop that brings together more than 60 different products and brands from jewelry to clothing, to gourmet food products. You can buy all the top brands of coffee in one place and then enjoy a cup in their café before you leave. Location: Reina Victoria N24-263 y Lizardo García. Tel. 223-9469 / 255-8440.

Great coffees from Ecuador to bring home (found in most tourist shops, ground or whole beans):

  • Café Velez
  • Café Galletti
  • Café Noción
  • Galapagos Coffee
  • Café Fino Aroma
  • Café Zaruma
  • Café Choco Andes
  • Cafecom
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