We explore more of Antigua’s coffee tourism opportunities with some of the region’s best cafés.
BY JORDAN BUCHANAN
BARISTA MAGAZINE ONLINE
Featured photo courtesy of Café Sol
In the previous article on coffee tourism in Antigua, Guatemala, we examined opportunities to get out into the verdant hills of coffee farms. However, away from the farm, the urban center of Antigua also offers ample opportunity to deepen your knowledge and understanding of coffee, its culture, and the diverse voices that participate in the coffee economy.
The specialty café scene in urban Antigua is flourishing. Being in Antigua is an experience in itself owing to the colonial architecture and vibrant vacation culture. And the specialty cafés add even more to the experience here for the general traveler and the specialty coffee enthusiast.
Conversations are the key conduit to expanding your coffee tourist experience in Antigua. And inside each of the cafés I share below, you’ll find baristas and coffee shop owners ready to share their contacts, experience, and knowledge within the specialty industry in Guatemala. These people are deeply integrated into the specialty coffee community; it is a tight community. If you want to know what is on offer, what is new, or listen to each person’s perspective, they are all ready to gregariously give you what you are looking for. Do not miss this opportunity to listen to these actors’ personal histories in the trade. Order your v60, and when they are not busy prepping drinks, imbibe in their knowledge.
Every specialty café in Antigua will serve you the best quality coffee that is currently circulating in the Guatemalan specialty coffee scene. The different cafés work with different farmers from across the country, who use a variety of processing methods and a cornucopia of varieties. Each café has the same goal: serving the optimal cup.
Artista de Café
María Andrée wanted her café to be a feminine space. She wanted it to be a comfortable and safe environment for people to come and enjoy the delights of specialty coffee, and she has succeeded. Artista de Café is known by almost anyone who passes through Antigua on the backpacker/digital nomad trail. It might seem like any other vibey café that you find in gentrified spaces. However, it is a serious and professional specialty coffee outfit. Also, if you want to grow your coffee-tasting abilities, see this recent article on the sensorial course taught at the contemporary cultural landmark.
You may remember this café through its connection to Félix Poron, as mentioned in part one. “Frosty,” the owner, is one of the most well-connected and deeply informed actors within the Guatemalan specialty-coffee trade. And his care for coffee reflects in his care for the many people he knows in the industry. Set up as a small bar within a wider commercial space, this café has a low-key feel. But do not be misled by this humility; here you will find spectacular coffee and insightful baristas. This café is a nodal point in your adventure to build more connections across Guatemala.
I mentioned this café when talking about Felipe Contreras’ farm, which is one incentive to visit this happy hangout spot. Beyond the exquisite coffee, Alegría is inspired by community and connections. The owner, Markos, and bar manager, Eduard, want this place to be an encounter point where people from across the world, across Guatemala, and across the coffee community come together to share experiences and knowledge. Whether you are looking to engage in community building at this café, or just looking to read a book in positive ambiance while sipping the latest roast, Alegría will welcome you with happiness.
Here, you will find only coffee from the outlet’s own award-winning farm in Chimaltenango. But the aesthetic of this shop is its primary marketing point for general customers. Guatemalan owners described it to me as “Instragammable.” Owner Atenea has designed this store to be visually stimulating to accompany the palate-pleasing experience of specialty coffee. Also, the co-owner of this outlet (David) is a three-time national champion barista in Guatemala. He trains all the baristas who work for 12 ONZAS, so you can always expect an expertly prepared cup.
Fat Cat Coffee House
Gerson is a pioneer of specialty café culture in Guatemala. He set up the first specialty outlet in Antigua in 2014. Since then, he has been promoting care and knowledge in the coffee community through Fat Cat alongside his brother Tito. Coffee culture goes deep into the lives of these brothers; their mother was a coffee picker in Guatemala. Now, the two are delivering the goods on the other end of the coffee chain. This café is a must-visit to step back into the origins of specialty café culture at “origin.”
This café is located away from the bustling streets of the most central areas of Antigua. It is a great opportunity to visit a tranquil area of a city infused with history and nature. Drinking coffee in this café makes you feel like you are already in a countryside villa enjoying the best of what Guatemalan nature has to offer.
Visiting coffee culture is possible all over the world. But to immerse yourself in coffee culture from the farm to the front counter with such ease and warmth is something special that Antigua offers. Your list of places to visit will undoubtedly grow extensively from any excursions you make to farms, and from any conversations you enjoy while in a café. The list is endless and the accessibility to coffee tourism is likely to overwhelm you with choices. Deciding where to go next on your coffee exploration is the main challenge in Antigua. You cannot do it all. But it is all inviting you to pass by for a conversation about the next big thing in coffee in this country.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jordan Buchanan (he/they) is completing their Ph.D. in Latin American history at UC San Diego. Their research focuses on the growth of specialty-café cultures in producer nations in Latin America. Jordan grew up in Scotland and currently lives between there and Mexico when not doing doctoral work in San Diego. After purchasing their first AeroPress, Jordan has been an avid specialty-coffee enthusiast, which has added a new perspective to their lust for travel and exploration.