I love coffee. The one thing that makes me happy every single day when I open my eyes is knowing that I’ll drink coffee, and I live in one of the world’s capitals of coffee, Seattle. Recently, I came back to my hometown, Mendoza, Argentina, after many years and tried to explore it with beginner’s eyes to see what I could find. So today’s post will be about coffee.
I can’t go straight to the point without giving some historical context. Mendoza is the fourth largest city in Argentina. Located next to the Andes bordering Chile, it’s known for its world-class wines. However, its relatively small size also means that its people are more traditional-minded, and you can’t expect new things to permeate that easily.
One of my biggest surprises when I visited this time, in contrast with my last visit before the pandemic, is the availability of ethnic places. You can now find from poke to Indian food, and to my surprise, although not many, specialty coffee shops. So I decided to explore and try as many as possible. Here are my top three, but first, let’s talk about the evaluation criteria.
In Mendoza, and, in general, in Argentina, there is a huge coffee culture inherited from our European colonizers. But, like in Paris, there were already gazillions of small places with tables where you can sit and drink a coffee while meeting up with friends or people-watching. So my first challenge was to tell the old from the new. Before deciding to go in, I looked for that coffee-centric “fun” element within the shop itself. Things like a good espresso machine, the smell of freshly ground beans, and pour-over drippers at the barista counters attracted my attention, not to mention the right ambiance.
Next, I looked at the menu; did the restaurant write more detail than just “cafe con leche;” offer plant-based milk alternatives, or know the ratios for various espresso drinks? I pleasantly found that many coffee shops offer this explanation to help their market understand the difference and state: “I know coffee.” Many of these places happened to be also brunch places, which seem to have increased since my last visit.
Finally, I did the taste test. For consistency, I kept ordering my usual favorites, almond milk latte, and, when available, pour-overs. Were the drinks correctly brewed, balanced, and with the right texture and temperatures? Did the shops make my experience pleasant?
With all these questions in mind, I came up with three coffee shops that lived up to the high standards that Seattle got me used to.
Modesto, Overall Favorite
Modesto is a high-end coffee shop that has a few locations. I tried the one on “Emilio Civit” Street. Right by the entrance, they painted a visually-appealing chart with the various espresso ratios. They offer coffee brewed using virtually every brew method, from Espresso to Aeropress and French Press to Chemex. To further help educate their audience, Modesto gives you a choice for the temperatures of your drinks: Hot or Barista. I loved this concept because it raises the bar for every other coffee shop in the area and shows the locals that milk tastes at its best when it doesn’t go beyond a certain temp.
Finally, they didn’t explain their bean selection, but the products were delicious every single time.
Fran, Excellent Attention to Detail
Fran also has a few locations. I visited the one on Belgrano Street. Like Modesto, their menu offered a vast range of brewing methods. The first time I went there, I ordered a Chemex coffee, which not many shops even in Seattle dare to offer, and I watched the barista brew it from my table. The process took him five minutes. During it, I watched him boil the water in the gooseneck kettle, prep the scale, and weigh the grounds. Next, I observed him rinse the paper filter carefully and pour over water using the scale to control the flow. The final product was incredibly delicious, and it blew my mind. Their espresso drinks were consistent, well-balanced, and tasty too.
El Triciclo, Surprisingly Fun
El Triciclo is a coffee cart located in the middle of Plaza España; they call themselves specialty coffee. They operate an espresso machine in this tiny three-wheeled cart, alongside a grinder and an electric oven where they bake their tortitas and medialunas. Their menu is simple yet outlines the various ratios for espresso drinks, and their coffee is affordable and delicious. In addition, they play enjoyable music and, to me, is the purest expression of doing something small but well for the love of coffee.
And There’s the Rest
Mendoza has many more options that I tried where I got excellent coffee. But, the three I selected relate closely with me for their apparent love for coffee. Other places where I tried delicious drinks are:
- Bonito, serves specialty coffee but lacks some alternatives.
- Shelby, serves specialty coffee but lacks attention to detail.
- Erudito, serves specialty coffee and you can pick your beans but lacks attention to detail.
- Mokka, serves specialty coffee but lacks some alternatives.
- Jockey Club, serves specialty coffee but lacks some alternatives.
- La Vene, they just do tasty espresso.
- Bröd, serves specialty coffee but lacks some alternatives and attention to detail.
- El Pasaje Cafetería, serves specialty coffee but lacks some alternatives.
As you can see, I’ve been busy trying out places!
With this, I conclude my post, and if you’re from Mendoza, I’d love to hear from you what other places for specialty coffee you’d recommend. Just please don’t say Starbucks! I hope you found these tips helpful, and please leave your comments in the section below.