Six million people live in the Chilean capital of Santiago. You’ll find bustling crowds, soaring skyscrapers, historic architecture, tranquil parks… and also coffee shops. Lots and lots of them.
What’s more, the last few years have ushered in a culture of specialty coffee, making this metropolis the perfect stop for those who love their food, their art scene, and their brews. Here’s one tour you won’t want to miss.
Read a more recent version of this article: A Specialty Coffee Shop Tour of Santiago, Chile
Santiago, Chile: home to six million people and numerous great coffee shops. Credit: Felipe Fontecilla
Why These Cafés?
Every month, new ideas emerge from new cafés in Santiago. There’s no way to choose the five best places today – let alone the five best tomorrow.
But if you want to be introduced to the local coffee scene while also experiencing the city, this tour will help you do that. Each café isn’t just a pillar of the third wave scene here; it also brings its own unique take on coffee and is in an interesting location.
In no particular order, here are five coffee houses you should make time for.
1. Coffee Culture Coffee Roasters
A few blocks from Plaza de Maipu, in the west of Santiago, you’ll find Coffee Culture Coffee Roasters (CCCR). This cozy little place was opened four years ago by Heidi and Jacob, who have roasted their own coffee since day one. They also recently invested in a refurbished vintage Probat L12, allowing them to properly supply wholesale clients.
But this isn’t just a place for wholesalers. Customers often spend hours in this comfy home away from home, surrounded by hundreds of books and even a piano. The friendly staff and good food only make it easier to lose track of time.
CCCR also run barista courses targeted toward young students and workers from the Maipú area.
|Where||General Ordoñez 199, Maipú|
|Style||Eclectic and cozy|
|Espresso Machine||Dalla Corte Evolution|
|Grinder||Mahlkönig EK43 and Mahlkönig K30|
|Roaster||CCCR – Probat L12|
|Coffee Offerings||Espresso-based drinks, Chemex, V60, French press, Kalita Wave, Syphon, and AeroPress|
|Food & Other Drinks||Sandwiches, sweets, pastries, tea, and juice|
|Nearby Sights||It’s a short taxi journey to Templo Votivo de Maipú|
Make yourself at home in Coffee Culture Coffee Roasters. Credit: CCCR
2. Café Altura
I promised you a coffee shop tour, but I lied. Your see, this isn’t a specialty coffee shop – it’s a specialty coffee cart. Owner Segundo Tello believes good coffee should be for everyone. In line with that philosophy, he decided to open up in La Vega Central Market, the biggest fruit and vegetable market in Chile.
You can rest assured that the coffee will be great. Segundo was already importing coffee from Peru and Guatemala and roasting it in Chile as a wholesale supplier before deciding to expand into the café business. Today, Café Altura roasts their own coffee on a brand new Probat Probatone 12. And in 2017, they will offer the first crop from Segundo’s very own farm in Villa Rica, Peru.
This coffee shop is well worth a visit. Grab a drink and wander through the market, one of Santiago’s must-visit sights. Oh, but don’t come on Mondays – it’s Café Altura’s one day off.
|Where||Dávila Baeza 700, Recoleta|
|Style||Market atmosphere: busy with people, sights, and smells|
|Espresso Machine||Nuova Simonelli Appia 2 Compact|
|Grinder||Nuova Simonelli MDX E|
|Roaster||Café Altura – Probat Probatone 12|
|Coffee Offerings||Espresso-based drinks, V60, AeroPress|
|Food & Other Drinks||Sweet croissants, cakes|
|Nearby Sights||The stalls at La Vega Central Market|
Learn more in How to Make Your Friends Love Specialty in 5 Steps
The specialty coffee cart in Santiago’s fruit and vegetable market. Credit: Café Altura
3. Café Triciclo
Please note: since the publication of this article, Café Triciclo has moved to Vicuña Mackenna 38, Providencia, Santiago, close to Plaza Baquedano (“Plaza Italia”).
One thing I really enjoy is when coffee shops are run by their owners. There’s a certain vibe when the person who prepares your coffee has put everything they’ve got on that place. And that’s something you’ll really feel in Seba Alvarez’s Café Triciclo.
Café Triciclo is quite literally a trike. Seba used to ride it to fairs, concerts, and cultural events. But today, it’s parked up in La Mandarina Gallery in Barrio Italia, a much-visited area of Santiago known for its avant-garde galleries and shops. A black La Marzocco Linea and artisan pastries complete the transition from coffee on-the-go to a sit-down café.
It’s the perfect place to hang out with family and friends. And on Saturdays afternoons, Seba also invites local bands to play.
|Where||Vicuña Mackenna 38, Providencia|
|Espresso Machine||La Marzocco Linea EE|
|Grinder||Mazzer Major Electronic|
|Roaster||Café Lama and occasional guest roasters.|
|Coffee Offerings||Espresso-based drinks, V60, AeroPress, Chemex, and Kalita Wave|
|Food & Other Drinks||Molnar artisan pastries and tea|
|Nearby Sights||Barrio Italia|
Good coffee in an artsy space. Credit: Café Triciclo
4. Café Forestal
Café Forestal is a small but welcoming spot in a must-visit area of the city. Owners Leslie and Simon are always there to greet you with a warm smile.
Pop in after a stroll around Parque Forestal to get refreshments before your enter the Fine Arts and Contemporary Art museums, both of which are just over the road. Or, if you want to be stay a little longer, head downstairs to hang out or work.
Oh, and not only is the coffee great, but their Tamaya juice is definitely worth trying. Made in the north of Chile, from 100% wine grape varieties – and not from concentrate – the juice is a good way to keep yourself energised and hydrated while exploring the city.
|Where||Ismael Valdés Vergara 490, Santiago Centro|
|Style||Small and cozy|
|Espresso Machine||Nuova Simonelli Appia 2 Compact|
|Grinder||Nuova Simonelli MDX|
|Roaster||Tosto Coffee Lab|
|Coffee Offerings||Espresso-based drinks, V60, AeroPress, and Kalita Wave|
|Food & Other Drinks||Sandwich, salads, pastries, tea, and juice|
|Nearby Sights||Parque Forestal, Museum of Contemporary Arts, Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of Visual Arts, and Palacio Bruna|
Café Forestal, a quiet spot in a touristic area. Credit: Café Forestal
5. Café Cultura
Roastery, barista school, and coffee shop in one, Café Cultura is a must-visit spot. It’s in the business area of the city, however, so make sure you come here during the week or they’ll be closed. Stop by before hiking up the iconic San Cristóbal Hill or visiting the Costanera Center.
Owner Juan Mario Carvajal has brought a five-kilo Toper into the café, so if you’re lucky, you may witness – and smell! – a roasting session. They typically offer single origins from Ethiopia and Peru.
|Where||Suecia 0130, Providencia|
|Style||Modern and industrial|
|Espresso Machine||Victoria Arduino Black Eagle|
|Grinder||Victoria Arduino Mythos and Nuova Simonelli MDX|
|Roaster||Flor de Kavé, Café Cultura – Toper|
|Coffee Offerings||Espresso-based drinks, Chemex, V60, AeroPress, Kalita, and syphon|
|Food & Other Drinks||Sandwich, pastries, tea, and juice|
|Nearby Sights||San Cristóbal Hill, Costanera Center|
Both espresso machine and grinder are Victoria Arduino. Credit: Café Cultura
There’s plenty to do in Santiago, and following this coffee shop tour will introduce you to the main sights as well as some great coffee.
But if you do have more time in my city – and if you do, count yourself lucky – why not ask some of the baristas at these five for more recommendations? It’s sure to be a caffeinated experience to remember.
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Written by J.G. León.
All views within this opinion piece belong to the guest writer, and do not reflect Perfect Daily Grind’s stance.