Coffee houses have exploded around the world, with the model of good coffee and a place to sit and stay for a while. But in Cuzco such coffee houses are still a rarity. Instead the city has cafes that sell coffee and pastries, but also attempt to include on their menu more substantial fare. This is no different than coffee houses elsewhere. What is distinctive is the lack of couches, the invitation to sit and stay a spell.
Over the last few months several coffee houses of the Cuzco style have opened. Three of them are La Bondiet (Plateros 363), La Perla Plazoleta Santa Catalina 207), and Lechuzos (Av. El Sol 761).
More of a fine pastry shop that also serves coffee, drinks, and food besides pastries, La Bondiet has two locations in Cuzco. While it has been on Heladeros Street for more than a half decade, only recently did it open on the popular Plateros Street near Cuzco’s Main Square.
As a result, it provides an important space in a street filled with barkers offering their restaurant specials that after awhile seem just more of the same. Sure there are good restaurants here, such as the new Tayta Inti, but for decades Plateros has been an Alley of the ordinary.
With blood wood, good design, and sepia tinted photos of local culture on the wall, La Bondiet is a relief. It forms an enchanting place to step out of the tourist glare, and into a place that offers a variety of well-prepared pastries, other deserts, as well as sandwiches, juices and coffee.
Though there are no couches, one can sit for hours sipping a coffee and watching the world pass by on Plateros.
La Perla, on the Plazoleta (Little Square) of Santo Domingo also is a recent addition to another heart of tourist life. It is across from the Museum and Convent of Santo Domingo with its important collection of colonial art from the Cuzco School, and just a block away from the main square.
Like La Bondiet, La Perla also has an older sister. In this case it is in a very different part of town, on San Andres, in the shopping and market are of town frequented by locals rather than tourists.
La Perla roasts its own coffee beans, which they obtain from the nearby Tropics, Quillabamba, where the coffee is famous for its amazing fragrance. While the San Andres site is small and intimate, with its dark wood and just a few tables, the new cafe claims an elegance with its light and dark, and its changing well-crafted paintings on the wall.
It coffee is good, if not as fragrant as many from Quillabamba. It may be that the roast reduces some of the airy and attractive qualities of Quillabamba beans.
La Perla also offers juices and displays fresh fruit on the wall at the same time it has an array of local, Cuzco-style sandwiches with local sauces (Mayonnaise, catchup, mustard, and hot sauce). And, it has a full bar, set back in a separate room that gleams out from a doorway of faux inca stone.
One can sit in La Perla sipping a hot cup of joe to break the chill that often is in the air even when a bright sun shines outside. But these seats are not designed to be comfortable for a long time. They are short term. Time to eat, drink, converse, check your guide book, and return to the important and serious tasks of tourism.
Another coffee house opened recently on the broad Avenida El Sol, the Sun Avenue, which is the main entrance into the old town from the airport, and other transport stations. This is also a street on which development has been happening.
Not too many years ago, a walk down the Sun Avenue to the Temple of the Sun, the Qoricancha, felt like going to another world. Now there are elite hotels and good restaurants, and handicraft markets on the street or nearby, especially at its entrance where the waters of the hidden rivers surge up in a fountain to mark what is called the Puma’s Tail.
As a result, this new coffee house called Lechuzos, after an owl, is a long and narrow space against stone walls that is also inviting and comfortable. It serves good juice and decent coffee. But most of all, it is a nice relief from the brightness of the sun that claims this avenue as its own while one walks it from Plaza to beginning, and from the hustle and bustle of touring.
These are but three of the new offerings in Cuzco. Each different but worth visiting if you need a break from the day and a cup of coffee, or maybe something stiffer.