If you’ve been in the South America for more than a minute you’ve probably had your far share of instant Nescafe coffees, perhaps with a pinch of panela if you got lucky. It never ceases to amaze me that in extraordinary coffee regions, main players like Guatemala, Peru and Colombia see most of their product exported overseas to fill European espresso machines. Often you’ll find more of a coffee culture in the States and Europe than at its origins. However, one is not always destined to drink in an odd mountain town. So for those sweet moments of city life, you want a damn good coffee.
In my opinion there’s a special place in hell for tourists who frequent the main square Starbucks of southern cities. Seems silly to pay for a local plant to get exported, roasted, often burnt, and packaged only to be sent back and sold at higher prices. It’s truly a shame to skip out on the fresh, rich flavors of local beans.
So when you’re passing through Cuzco and need a proper cup of Joe venture out of Plaza de Armas and look into these unique spots. While the city’s fluid definitions for latte or cortado can frustrate, it is refreshing to see a non-standardized coffee culture. Locals in Peru brew their grounds a deep black so it’s expected to cut your cup with water. Ask your barista about their specific brew and you’ll discover a history of land, disease, and globalization you perhaps hadn’t expected to hold in your hand.
Best Posh Spot: La Valeriana
Pop into this centrally located cafe on Avenida Sol after a visit to the Quri Kancha site. The spotless glass case displaying treats like toasted coconut and yuca coffee cake and fruit tarts invite you to indulge. With spacious seating and prompt service you can expect to get a proper western-style coffee, foamed milked and all here. (Avenida del Sol 576)
Best Vibes and Cakes- Laggart Cafe
Step inside to find floral murals and local punk art. With original tea infusions, good coffee, and a mouth watering maracuya cake it’s hard to go wrong foodwise. This is a good place to go with friends and let your conversation flow alongside the interesting artwork. A point of interest is the large painting of local street artists behind the counter. You might recognize a few from the San Blas fountain. (San Blas, Tandapata 101)
Best Solo Joint with Vegan Options – L’atelier
This boutique cafe house has an attic-like space upstairs with feminine details. Perch yourself on the window seat stools and get lost in the charming view or a book good. With vegan pastries, craft beer, teas, and good coffee it’s a nice place to go alone for a break as there is hardly enough space for you and your bag. (Carmen Alto 227)
Best Study Spot- Meeting Place
This British run cafe boasts a locally sourced slow drip coffee, Belgian waffles, and enormous milk shakes. With plenty of natural light, couches, long tables, and chill music, this is a good place to spread out for work or meet up with friends to plan the next adventure. Service is a bit slow, but you’ll never feel rushed. (Plazoleta San Blas 630)