When you are in a country that grows amazing coffee you may think it would be easy to enjoy a good cup of coffee…. well, that is more easily said than done!
Currently I am in Mexico visiting family and looking for coffee to bring to NL. A few months ago I wrote about some delicious coffees from Mexico (Mexico grows coffee in 9 out of 31 state) and now we are one more step closer to have them permanently into our coffee stock [http://www.engrano.nl/blog/2013/11/13/tasting-mexican-coffee/]. My passion and love for coffee was born here in Mexico, but as in many other latinamerican countries it is easier to find good coffee beans here than to find a decent cup of coffee.
I don’t know exactly why but in most latinamerican countries coffee is not truly appreciated and usually it is prepared either too weak (probably the huge American influence) or too sweat. Even worse, to make it taste “stronger” instead of using more coffee they used coffee that has been roasted way too far ending up in a bitter but tasteless cup of coffee.
Argentina is a different story. In Argentina about 60% of the population has some degree of Italian descent and because of this huge Italian influence coffee culture in Argentina is similar to Europe and different from the rest of Latinamerica. Funny enough no coffee is grown in Argentina.
Traditionally Mexicans prepare their coffee as “cafe de olla” coffee from the pot infused with unrefined whole sugar, cinnamon, sometimes aniset or clove. In a clay pot water, cinnamon and sugar are heated up to boiling point, then ground coffee is added and mixed. The heat is turned off and the beaverage should rest for a couple of minutes. Then the coffee is sieved and served. Please imagine a household smelling like coffee and spices, perfect!
In Ecuador, as in Peru and Colombia, the tradition is to prepare a heavy coffee syrup called “cafe pasado”. The coffee is prepared as filter coffee, sometimes with a metal or cloth filter, but always with huge amount of ground coffee. The warm water is then added slowly and once the coffee is ready it is cooled down and saved. When someone wants a coffee, just add warm water to a portion of the “cafe pasado”.
With the more busy modern life these traditional slow preparations of coffee have been replaced with filter coffee. In the last 10 years espressos arrived to Latinamerica and the coffee scene is slowly changing. People are now learning about their own delicious coffee. More local coffee companies are offering a variety of single-origin coffees, but still the fashion is weak coffee. Last week I found a cozy coffee place where they roast their own coffee and the smell was amazing! They had a menu with coffee from 6 different regions of Mexico. To my surprise they even have coffee from Nayarit. I didnt even know they grew coffee there! Nayarit is a state in the Pacific coast and it wouldn’t suprise me if together with coffee from Zacatecas and northern Veracruz it is the most northernly grown coffee in the world!!
I was ecstatic! I bought beans from Nayarit that I will soon taste. And since it was early in the morning I asked also for a cappuccino thinking this should be THE cappuccino. But instead I got a 280 ml cup filled up with warm milk and almost no coffee. I heard them prepare an espresso for my cappuccino so my conclusion is that they use too little coffee for a too big cup of milk…dissappointing. The same story happened at different coffee places and restaurants. One time I sent the cappuccino back and asked them to pour an extra espresso on it. They didnt understand why. Even at a famous italian restaurant I got a soup-size bowl with warm milk and just a hint of coffee when i ordered a cappuccino, see the image below.
My luck changed when I came to Queretaro. The coffee at the hotel is still hideous, burned and bitter, but when visiting Amparo, the coffee distributer whose coffees I intend to bring to NL, I got a real espresso with aromatic coffee from Coatepec! So I see the dawn of decent coffee glimmering at the horizon: if a coffee distributor can make a good espresso it’s matter of time and that knowledge spreads down to coffee places and finally the consumers. Who knows, maybe in a couple of years we will see espresso bars all over the place in Mexico ?