Rich in history, beautiful architecture, and some of the best food in the world — including specialty coffee!
If my highly scientific survey method of eavesdropping on people in Brooklyn bars is anything to go by, Mexico City has surpassed Iceland as the must-go destination for travel-minded folks of a certain age. And why wouldn’t it? CDMX is huge city full of history, beautiful architecture, and some of the best food in the world — both at the street and fine dining levels. And for those interested in specialty coffee, there are very few cities as fun to drink coffee in as this one!
Mexico City bucks two specialty coffee stereotypes. The first is that the best coffee in specialty growing countries gets exported. That’s often true, because in many growing countries the demand for the types of coffees we pay premiums for just isn’t there. So it’s much more valuable to send those coffees abroad. Being one of the biggest cities in the world, Mexico City has developed a wonderful specialty coffee scene, with plenty of folks willing to drink these interesting coffees.
The second stereotype is closely linked with the first: that Mexican coffees are chocolaty and nutty, but not very fruity or heavy-bodied. This flavor profile certainly does exist in Mexico and can be delicious. The country's range of microclimates, elevations, and processing methods, however, means there are increasingly more unique-tasting varieties available — no matter how you like your coffee. And because of that strong internal market, many of them stay inside the country.
So a visit gets you not only the opportunity to drink delicious coffee, but also the chance to explore the wide variety of coffees that you still really can’t drink anywhere else. Here are five of my favorites to get you started.
Córdoba 132, Roma Norte
Campeche 346, Hipódromo Condesa
The first Mexico City café (or business of any sort) I ever walked into was Cardinal in Roma Norte, and it correctly set my expectations for the city. Having asked some coffee friends and read some of Ximena Rubio’s excellent CDMX reporting on Sprudge, I had high hopes and a rough guide, but you never really know until you taste a coffee and say “goddamn!” out loud in a relatively quiet space where you’re obviously a tourist.
I had ordered a pour over of a coffee from Guerrero, and the balance of fruity acidity and sweetness really opened my eyes. There’s a second, slightly more hip-looking Cardinal in Condesa, so there’s a decent chance if you’re staying in an AirBnB you’ll be near one, and both make for an excellent home base coffee shop.
Av. Álvaro Obregón 64, Roma Norte
Av. Ámsterdam 67a, Condesa
More or less around the corner from the Roma Norte Cardinal lies another wonderful café. Qūentin is home to some of the best shots of espresso I’ve tasted in Mexico City. And, while I do highly recommend tasting the wide variety of Mexican-grown coffees in the city, it’s very cool that there exists a roaster here that imports coffees from all around the world and roasts them beautifully.
If you need balance on your coffee crawl, Qūentin’s a nice place to try some tasty downers, whether in their delicious carajillo (an espresso and booze cocktail) or a bottle of craft beer. They’ve also recently opened a second shop in Condesa, as well as one in Tulum, should you be making your way to that part of the country. You’ll want to buy one of their immaculately-designed retail bags to show off to your friends.
Calle Higuera 40, Coyoacan
If it’s your first time in Mexico City and you’re at all into art, odds are you’ll make your way down to the Coyoacan neighborhood to visit the Frida Kahlo museum at Casa Azul. Even if that’s not in your plans, the short trip south is more than worth it for this shop.
The attention to detail and beauty runs through their wares, preparation, and coffees, roasted by their sister business Cafe con Jiribilla. Combine a visit down here with a walk in the beautiful Jardín Centenario and some tostadas and/or carnitas in the Coyoacan market for a totally delicious afternoon.
Av. Universidad 420, Navarte Poniente
Calle Tonalá 53, Roma Norte
Calle Balboa 203, Portales Norte
Almanegra is another slowly growing retail chain with ultra-cool design and delicious coffees! I’ve only visited the Roma Norte location, but everything I had there was delicious and illustrative of the amazing variety of coffees being produced in Mexico.
At the shop, I tasted a ripe fruit bomb of an espresso from the Nayarit region. I also took home a high-grown washed Maragogype variety from Chiapas roasted by Gas Up, which was sweet, floral, and herbal; probably my favorite retail bag of coffee I’ve brought back to New York from Mexico. If you have a sweet tooth, the Roma Norte Almanegra is down the street from the ice cream mad scientists at Helado Cometa and the mind-blowingly good pastries at Panadería Rosetta.
Av. Universidad 323, Narvarte Oriente
Alquimia is a small retail shop with (stop me if you’ve heard this one before!) a great selection of coffees with different regions, varieties, and processes represented. They roast themselves, and while there, the barista was pleasantly enthusiastic about having me try a few different variations on the coffee I initially ordered.
Like most of the specialty shops I visited in Mexico City (and Warsaw, come to think of it), a variety of manual brew methods is offered alongside espresso, with the barista ready and willing to make recommendations. Alquimia is also quite into its coffee cocktail menu and usually open into the evening. The way to go is an adult coffee beverage followed by a roll down the street to Taqueria el Vilsito for some perfectly-sliced al pastor.
As I said, this is far from complete list, with shops like Espresso Media Noche, Buna, Casa del Fuego, and El Ilusionista among many others serving tasty coffee around town. You can drink coffee several times a day during your trip and have a new experience every time — while learning more about a specific origin. That kind of coffee-drinking opportunity just doesn’t exist in most other places!