Mexico City has the most specialty roasters and best selection of high quality, exotic coffee beans from every corner of the country.
I have been thinking a lot about Mexican specialty coffee recently. I just watched a video on Bloomberg about the founder of Blue Bottle talking about coffee as a specialty product and the development of a ‘third wave’ coffee. The focus on quality control along every step of the coffee production cycle, from grower to harvester to roaster and barista, contributes to an insane final product. Right now there are only a few people in the country who are making great coffee but that number is growing quickly. These are some of my thoughts on the best coffee in Mexico City.
What I love about Mexico City is that it represents all of Mexico in one place. The people of Mexico City are connected and know that one guy who is growing the best beans in a region known for the quantity, not quality. I live in Guadalajara and we have one of the best roasters in the country here. Yet, when I go to coffee-producing regions (Kona, Comala, Pluma Hidalgo, Mascota and Compostela) the coffee is often times terrible. You have to know somebody to get access to the top quality beans with the good fermentation and then you have to roast it correctly. The best coffee in Mexico City hits all those points.
Coffee is a Tough Business Model
A close friend of mine is from a small pueblo in the State of Veracruz near Misantla. This is coffee country, where Nespresso pays Campesinos 6 pesos a kilo for ripe coffee beans (15 US cents per pound). Variations in the price of coffee over the course of the last 30 years have pushed many small producers out of the market because it wasn’t profitable.
The so-called third-wave coffee culture is creating a specialty market. Farmers are taking more control of the marketing and differentiating one coffee from another based on quality and style. There are auctions opening up for the best harvests, and the farmers are starting to make a little more money and have an incentive to grow better coffee beans. The industry is still fragile and climate change is threatening traditional coffee growing regions.
What is Great Coffee?
I often think of great coffee like great wine and great marijuana. Ultimately, it is an agricultural product. Farmers have to train plants to produce beautifully ripe fruit. Nobody wants to smoke weed that is all seeds and stems, just like nobody wants to drink coffee made with poor quality beans. One way to fix a batch of low-quality beans is to roast them super dark (I say burnt) so that you can’t tell they were bad in the first place. The delicate floral and fruity notes are lost behind a dark french roast.
Where Does Mexican Coffee Come From?
You will be astounded by all of the places that are growing coffee in Mexico. Of course, everyone has heard of Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Veracruz, but did you know that Puebla, Michoacan, Hidalgo, Colima, Jalisco, and Nayarit also grow amazing coffee? A small farm near Cihuatlan, Jalisco won the Cup of Excellence coffee competition in 2018 with a micro lot that everyone is trying to get their hands on. This is what I love about Mexico City. The best coffee in Mexico City comes from all over the country, from regions most people have never heard of.
What I Like to Order at the Coffee Shop
I am not ranking coffee shops like they were coworking stations and I don’t care how the wifi is. I want to talk to a knowledgeable barista who can recommend an awesome bag of something exotic. Typically, I will order a single espresso, a pourover and get something with milk to go.
On a side note, I got super sick while researching this article. The combination of altitude sickness, dehydration, and too much caffeine made me quit coffee for a few days. I am back to feeling better and slowly tasting all the jewels that I brought back from Mexico City. Mexico produces some amazing coffee but you have to be in the know to get your hands on it. These coffee shops deal with the sweetest fruits in this beautiful coffee producing nation.
The Best Coffee Mexico City
I happened to be staying with family nearby and was able to walk to Passmar for the morning coffee. First off, the Del Valle neighborhood has some serious mid-century fabulousness. The Lazaro Cardenas Market should be a tourist destination of its own. It just so happens that one of the best espressos in the city is hidden away in the back of a beautiful neighborhood market in an upper-middle-class community. Specialty coffee is thriving in this part of Mexico.
Passmar is wholesaling specialty coffee out of the back of that market. I feel like they sell coffee to the community as a favor because there is no way the retail business comes close to the wholesale business. They train baristas, coffee shop owners and have their wholesale bean business in some of the hottest restaurants in town. Their thick, black porcelain espresso and cappuccino mugs are easily identifiable and scream quality.
When you visit Mexico City you need to visit Passmar. This is quintessential Mexico right here.
These guys are the current national barista champs that represented Mexico in the latest international competition and you can taste the coffee they roasted and served for competition. They have a highly successful roasting line called Café con Jiribilla and a hole-in-the-wall coffee shop hidden away on a Coyoacan back street. The Xico, Veracruz roast is very unique. I find it earthy, savory and has a bright acidity. I think the reason that I like it so much is because it is different from everything else that I am drinking right now.
I really enjoyed talking with the baristas. They were really excited about coffee and the Mexico City specialty coffee scene. They drink coffee at the best places in town.
Roma Norte has the Best Coffee in Mexico City
It is so cliche that there are easily five of the best coffee shops in the country, all tucking into a five-block radius in Roma Norte. Watch out for dog poop on the side streets.
Everything at Almanegra is very precise: grams, seconds, degrees. I have really enjoyed the pourovers and bags of coffee that I have purchased at both locations. The Finca El Cuarenteño, Nayarit is just like I remember it: a total fruit bomb. Completely affirms what I remember about Nayarit. I love Nayarit. I surf there regularly and finding bomb coffee from a place you love, makes you stoked. Take two bags of Nayarit coffee home with you. You are going to pay a fraction of what that same bag would run you in Los Angeles or San Diego. Oh, and the Roma Norte location is in the garage of an architectural gem. I feel like Almanegra helps define what everybody loves about the neighborhood nowadays.
Memorias de un Barista
I like chatting up baristas to see what they think about the local coffee scene. Many of them have worked in a couple of coffee shops and are consummate professionals. I heard about Memorias de un Barista in three different coffee shops and knew it had to be on my list. The Colonia Roma is really focused on image but Memorias de un Barista is very focused on roasting great beans. Their roasting company, Sonata Tostadores, won the 2018 roasting competition which has allowed them to source some excellent coffees. This is where other baristas go to try great coffees.
The espresso was a natural from the State of Guerrero with a lot of fruit. The pourover was a blend of washed and natural from Naolinco, Veracruz. Naolinco is one of my favorite coffee-producing regions. I got a bag from Naolinco last year that was different from every other coffee that I have ever tasted, and I haven’t been able to find since. I had been looking for more coffee from Naolinco, Veracruz for a while.
One of the baristas from Cafe Quentin recently came to Guadalajara for a pop-up/take over event at Fitzroy. They also brought a ton of coffee with them. I drank several bags of a washed Guerrero that I really enjoyed but couldn’t get again. This time I went for the Ethiopia. I love Mexican coffee but I want to sample some prized beans from other parts of the world too.
Quentin just opened up another location in Hipódromo that is beautiful. From the tree-lined street to the well-maintained garden and marble benches and tables, the design of the building matches the espresso service. While drinking a specialty espresso you are served a little tray with an espresso, an espresso spoon and a small glass of sparkling water. There is no other way to drink an espresso. You get to taste all the subtle notes and cleanse the palate afterward. It is a great experience.
Buna Cafe Rico
Another case of hot restaurants serving dope coffee. We were dining in Los Danzantes in Coyoacan and I got a really great espresso after dinner. The waitress was happy to share the bag and tell me that Buma makes great coffee. Not only that, but the location is in the Plaza Rio de Janeiro in Roma Norte which has to be experienced. This is one of the few places where I tried blends of different origins. I hear that they have a very strong restaurant program where they service the machines and sell wholesale quantities to big restaurant groups all over the Valley of Mexico.
The space is minimalist and there really isn’t much space to sit. They kind of have roommates in their space. There is a high-end restaurant called Sartoria that was displaying the Gjelina Venice Beach Cookbook so it has to be good. Buna sells nothing but coffee. There is not a scone nor panini in sight. If you want food, go to Sartoria.
It could have been my first time in San Angel or it could have been my first espresso in Mexico City, but I loved Borola. I got a great espresso and the flat white was perfectly foamed and served short. There are four locations but I recommend coming to the San Angel location. It is a little off the tourist track and has old-money charm like mature trees and cobblestone streets.
Some Final Thoughts on the Best Coffee Mexico City
I would like to visit some more coffee-producing regions this year to see some farms and watch a harvest. When it comes to roasting it would be hard to compete with the sheer number of specialty roasters. Mexico City is the place to learn about all the best regions and look for the best coffees in Mexico. If you are into specialty coffee then Mexico City should be on your travel list. Personally, I love it!