A trip into Mexico's Capital
In late 2016 my dad and I took a trip to Mexico City for Mexico's annual coffee expo, Expo Café. It hadn't even been a full year since coffee had become a thing for me, and this trip would be the second time I would see a specialty coffee community outside of my home city and first being a part of a large event like expo. I was familiar with SCAA - the United States' expo - a much larger and popular event, so I was excited to see what Mexico had to offer.
We were in Mexico City for 4 days, missing a few days of school in the process, not complaining by the way. Even with that, there's so much to explore and see in Mexico's capital so I've been wanting to go back since. Putting everything else aside, and Mexico City has a lot to offer when it comes to coffee and I couldn't realize the entire scope of the city's magnitude until eventually walking through it.
When I Say Big, I Mean BIG
Mexico City is massive, more people live there than on any other city in North America and it's four times as densely populated than New York City. Only São Paulo in Brazil has a larger population count for a city on this side of the planet. So it's huge, a lot of people live there, and it's been around for 700 years. I'd say Mexico City is one of the most culturally rich places I've been to, and I've been around. The epitome of Mexican culture, minus the beaches.
So, getting into the coffee scene in Mexico City I was surprised to see that there is a wide variety of shop styles in the city. It seemed that every shop I went to had it's own character that wanted to leave the largest impression. Remember, this was back in 2016, so it was like your first week of school where everything seems new once again. I was beginning in coffee, and saw many things for the first time, and few I was already familiar with but would actually continue seeing through the years.
Pictured up top is Dosis, the first shop on the checklist provided by Instagram, funny enough. By far my favorite one form the trip. Located in the heart of the city, the cafe is spacious, and the large windows bring in a lot of natural sunlight. Big plus. The menu was pretty straightforward, I went with my usual cappuccino and was not disappointed. I saw why Dosis is one of the highest rated in the city, it had a hip character in the furniture and music that would have made me consider daily visits if I lived close-by. Kanye West was playing on the speakers, which seemed like a bad move at the time even though I was diggin' it. Now looking back, I would have too played more of my favorite music in the shop if the large majority of my customers didn't speak English. Nonetheless, Dosis had this ambience that displayed what I now think of the coffee community in Mexico City.
Next up we got Quentin, a very small shop that redefines the scene in Mexico City. Even though Quentin and Dosis are a block apart on Av. Álvaro Obregón, they look like they belong in different countries. A two minute walk takes you from the Kanye-playing, free-spirited Dosis to the tiny, NYC-looking boutique that is Quentin. I'd seen pictures of this place before and it intrigued me the most since they featured roasters and magazines from the US, the latest and greatest gear, and of course because it's tiny and looks crowded. Guess what? It was busy and there wasn't any seating available, so I got a pretty expensive cortado in a paper cup and left rather quickly. Although I'm willing to pay more to get coffee from US roasters in Mexico, It would have been a little better if I could have hung out for a while. The space is pretty and they have a record player with a bunch of vinyls available, so it makes for a potentially good experience. I'll have to go back and try my luck again. Now they have 3 locations and they roast in-house so those limitations are gone. Looking back now, the standalone Quentin was like kid that transferred from a big-school into a small town and had the coolest clothes until everyone else caught up. Those types of places you appreciate, want to visit, and it makes you glad to see them grow deeper into their own brand over time.
Without a doubt, there is no Mexico City coffee anything without mentioning Cafe Avellaneda. Situated in Coyoacán, the place blends really well into the neighborhood and has a great historic place in CDMX's coffee scene. The wooden-framed chalk menus on the turquoise walls, the incandescent lights, and the roll up garage door make for an innocent looking little cafe. But not quite. National barista champions and Coffee Masters have come out of Avellaneda, it the shop is credited as being one of the most iconic in the city. Respect it earns, as it makes a trip outside the city center worth the taxi fare. I again ordered a cappuccino but this time it came with some more goodies. In the wooden tray came the cappuccino, and extra espresso, a small spoon wrapped in a napkin and a tiny nickel-sized chocolate pastry in its own saucer. How about that for a capp. Big ups. My mind was definitely blown after seeing the detail and delivery of a cappuccino. So if you're ever in town, set some time up to take the drive to Avellaneda, it'll be worth it.
So Are You Going Again?
I know I know, three shops don't necessarily show the whole coffee scope of the North America's largest city and all three brands have gone through changes and updates since. But these three different visits have in some way changed the way I now think about our coffee shop culture, the way it's supposed to look, feel, and function. The things that should be inside and outside, how things should be presented, and the memories and feelings that come when you think of the place. Yes there are many more places I should go next time I'm in Mexico City, and I probably will, but I know of three that will for sure be on that list.