Most people are used to a daily routine that in many ways involves drinking coffee or tea. Its a ritual in which we feel more connected to others, satisfied about the choices made throughout the day or simply enjoy the taste of what in some parts of the world consider a delicacy. Coffee and tea have always been and continues to be a staple commodity across the world. From movies, books, blogs, songs, fair trade and peace initiatives, its more trendy than ever! In Buenos Aires, its not any different than any other major metropolis.
For a traveler, you can feel comfortable knowing that they are plenty of options for you to get the right cup of joe. Buenos Aires is known to many around the world as the "Paris of South America," and its easy to understand why. The busy streets house tons of cafes that provide not only a selection of coffee concoctions but also serve meals and tend to be open late into the evening. As an American, some might assume that we all are obsessed with Starbucks considering how many we have within our boarders and all over the world. However, we've become educated coffee connoisseurs over the years similar to many non-European countries. Coming to Buenos Aires I did have quite high expectations.
As a coffee snob, I learned a few things in Buenos Aires that made more enjoyable my afternoon trips to different cafes around the city. First, there's a lot of Italian cultural influence in Argentina especially in the language and food. If you review a menu you will quickly notice some slight differences in the words used for simple coffee orders such as, single or double espresso, latte and cappuccino. Among some blogs I look to for guidance while I live in Buenos Aires, one that gives you a rather detailed list of coffee terms to remember when ordering at a cafe (Wander Argentina: http://wander-argentina.com/coffee-culture-ordering/). I felt so much more like a local and sophisticated having a better handle of the terminology.
Aside from using the appropriate words for your coffee of choice, its equally important to remember how the coffee is made and how it tastes here. Its bitter, stronger to some, expensive and for my fellow Americans I send a warning since the to-go cups are much smaller than you'd get at Dunkin Donuts. Third, cafes are places where people study, meet with friends or family and take the time to rest and relax. When I go to a cafe, I do so with no other plans made. Like most things, going to a cafe is like taking a long break at work. The wait staff will give you what you ordered and leave you alone for as long as you wish to stay. Coming from a New York-mentality its hard to break the habit of rushing and planning every minute of your life. However, remember you are a tourist in another country where time is your friend.
So in an effort to blend in, I ventured to a number of cafes and coffee shops recommended on my beloved foodie app, Yelp. We went to El Gato Negro which is one of the more popular and famous cafes in the city. Its centrally located on Av. Corrientes with reasonable prices considering it's in a rather touristy area. What is unique about this place is the ambiance of herbs and spices they sell in addition to the traditional cafe items. Great place to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city streets to drink espresso and a torta (cake) while reading a newspaper.
Another place I liked also highly recommended on Yelp is in San Telmo called Lumino. Its off the main street (Defensa) for the Sunday market and the perfect place to have a light meal or coffee anytime during the day. Despite my nervousness to go somewhere without browsing Yelp, going to any cafe within walking distance to your hotel is worth exploring. The locals might have an opinion about what are the best cafes in the city but to the novice like me, perhaps suggestions on this list published by the Argentinian Independent are helpful (URL: http://www.argentinaindependent.com/life-style/food-drink/top-5-places-to-drink-good-coffee/).
Coffee is a universal staple bringing people together. Its an art form, a language that everyone understands in his and her own way. While I'm living in Buenos Aires I choose to embrace the cafe lifestyle as much as I can. So far it's helped me appreciate more the Argentinian culture and take some of it with me when I return home. Maybe start a new routine of my own, one that is more relaxed and consensus of being in the bliss with every sip!