Tag Archives: Latin America

Great Coffeehouses of Mexico City

Mexico City     Fair Grinds Coffeehouse is constantly trying to learn more about our fairtrade coffee and other coffeehouses and how to source and serve our community better.  On our website the “Around the World” section introduces our customers to good coffee experiences in other countries, especially as we expand the search.

Mexico City is one of the great cities of the world and one of the largest, and people are serious about their coffee, where they buy it, and in some cases the time they spend enjoying it.  Here is a random sampling that Dine’ Butler and I put together while in the city for meetings with ACORN International and our organizers in North and Latin America.

Café La Habana, three shot glasses in a row with one of tequila, one of lime juice, and one of sangrita

Café La Habana is an old favorite of mine and many others in the central business district not too far from Alameda and on Avenida Morelas within sight of Paseo de la Reforma and the Torre del Cabillito on the corner of Morelas and Bucarelli.  Opened in 1952 Café La Habana is large enough to allow many to linger and some do for hours.   On one counter two large hand pump espresso machines stand side by side to maintain the demand for “espress.”  Behind the counter they sell coffee by the pound, but Café La Habana is a full service restaurant and bar in addition to being a coffeehouse, and opens early and stays there late.  Order a tequila as we did after 11 straight hours of organizing meetings and it comes in three shot glasses in a row with one of tequila, one of lime juice, and one of sangrita.  Café La Habana is also legendarily where a very young Fidel Castro and Che Guevara spent many hours over many such cups of coffee planning the Cuban Revolution.  Pictures adorn the walls that make you feel you are still lost in the 50’s today.

El Café Denmedio was a smaller, hip lucky stumble onto place in Solidarity Square a couple of meters away from the Museo Mural Diego Rivera looking towards the great Alameda, one of the worlds outstanding city parks, now undergoing rehabilitation in 2012.  Good baristas and good coffee on a little espresso machine with a distinctive style that includes a coffee bar made from an old stereo system, a table that used to be an old television set, glass covered tables that enclose “napkin art” from customers, and you get the picture of a relaxing place where we enjoyed a two hour meeting with our Latin American organizers.

Café El Silo

Café El Silo was a treat we found walking down Avenida Coyoacan having just been at the Lazardo Cardenas marketplace in search of Passmar Café.  Nothing fancy here at the intersections of Avenida Colonia del Valle, Coyoacan, and Concepcion Beistegui, but a good clean cup at a great price for an espresso doble with a half-inch thick crema on top, which is the sign of an excellent barista, a good machine, and a great grind.  Similar to the café cooperativas we hope to develop, Silo was 100% coffee from Mexico, even though the bins were not (and should not) be good storage.  We enjoyed every minute and Dine’ walked away with a cappuccino with an inch high cap!  Say, hola para mi if you go by!

Café El Silo Cappuccino

Café Jarocho

After reading an article by the Coffee Dorks, our main destination was the central plaza of Coyoacan where there are coffeehouses everywhere you look and excellent cups everywhere you turn.  Café Jarocho was worth our search.   Jarocho was a serious coffeehouse that does its own roasting and you can see the bags of Mexican altura stacked up and ready for work.  If you want to sit and sip, then it is the benches anchored to the sidewalk on both sides of the corner where hardly a space was vacant on a Sunday morning as families and aficionados were everywhere, even attracting musicians and other entertainment.  For us the action in the coffeehouse was more than enough for us to handle.  There were rows of machines and banks of refrigerators along with plenty of pictures of the founder, an angel on the roof, and a piggy bank tip jar that just makes you dig in your pockets for some pesos to say thanks for a good cup and a great experience.

Benches and music of Café Jarocho

The other place on our must list for coffeehouses in Mexico was Passmar Café which was located a long way from the plaza in the Lazaro Cardenas Mercado, but unfortunately doesn’t open on Sundays.  We hope to find it before we leave to judge for ourselves.  And, if you want a cup of coffee on Sunday before 8 AM in the morning and are staying in the great art deco neighborhood, Colonias Hipodrome Condesa, you may have to settle for the Krispy Kreme, which features a picture out front from its opening at Avenida Michoacan 113 in the 1950s, which says something about their commitment regardless of the fads of fashion for coffee.

At least when you Google coffeehouses in Mexico City instead of striking out as I did, you have a range of choices now, so enjoy, and let me know about other places and great experiences you have along the way.






Ps.    If you want fairtrade and/or organic coffee in Mexico City the best place we have found was also in Condesa at Origenes, a combination store, restaurant and juice place.  A good selection of brands but of course at steep prices.


The Green Footprint of Fairtrade Green Coffee Beans and the Port of New Orleans

The Port of New Orleans in the 19th Century

New Orleans     Consider these facts if you will:

From Wikipedia:   As the country’s major coffee-handling port, the Port of New Orleans has 14 warehouses covering over 51 hectares of storage space and six roasting facilities.

Coffee Handled Here. New Orleans is the nation’s premier coffee-handling port, with 14 warehouses, more than 5.5 million feet of storage space and six roasting facilities in a 20 mile radius. Two of the most modern bulk processing operations are located in New Orleans: Dupuy Storage and Forwarding Corp. (first in U.S.) and Silocaf of New Orleans, Inc. (world’s largest).   [Source:  Port of New Orleans]

Let’s discount the fact that the Port of New Orleans is probably involved in some boosterism, but there can be little doubt that New Orleans is one of the major, if not THE, major entry points for coffee coming from Latin America.  Ironically, whether in trying to buy fairtrade green coffee beans in New Orleans or trying to ship them directly from Honduras for example, we keep hearing these days of shipping routes to Newark and the Port of NY/NJ rather than on the shortest route to New Orleans from the eastern, Atlantic or Gulf Coasts of Latin America.  Talking to our roasters and sources for fairtrade green beans for Fair Grinds Coffeehouse as a 100% fairtrade shop in the city, we are constantly struggling to get our beans directly through the Port of New Orleans, rather than trucked in and warehoused in the city.  What’s up?!?

I heard a rumor that New York /New Jersey had offered tax incentives to divert coffee traffic after Katrina to move coffee out of New Orleans, but after spending hours on the Internet, I cannot yet confirm the truth of that information.  The facts though are that Katrina did ruin a lot of coffee and tea in area warehouses, and some have not returned more than seven (7) years later.

Sadly, and perhaps ironically as well, the leading fairtrade buyers have perhaps been the slowest to return, rather than the fastest.   The coffee buying cooperative composed of 22 of the biggest, leading fairtrade roasters all used to bring all of their coffee through the Port of New Orleans, but are only now debating a return.  These roasters include many of the best including Just Coffee in Madison, Café Campesino in Georgia, Bongo Java in Nashville, Third Coast in Austin, and Amavida in Florida, as well as a bunch of great roasters in all across Canada.

Seems like fairtrade social justice would include making sure that there is support for the City of New Orleans and its great, deepwater river port, as it recovers from Katrina, especially among the progressive forces in the rebuilding effort that continues unabated but with grave challenges even to this day.  Add to that the union jobs and living wages on the Port and in the warehouses and the arguments made by many, including COWS director, Professor Joel Rogers from the University of Wisconsin, that the Port should be the “economic driver for high road development” after the storm, and I would think this would be an easy decision rather than a lengthy debate.

We should be up to our elbows in fairtrade coffee beans in New Orleans, not on our knees begging for a bag here and a bag there.  What’s missing in this story?

Maybe it’s time for us to put our coffee cups down for a minute and start an organizing campaign, which is something we do understand!