Originally published to Sprudge.com in May 2017
Mexico City is a palette of primary and pastel colors. Splashes of hot pink, lavender cream, and neon green cover the cracked walls of buildings in hip neighborhoods like La Roma, Condesa, and Juarez. Succulent branches drip from the balconies of seemingly every apartment building—it’s as if owning plants are a requirement for residency.
Every day during our stay in this bustling city of nearly nine million, billowing clouds hung low on the verge of rain. When the showers did come, they would only last for 30 minutes before the sun would take over once again.
The Mexico City coffee scene is tucked away, its members inhabiting small spaces scattered in between shops and restaurants. Here, coffee is an occasion—rarely an on-the-go pick-me-up. You order an AeroPress, French press, or Chemex at a counter and sit down to chat or read a book. Things start late and end late—the average business hours for the cafes in this guide are 9am–8pm. And just remember, an order takes 15 minutes to come out—good coffee takes time.
One of Chiquitito’s two locations is in La Condesa, where the streets are marked by trendy desayuno spots and late-night mezcal joints. Chiquitito roasts their own beans, which they get from a small producer in Boca del Monte, Veracruz. Choose from a standard menu of espresso and milk beverages (alternative milk options are available, as is the case at most specialty cafes in the city), the latter of which all come adorned with effortless latte art. For those looking to really slow things down, Chiquitito offers a number of manual brew options, including V60, AeroPress, Chemex, and French press. For sweet treats, try a matcha latte and vanilla chai, or a pan dulce. For those who come for lunch, Chiquitito also make stuffed, savory sandwiches in-house.
El Ilusionista Café
Finding El Ilusionista Café isn’t a work of magic. This corner spot in a smaller, residential neighborhood in Escandón has a spacious, open interior filled with wooden picnic benches and windows that face out to the streets. A multi-roaster, they brew with beans from around the globe, and go full coffee science on their beverages—you can count on your coffee being ground and brewed on display right in front of you; even French press ratios are weighed on scales. At El Ilusionista, the baristas work on an array of manual brewers, from Clever drip to Chemex to siphon. In addition to a simple espresso and tea menu, standouts include seasonal options like cold brew with cardamom, and lavender ice cream affogatos. Take your time here and grab a sandwich while you’re at it.
Distrito Fijo Club de Ciclismo
If you thought bikes and coffee were only an established pairing in the United States, think again. Distrito Fijo Club de Ciclismo is a trendy bicycle shop and cafe set in the lush, quiet streets of Juárez. De Ciclismo also offers bicycle repair and tune-up services, as well as memberships for their bicycle club, which basically consists of a bunch of people riding bikes, playing ping pong, and attending events at the cafe like “after hours” beer tastings and film nights. Their coffee is all organically grown in Chiapas and roasted in the city, and can be paired with a variety of food options, like waffles and burgers. Explore the upstairs retail/hang out space or take a seat on the sidewalk patio, replete with bike racks, of course. Get a classic espresso drink or manual brew of Chemex, Dripper, and AeroPress. A small tea menu is also available.
Café Avellaneda is a tiny nook of a coffee bar and roasting space in the dense yet cozy artists’ neighborhood of Coyoacán, home to the world-famous Frida Kahlo Museum. Avellaneda’s owner, Carlos de la Torre, is the two-time winner of the Mexican Brewers Cup and also proudly roasts his shop’s Oaxacan beans in Mexico City—a portion of every cup of coffee sold is donated to a partnered coffee farm to combat coffee leaf rust. One especially unique offering, in addition to small cookies alongside each in-house beverage, are Mexican coffee cocktails. Try Avellaneda’s version of an espresso Old-Fashioned—tonic water with espresso and a twist of lemon—or something more appropriate to the region. Their Juanito cocktail is espresso with tamarindo (a sweet, citrusy soda), juniper, tonic water, and a twist of grapefruit.
If Borola Cafe is a mad science lab for coffee, manager Miguel Santamaria is the scientist behind the experiments. With four locations throughout Mexico City, the multi-roaster is obsessed with the science of coffee and only plays with beans harvested in Mexican states like Oaxaca, Chiapas, and Guerrero. The goal is to make Mexican coffee supreme and to support the country’s coffee producers. Borola’s San Angel location, in particular, is considered “the best-kept secret” in the area. Upon entering, a customer told me, “You’re coming in for the best coffee here. It’s going to be a treat.” An espresso menu is paired with a manual brew menu, which offers an array of just about every method you can think of, including siphon, AeroPress, Kyoto, and Chemex, the lattermost of which is a specialty at Borola. Watching Santamaria behind the bar is like watching someone in competition—he weighs, grinds, smells, and stirs with precision, all while maintaining a relaxed and friendly demeanor. If you’re looking for good conversation with coffee-crazy people, this spot is a must.
Café Negro is yet another of the many coffee joints in Coyoacán, just outside the central area of the city. Roasting their own coffee, Café Negro only serves Mexican options, and proudly supports small producers. The motto—“keep it simple”—makes sense for a coffee shop whose name translates to “black coffee.” To satisfy a sweet tooth, Café Negro offers an extensive, in-house pastry menu of pan dulces, cakes, croissants, and more. Despite it being one of the larger cafe spaces in the area, Café Negro can feel extremely full—many residents and students from the neighborhood can be found here lounging on laptops amongst the succulents, clean white brick walls, and elaborately designed floors. If you can find a seat, enjoy the friendly customer service and take your time to sip on a matcha latte or a carefully prepared French press, siphon, or espresso—while you’re at it, grab a hearty desayuno to stay and a sandwich to-go.