Shopfront

Shopfront

Last post on Guatemala to provide some closure. Fernando’s Kaffee was really difficult to find, thanks to limited language skills and nonexistent map read abilities. Oh, and the fact that cafe hopping seem to be a gringo thing doesn’t help when I ask the locals for directions because they don’t know where it is. Thankfully I persevered, and after wandering around haplessly for a good half hour finally arrived at the cafe. The small shop is cozy, with a dark front room set up with the espresso machine and pastry displays opening up into a very cozy courtyard with tables set around a lush garden. I could have spent all day just sitting in that garden reading a book or surfing the web, wifi enabled.

Fernando's espresso

Fernando's espresso

 Of course, I would also order a drink, an espresso in fact. The owner, Fernando, is a coffee fanatic and roasts his own coffee on-site for extreme freshness. The double espresso I sampled was testament of his fervor, impossibly smooth with a beautiful golden crema and fragrant aroma. As a souvenir, I also brought home a few packs of hand peeled, home made chocolate covered cacao beans, each enrobed in a dark, bitter sweet chocolate and packed with crunchy, nutty cacao bean segments. The spicy version, where the chocolate has been spiked with pepper is especially addictive and gone in minutes once I brought it back to the office to my ravenous coworkers, so I am excited to hear that Fernando is planning to start an e-commerce site with global shipping too!

Fernando’s Kaffee

7 Avenida Norte No. 43D

www.fernandos-kaffee.com/index.html

 

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Seedlings

Seedlings

I had no lack of coffee in Guatemala, where I spent mornings waking up to the fragrant aroma of coffee at our little B&B, Casa Madeleine, and refueled in the afternoons at the numerous coffee shops in Antigua. Coffee is Guatemala’s most prominent export, and since I was at the source of my favorite libation, I decided to spend some time visiting a coffee plantation.  Finca Filadelfia, located just outside the city limits of Antigua is not your typical small scale cooperative farm. Instead it is a sizeable commercial operation set in a very lush and plush estate, complete with its own hotel. Besides the coffee tour, the plantation also offer horse rides and zip-line excursions for the more adventurous. Me? I was content sitting in the tour trucks that resembled open-air military vehicles going through the grounds.

It was an intimate tour perhaps due to the intermittent rain, with just me, 2 Israeli men who also happened to live in New York during a point in their lives and our very chatty, very enthusiastic guide J. We watched grafted coffee plantlings grow undisturbed inside enclosed tents, learnt the differences between robusta and arabica plants and picked out coffee beans (and discovered worms in the overripe ones). Inside the processing facility, we were quizzed about the hows and whys of coffee selection, grading and roasting. Of course, we also spent time sipping espressos afterwards as we shared our own experiences drinking, cooking, burning those precious beans. I left thoroughly impressed by the sheer number of steps it takes for the coffee to end up in our cups and the entire tour operation, to the point that I then steered about 10 more friends to take the tour in the following days.

http://www.rdaltoncoffee.com/

With time to spare before or after church on the UES, I’ve found myself, thanks to Karen’s recommendation, headed towards Nespresso’s boutique on Madison Avenue for a cup of coffee. Unlike your neighborhood coffee shop, the cafe is part of an international luxury brand of coffee shops showcasing, besides the coffee, its ultra-modern coffee machines. The samples are cups of coffee patrons unfortunately still have to pay exorbitant amounts for, but thankfully they are expertly made with one’s choice of roast ranging from the fully astringent to the very mild-bodied. Experts may be able to taste the difference between the different blends, but for now, I’m just content lounging on one of the comfortable seats, sipping my foamy cappuccino while simultaneously munching on good but overpriced pastries. At $10 for a cap and a canele, its a good thing I don’t live nearby.

Nespresso is the upscale brand amongst the stable of Nestle brands, complete with branches on Madison Avenue and Champs Elysees and an ad campaign featuring George Clooney. It is admirable how successful the price discrimination exercise has been, that no one upon entering the Nespresso boutique would associate it with the chocolate bar or 3-in-1 coffee Nestle is known for. In fact, the line of cleanly designed coffee machines and the shiny aluminum capsules filled with different coffee blends that line the back wall whispers luxury, discernment and worldliness. It also sends subliminal messages such as “Buy me, buy me” to my brain. Indeed, if I’m not careful, I’m going to end up with a brand new machine and a box of multi-hued coffee capsules.  

Nespresso Boutique Bar

761 Madison Ave (Between 65th & 66th Sts)

http://www.nespresso.com/precom/contact/index_boutique_us_en.html?ref=NewYork2

zibetto macchiatoI know I’m my father’s daughter when coffee became my nightcap of choice. I’m far from addicted, largely due to the scarcity of drinkable coffee near the workplace, but on weekends when I’m not limited to Starbucks in the office, I’ve cultivated go-tos where I down an easy dozen cups per weekend. One of my midtown go-to happens to be Zibetto. It is a sliver of a shop space stuck in an unglamorous part of 6th Ave, serving just coffee and pastries. There are no seats, no wifi, and the bar is tight as can be. It is not a space to linger, nor does the proprietor encourage you to do so. But the shots of espresso (Danesi beans) are expertly pulled, the crema thick and always a consistent shade of tan. I like my espresso marked with a little foamed milk, aka a caffe macchiato, the foam providing an illusion of cream, making the drink even more delectable and sinful then it is. And the coffee at Zibetto is never bitter and overdrawn, goes down smoothly and leaves a tingly sensation on my tongue. A delightful tingle with each shot, that lasts till I walk the rest of the way home.  

Zibetto Espresso Bar

1385 6th Ave (Between 56th & 57th Sts)