If there is one thing us volunteers of Karikuy have in common, it’s our love of fresh, aromatic espresso based drinks. Unfortunately, coffee in this form is hard to come by as Limeños opt instead for instant Nescafé. The reason? Peru’s best coffee is exported — In 2009, Peru exported 4.8 million bags equalling 580 million dollars worth of coffee. That, coupled with Peru’s poor coffee growing infrastructure makes it almost impossible for coffee growers to fully respect the art of coffee making. But that’s changing as landowners and industry affiliates are creating cooperatives and becoming educated about the importance of coffee quality.
Seek and you shall find. From Lima’s tourist catered operations to full fledged fair trade coffee houses, the streets of Lima forces you to dig deep for the perfect cup of Joe. We started in El Cercado de Lima and branched out to neighboring Miraflores. The list is ongoing and always evolving. Suggestions are strongly encouraged. For now, we have definitely been surprised by what we have found.
Restaurant Don Juan
After a week of no coffee, our bodies began to crave the taste, any taste, of jitter inducing espresso. We detoured into Restaurant Don Juan, a small cafetería on the narrow Calle Carabaya. A strong tasting café con leche and generic mazamorra (Peru’s gooey purple corn concoction) were the name of the game. English-Spanish menus and a close proximity to the Plaza de Armas added a touch of tourist to its lime green colored walls. Restaurant Don Juan, Calle Carabaya 318, Cercado del Lima, 428-8378.
Next door, Jerry’s cozy booths and sweet treat display evoked more of an ice cream parlor than a coffee shop. Our waiter greeted us with an amicable smile as he took down our orders and served up our luke warm coffee. However, it was Jerry’s sumptuous cakes, not their weak tasting espresso, that stole the show — Decadently rich chocolate, creamy tres leches and cappuccino flavored tortas where all the rage. Jerry’s, Calle Carabaya 336, Cercado del Lima, 428-2196.
Arabica Espresso Bar
Arabica Espresso Bar was my first real coffee house experience. Situated on a quiet street near Parque Kennedy, this tiny gem featured four homelike rooms outfitted with contemporary wall art, board games, books and magazines. Our cafe con leche (7 S/.) was served by a funky waitress with green high top sneakers and light pink granny glasses (hipster anyone?). Take a sip and welcome to heaven — A deeply strong latte was enhanced by a perfect coffee art apple. If you go, get your snack on with the complimentary side offering of cantucci, or indulge with one of their silky smooth carrot cakes (4 S/.). Cafe Arabica, Recavarren 269 Miraflores, 715-2152, http://arabicaespressobar.blogspot.com. Also, check out the YouTube video I stumbled upon: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=virlrq4NLvY.
Caffe di Gianfranco
The weekday afternoon business crowd files into Caffe di Gianfranco, a Miraflores nod to Italy. Sitting in what felt like a large indoor sun deck with creme and mocha colored wall, brown tiled floors and lush plants, we sipped on their sweet version of the cafe con leche (5 S/.) which was presented in a delightfully tall glass. If you’re not in the coffee mood, Gianfranco offers many other options. Try one of their delicious gelato flavors like amarena, mango or strawberry or peruse their display of wines, gourmet sauces and jams. Caffe di Gianfranco, Angamos Oeste 598 Miraflores, 446-5150.
Bordered by Calle Jirón Junín and the Plaza de Armas lies our proclaimed Tourist Row, better known as Pasaje Nicolás de Rivera. Restaurants here are your standard alfresco dining fare, catering to tourist with their swank, European-inspired finish and tables decorated with tall wine glasses and white ceramic plates. We tried El Gaucho y La Vaca as well as Supay. Our favorite was La Otra Salsa, where cappuccinos come with a tasty dollop of crema de chantilly. Although Tourist Row was a departure from the other, more authentic haunts we discovered, they still served decent Peruvian coffee, and offered a surefire coffee fix. A cluster of tourist catered restaurants are found on Pasje Nicolás de Rivera, located a block from the Plaza de Armas
Lime green and black is the theme of this fair trade coffee house. Opened in 2007 by American coffee exporter K.C. O’Keefe, Cafe Verde was a modern affair complete with wraparound glass windows and black leather cushioned chairs. Their in-house roasted coffee was smooth, strong and just the way I like it. Need to catch up on some reading? On one of Lima’s overcast, winter afternoons, Cafe Verde is the perfect spot to flip through the daily news. Cafe Verde, Av. Santa Cruz 1305 Miraflores, 242-2589, http://cafeverdeperu.com.
Lani is writer for the Karikuy volunteer program. Visit www.karikuy.org/volunteer for more information.