After some extensive personal research, I give you my top picks of the best independent to small coffee roasters in the El Poblado area of Medellín. Enjoy!
My foray into coffee drinking came rather late in life. At 33 to be exact. I developed the habit whilst going through a dramatic personal life change – a divorce. My co-worker Catherine was also divorcing her husband at the time, and we started to meet for coffee breaks to swap stories and console each other. I despised coffee at that time and to hide the bitter taste I started drinking vanilla lattes from Starbucks. Hardly a real coffee, I know. Now.
By the time the paperwork had been filed, I was left with a craving for a coffee every time my mood felt low. Coffee became a learned association with happiness and comfort – classic Pavlov’s dog theory.
Around the same time, my older brother Mike began his coffee obsession. He had taken the traditional route into coffee drinking as a college student. But now in his thirties, he started studying every detail of coffee preparation in order to get the perfect cup. Over the years, along with him, I learned about beans, coffee regions, roasting, grinding, and espresso machines.
From these origins, I developed a compulsion to seek out the best coffee shops in each city I visit. From Hanoi, Vietnam to Auckland, New Zealand, to Daegu, South Korea, I’ve spent eight years exploring the world looking for the best coffee on offer.
This obsession goes beyond the coffee itself. For me drinking a cup of coffee is an immersive experience. Just as important as the coffee is the ambience of the cafe. The background music, the quirkiness of the interior design, and even the attitude of the baristas is scrutinized before I deem a coffee shop worthy of one of the best in the city.
And so, here’s my list of the top six independent coffee roasters in El Poblado, Medellín. These are in no particular order. I much prefer all of these coffee roasters to the Starbucks coffee shops that have been popping up in El Poblado. Note the above photo is from Pergamino Cafe.
1. Hija Mia Coffee Roasters
Shaun, the proprietor, was perched at the counter on a white metal bar stool when I walked into the alfresco premises of Hija Mia Coffee Roasters on a balmy Wednesday afternoon.
I had never met him, but my landlord told me that the cafe was run by a fellow New Zealander, and the swirl of a black Maori tattoo peeking out from below the edge of his left t-shirt made me pretty certain it was him. I made my introductions – after ordering a flat white of course – and began pressing Shaun for information.
Hija Mia – literally translated as ‘My Daughter’ in Spanish – opened two years ago. The name is an old Antiqouian term of endearment equivalent to ‘darling’ or ‘sweetheart’ that his father-in-law uses regularly. Shaun got into coffee roasting through his sister, who used to work for a large-scale coffee roasters in New Zealand. He learned a lot from and setting up his own roasters in one of the world’s best coffee growing region’s seemed a logical progression after Shaun decided to settle in Medellín.
Hija Mia has a real Antipodean ambience. From the teal porcelain ACME cups from New Zealand to the bespoke expresso machine from Melbourne, the whole cafe oozes the laid-back style of this part of the world. Except for the coffee.
Squeezed inside this 12-seater cafe is a small North 3 kilo coffee roaster. Shaun roasts a fresh batch of Colombian beans in-house once a week to keep up with the demand of cups sold on site and ground bags taken home. The air was still radiating heat from that morning’s roast.
There is something special about a cafe that has its own roaster on site and whose owner hangs around ‘shop’ all day. As a digital nomad, I crave locally run, independent cafes that can provide a sense of belonging in an increasingly segregated world. And Hija Mia does just that.
Location: Carrera 43B # 11-9, Barrio Manila
Drink Recommendation: Flat White (4,500COP)
Food: Quiches; Sweet and savory pastries; Brownies with ice cream.
Hours: 8:00 am to 7:00 pm Monday to Friday; 9:00 am to 3:00 pm Saturdays. Closed Sundays.
Urbania is another great little coffee shop find away from the hub of El Poblado.
The name Urbania is in reference to bringing the best bean of the countryside to the city. This little gem of a cafe also opened its doors in 2015, and offers a very tranquil setting to sip up some caffeine.
But don’t let the understated, rustic decor fool you, Urbania pours up some of the highest quality coffee in Medellín. Like most of the independent roasters in town, Urbania sources its beans from coffee growers in Antioquia and Tolima.
It is a pocket-sized cafe with a very mellow ambience. The perfect cafe for those times you want to hide away from the world and sip in quiet reflection.
Location: Carera 43B # 8-132
Drink Recommendation: Cold Brew
Food: Muffins, Pastries and Baked goods.
Hours: Mondays to Fridays from 7:00 am to 8:00 pm Saturdays and Festivals: noon to 8:00 pm
3. Creador Cafe
Stepping up in scale from Hija Mia and Urbania, we have the more commercial cafe of Creador.
Creador offers a more spacious environment with both comfortable indoor seating and broad outdoor terrace. Ambience wise, one of my favorite aspects about Creador is that it is not a target for local sellers touting ‘Chiclets’. This is a cafe where you can comfortably expose your MacBook Pro without worrying about being hassled every five minutes.
But we are talking about coffee, right?
Creador offers one of the most comprehensive list of coffee preparation methods in town. Eight to be exact. From drip brewing in a Chemex or a Dripper, to AeroPress and French press Immersion brewing, and even vacuum brewing with a sifon, there is sure to be a style and taste profile to suit your palette.
One of the more local preparation methods available is the Tipica method. This filtered method uses a ceramic vessel from a manufacturer in the Carmen de Viboral region. This small village in Antioquia is well known for its handicraft ceramics due to the abundance of feldspar and quartz – fundamental minerals in the fabrication of ceramics – which can be found in the region.
Hand painted floral motif cups from the region are also available for sale on site. A great souvenir for someone back home. Along with a bag of Creador coffee of course!
Creador is also one of the few cafes in El Poblado that offers coffee cocktails for those who want to take their caffeine addiction into the night. Espresso martinis anyone? For the more adventurous there is the Creador GingerBrew where the house ColdBrew is mixed with Ginger Ale.
Also, unique to Creador is that they offer free coffee tasting workshops on the third Saturdays of each month. The next session will be held on Saturday, 23 September 2017 at 3 pm.
Location: Carrera 37A # 8-43
Drink Recommendation: Espresso martini.
Food: Usual mix of cakes and pastries along with a few sandwiches. Between 7.00am and 11.00 am they offer three brunch deals – eggplant on focaccia, eggs, or waffles with fruit – all served with an Americano, Cappuccino or a Latte.
Hours: 6:30 am to 9:00 pm Monday to Sunday and Holidays.
One of the expat favorites is Cafe Velvet, rivaling Pergamino across the street and up a few doors. More on that later.
For me, Velvet has a more relaxed vibe and more spaces to work. Also, as most of the seating is tucked off the main thoroughfare, there is less approaches by locals selling their wares. It still happens if you hang out on the patio, but not as frequently as at Pergamino.
Like all the other independent roasters in town, Velvet offers all of your traditional favorite coffee drinks to a range of slow coffees. Cold brew is also on offer here.
For true coffee aficionados, Velvet is currently offering a limited edition natural Geisha variety of coffee from the finca La Esperanza, Quindio. Geisha or Gehsa is believed to have originated in the mountainous Gesha village of Ethiopia before being imported to Central and South America via Panama. It has recently become the creme de la creme in the high-end coffee world. Forget Kopi Luwak (aka cat poop coffee from Indonesia) and Kona, Geisha is now where it’s at.
For non-aficionados, you just need to know that there are lots of varietals of coffee – just like there are varieties of grapes. Geisha is one of these. Growing in popularity amongst V60 method drinkers, this particular bean has been grown at an altitude of 1800 meters and has a sweet aroma with notes of jasmine and offers a medium body characterized with green tea and acidity.
Cafe Velvet has been operating in Medellín since 2014, and started roasting in early 2015 after importing a Porbatone 5 to use in their special roasting plant in Itagüí. It is the creation of Ilse Geynkens, a Belgian lawyer, who became interested in coffee and the region whilst working for an NGO in Colombia in 2012.
Definitely worth a stop if you are in the area. Oh, and order the carrot cake. The best torta de zanahoria in the city.
Location: Carrera 37 #8A-46, Vía Primavera.
Drink Recommendation: V60 Geisha Natural.
Food: Pastries, cakes, empanadas, quiches, sandwiches, and eggs.
Hours: 8:00 am to 8:00 pm Monday to Saturday; 11:30 am to 8:00 pm Sundays.
5. Pergamino Cafe
For the trendiest coffee shop in town, head to Pergamino Cafe. It is the coffee shop to ‘see and be seen’ at. It’s for the hipsters. The digital nomads in town. You’ve probably already been there. It is the best known independent coffee shop in Medellín and tons has been written about it. Even the Huffington Post has done a review.
So, I’m not sure what new I can tell you about the place.
Their signature coffee is called Lomaverde after their main farm located in the mountains of Santa Barbara, south of Medellín. This farm has an altitude between 5,400 and 6,400 feet above sea level, providing the ideal climate to grow coffee beans. Which in turn produces a Flat White with a very sweet, smooth and bright profile. I like to have mine with a warm galleta (cookie). In this case, chocolate chip.
Like Creator, you can have your coffee in a variety of preparation methods from Chemex, French Press, Aeropress and Siphon.
As for the brand name, Pergamino refers to the outer shell that covers green coffee before dry milling. In case you were wondering like me.
If you only visit one coffee shop whilst you are in Medellín, then go to this one.
Location: Carrera 37 # 8A-37, Vía Primavera
Drink Recommendation: Cold Brew Guandolo (6,900COP)
Food: Cookies, Cake, Baked empanadas, quiches, and croissants. A small breakfast menu is served daily from 8:00 am to 1:00 pm with a selection of baked egg dishes and granola.
Hours: Monday to Fridays 8:00 am to 9:00 pm; Saturdays 9:00 am to 9:00 pm; Sundays 10:00 am to 6:30 pm
6. Al Alma
Al Alma is actually a chain of cafes. I know, I said I was only focusing on independent coffee shops. But I include it in the list because it roasts its beans in Medellín, making it local enough for me. In the El Poblado area, you can find locations in Provenza and Manila.
Al Alma is my local. I have literally had a coffee there every day since arriving in Medellín seven weeks ago. The great thing about being a local is that you start to build a rapport with the baristas. And that familiar daily face is something I crave – and have regularly sought out – from coffee shops each time I settle into a foreign city for a while.
Beyond the friendly faces to greet me, Al Alma wins hands done for having the best and broadest brunch offerings. From Eggs Benedict to granola with yogurt to green smoothies to vegan milk, you should easily be able to find something on either the Spanish or English menu to entice your taste buds.
Location: Between Carrera 35-36 on Calle #8, Provenza or Carrera 43b # 11a #43b-132, Manila barrio
Drink Recommendation: A cafe latte
Food: Al Alma offers the most extensive food menu of all the cafes listed. Their brunch menu is the star choice.
Hours: Monday to Friday 7:00 am to 8:00 pm; Saturday and Sunday 9:00 am to 6:00 pm
Locations of our 6 best coffee roasters in El Poblado