Lost in Colombia: The Coffeeshops of Cartagena

Blogging Your Trip, City Travel, Colombia, Couples Travel, Dispatches from the Road, Food & Wine, Websites and Blogs — By on April 9, 2009 at 3:04 pm
ADP: Even if you’re hard at work on a big project (in my case, a book!) every Lost Girl needs a vacation. This year, I took mine in Cartagena, Colombia and posted about my experiences for the fabulous travel website Jaunted. This week and next, I’ll be sharing dispatches from my journey, and (hopefully) dispelling some of the myths that Colombia is a risky place to visit (it’s not, but its wise to stick to the beaten track ). Got questions? Email us at lostgirlsworld@gmail.com.

crepes y waffles Pop quiz, caffeine junkies: What’s the only coffeehouse that’s actually headquartered in a coffee producing country? It’s Juan Valdez Café, a multinational chain created in 2002 by Colombian National Federation of Coffee Growers. Named after the country’s longtime java icon (you know, that mustachioed guy with the donkey who hand-delivers beans to sleep-deprived Americans in commercials) the company has locations in 25 Colombian cities, nine countries, including the U.S.

Jeff and I ducked into a JVC outpost during our first morning in Cartagena, and the place was so jam-packed with upwardly mobile, espresso-sipping locals that we couldn’t find a place to sit–nor a bathroom.

That critical design omission compelled us to keep walking down Avendida San Martin, the main drag in the Bocagrande neighborhood (a zone almost completely devoid of American tourists), to another heralded Latin American chain: Crepes y Waffles.

As the name implies, this al fresco restaurant serves up dozens of varieties of crepes (both traditional and esoteric, sweet and savory) and waffles, plus pitas, soups, salads, blintzes and ice creams. The chain has created its own propriety blend of coffee, a mildly acidic brew that’s a nice counterpoint to all of those sweet, sweet desserts.

We sat in a lovely, spacious garden in front of the restaurant to order up our brunch, and decided to get a little creative with our food choices. In retrospect, perhaps a “Tex Mex” crepe wasn’t the wisest thing to order while visiting Colombia (it probably wouldn’t have been a the smartest option even if we’d been visiting El Paso, Texas).

Cartagena Coffee Colombia

Despite the abundance of excellent Colombian beans to be had Colombia, Jeff and I didn’t really have a favorite cup of café Americano until a local tipped us off to Mila, a European-style pastry shop in the Centro District of Cartagena. Located in what was once a centuries-old family home, pastry chef Camilla (“Mila”) Andrea Vargas interior has transformed the space in to a bright, airy café with a small courtyard seating area, white leather banquette and bakery fully visible behind a pane of smudge-free glass.

Within gleaming display cases, you’ll see all manner of irresistibly confectionery (think ginormous brownies with a teacup-size dollop of dulce de leche and slices of cake as big as a brick) and plate glass mirrors displaying a full menu of wraps, sandwiches, salads, drinks and coffee drinks.

Jeff and I ordered up two café Americanos and the brownie two split. Our coffees arrived served with a shot class of water with a floating sprig of mint, plus single-nibble square of cake. Between the caffeine and the giant hit of sugar, Jeff and I were on a high for the rest of the afternoon and well into the evening. A good thing, as during Carnival season in Colombia, the last thing you want to do is sleep.

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