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May 28, 2012 10:36 AM

Buenos Aires coffee houses

Reading a little bit in a couple of travel books, Eyewitness & Insight, I like the looks of the coffee houses in Buenos Aires. Reminding me a bit of Vienna, Paris, etc.

Just as a starter of conversation, can anyone tell me a couple of things I'm curious about:
simple things about the coffee:

Do they have chalk boards similar to Starbucks here in the U.S. with the confusion names of coffee styles with their sizes. Or are most orderable by menu?

Do many/most of them have just one type of coffee, or are there some coffee houses that one can order by bean variety? (As I've seen years ago in Montreal and Japan.)

Do they supply newspapers? Do many bring books to read? Is it more common to see a table of one person, or two persons?

Do people sit and work on their computers? Do they discourage that?
Or are there internet coffee houses separate for that?
Are there many coffee houses that have wi-fi connection - or whatever that is - 3G?

What is a normal price to pay for a double-shot Americano Espresso - that is if there is that drink in Buenos Aires.

Is there air-conditioning in the coffee houses as a rule?

Is there loud music blaring? If so, are there different patrons for the ones that are blaring certain types of music.

Do 'most' coffee houses serve sandwiches? Do business men/women patronize and/or eat their lunch at the coffee houses on their lunch hours?

I guess I could go on forever about this. I'm just so curious.

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  1. Buenos Aires is a city of conversation so I wouldn't sit and work on your computer - as for all your other questions, I found the cafes to be completely unlike generic Starbucks as each one has its own atmosphere and the service is usually impeccable, they bring you a few little biscuits to go with your coffee and, of course, there are no paper products, real china!

    1 Reply
    1. re: bronwen

      I've been reading extensive blogs and websites, but none have really answered my questions which I have formulated after reading all the information. I guess my questions are too specific. Thanks for your reply.

    2. Hi Rella! I could talk about this topic all day! My wife, daughter and I have been living here for a year. And we've made it a hobby to go to all 73 "café notables", designated by the city government. We have just 10 to go. Here's a map I made of all of them...

      As for your questions, café culture is varied and diverse. There are historic ones, slick ones, hip ones, and everything in between. People go to chat, to eat, to read books, do work on a laptop, or just sit and ruminate. Many, mant have wifi (you ask the waiter for the password ("clave"' or "contraseña"). The ambiance ranges from lous music to no music at all and quiet. Once you order a coffee, the unwritten rule is you can stay as long as you want, and you'll never be bothered by a waiter, until you ask for your bill.

      Except at the fancy, new places, there are few choices: a black, espresso-like (see below) cup, a café con leche, which you can get with just a drop of milk, "cortado", or half milk, "mitad, mitad", and a couple others. When it's served, it usually comes with little cookies, biscuits, and a shot of seltzer water or a little pitcher of water and a glass, or even sometimes with orange juice or orange "drink". Most people will also get a "medialuna", a sweet croissant, or toast, or another kind of many pastries available, especially at breakfast. A regular coffee these days costs around $10 pesos, or US$2.50, but can range from $6 pesos to 15 or more. A medialuna costs around 3 pesos, or 75 cents.

      The coffee, for such a great café city, is pretty bad, by italian or american/starbucks standards. It comes from cheap beans from Brazil that are washed in some sort of sugar solution to make them more drinkable - "torrado" - A lot of expats complain about the quality of coffee here.

      Well, hope some of this helps. If you're planning to come here, I'd be happy to give you suggestions of which cafés are the most unique.


      1 Reply
      1. re: davidncpr

        Yep, you're really something! Sounds like something I'd do, but not quite so through. Moving to Buenos Aries must've been quite a move from the U.S. whether or not you did it with help.

        I can imagine you like it a lot - and that you can speak the language well. I have no knowledge of the language, but I imagine many Argentines would be willing to help.

        I've been spending some time looking at all the youtubes regarding Buenos Aries. Looks wonderful.

        Thanks for your reply. My appreciation!