Editor’s note: This post was updated on Tuesday, Feb. 3, to reflect the closing of Java Bean Cafe, one of our original five favorites.
Maybe they grow the best coffee, but they don’t always drink it.
It’s a peculiar thing about Colombia, something most people would not expect, not when the country is famous for this product. But it’s true.
Colombians so often drink Nescafe, the nasty instant coffee that doesn’t come close to the best farm-grown beans throughout the mountainous regions.
That’s why cafés have not been prevalent in Medellín, not until recently.
There is a trend of them popping up everywhere, likely because of all the foreigners moving to and visiting the city, and that has made our previous coffee shops post obsolete.
To highlight this trend, we at Medellín Living are sharing what we think are the best cafés, what normally would be a Top 5 but has to include an honorable mention section because we couldn’t narrow it down to a quintet.
It was even harder to rank them, so hard, in fact, that we’re doing something different this time: no rankings within the categories of Top 5 and Honorable Mention. We will simply highlight our favorite things about each place.
The criteria to be one of the valley’s best cafés in the first place, although not set in stone, includes value, reliable wi-fi, enough wall outlets for the computer-carrying clientele, comfortable atmosphere, market niche, tasty food and, of course, good coffee.
Here’s what we found…
The Top 5
Café Revolución: Contemporary Brilliance
Carrera 73, Circular #4-10, Laureles
That was enough to convince me Café Revolución would make this list, and the art deco atmosphere adds a great touch as well.
The cappuccino, the chocolate sprinkles a great topping, cost 3,500 pesos (about $2). The coffee it’s made from comes from two different farms, both in Antioquia.
The barbecue chicken panini, made exactly the way a toasted, flatbread sandwich should be and the red peppers put it over the top. It costs 8,900 pesos (about $4.50). It makes me want to try the ham and cheese option too.
The place just opened last month, but it’s only a matter of time before people find it.
It’s at a great location, across from Primer Parque Laureles in an area where new businesses are flocking.
This café is as good a place to go as any if you’re passing through the area.
Cariñito: Posh and Stylish
Carrera 44 #20-55, Ciudad del Río
Ciudad del Rio might be the best part of Poblado, so it’s no wonder an upscale café like Cariñito would find its way here.
I love everything about this café, from coffee and hot chocolate, to the fancy sandwiches — they have turkey! — to the colorful interior and decor. The seats in the shape of open suitcases are a nice touch.
I haven’t tried their pastries yet, but I plan to. There is such a great variety, I might not be able to stop.
I’m a little jealous of anyone who lives nearby.
Café Zeppelin: Ultimate Ambience
Transversal 39 #76-12, Laureles
Café Zeppelin offers what is easily my favorite ambience among all the cafes in the city.
The place is full of antiques, from typewriters to medieval furniture, and I love the fish tank made from a television that never met a remote control.
The coffee is good too, the product of a farm in Antioquia, and I like the combo of a tinto (black coffee) with a brownie topped with vanilla ice cream, all for only 5,500 pesos ($3).
If I want lunch, I’ll have the smoked salmon sandwich, which comes with chips, for 16,000 pesos (about $8.50).
But it’s the interior design that seems to draw people. Even at night, the place is busy.
Daniel, the German owner, really has a good thing going and I hope his success continues.
El Café de Otraparte: From Coffee to Culture
Calle 27 Sur #43A-61, Envigado
No café means more to its community than El Café de Otraparte.
The place is connected to the Casa Museo Fernando González, a museum that was once the home of the Envigado-born writer and philosopher.
It is just part of the cultural initiative of the Corporación Otraparte is committed to in the city.
On that block the corporation is building a big cultural center, a place where Envigado residents and visitors can learn more about art and history in their city.
Oh, and did I mention that café has fresh coffee, great food and the setting of a botanical garden? Well I just did.
You should see it for yourself. You’ll feel doubly good when you leave, knowing you had a great experience and part of the money you spent is being used to promote the history and culture of one of the best places to live in the valley.
Ganso y Castor: French Flavor
Carrera 36 #7-46 (Via Provenza), Poblado
People talk about the romance of France, how the country’s culture seduces you.
I’ve never been, but I feel like Ganso y Castor is a good glimpse of what I someday hope to experience.
Andrea, the Colombian owner and head chef, offers French classics such as escargot, steak tartare and crème brûlée. I had one of the restaurant’s special juice blends, mango and lulo, with my food.
She spent a year in France in the early part of last decade, followed by more than seven years of culinary and hospitality training, and then she got the idea to bring the flavor of the place to Medellín.
Definitely one of my favorite places in Colombia.
Café Velvet: Belgian Flavor
Carrera 37 #8A-46, Poblado
The hot chocolate is the best item on the menu at Café Velvet.
They have a handful of different kinds, but I ordered the basic one on the recommendation of a friend. I had to stir it to melt the thick pieces of chocolate already in what looked like hot and steamed milk, and this is now my go-to place for this drink.
The coffee is good too, but thanks to the Belgian owners, I’ll stick to the chocolate beverages.
El Farolito: The Uni Café
Circular 1 #70-36, Laureles
El Farolito is a tiny spot in a great location…across the street from Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, one of the city’s best universities.
It’s a hub for students looking for an escape from campus for a bit, without getting too far away.
When they’re there, they can choose from a variety of treats, such as sandwiches or pastries, but their coffee drinks are the best items on the menu.
I had the malteada café, a mix of espresso and ice cream. It was pretty good.
Pergamino: A Family Affair
Carrera 37 #8A-37 (Via Primavera), Poblado
The Pergamino story is pretty well-known: two brothers, sons of coffee farm owners, noticed a market inefficiency. Outside of Juan Valdez, there were no real cafes in Medellín.
Thus Pergamino was born, and it has become one of the most popular places to enjoy coffee and desserts.
Thanks to word of mouth and publicity in the story I linked to above, I don’t need to say much more.
What’s your favorite café in the Medellín valley?