In Search of Good Coffee in Chile

What we would do for a decent Piccolo (soya milk for me please)! Yes, I drink soya milk in my coffee and yes I have heard various times that it is bad or it ruins the coffee but as a person with lactose intolerance, and a love of soya milk, it is a win win for me. Although I can tolerate small amount of lactose I actually no longer enjoy the taste of cows milk in my coffee. David is slowly coming over to the dark side, well maybe.

Clearly our expectations of coffee in Chile were wrong. I expected, given how close they are to some of the most amazing coffee exported in the world, that there would be somewhat decent coffee here. Nope, wrong, so very wrong. Oh and many places will probably not serve soya milk even though you can buy in the supermarkets. *sigh*

So what is a Piccolo? A Piccolo is a Ristretto shot (15 – 20 ml) topped with milk of ones choice served in a 100 ml glass demitasse (small latte glass). It seemed like Piccolos don’t really exist here in South America however, I read that the Spanish version of this is the Cataldo so I will attempt to order when I see it on the menu and see how it turns out. If all fails our drink of choice will default to a Macchiato which with their small amount of cows milk is somewhat tolerable for me or an espresso.

Upon entering and walking around you notice pretty quickly that Nescafe has brainwashed these people in to thinking that instant coffee is better then real coffee. Nescafe’s marketing team have really done a number on this country. Pretty much everywhere that says they sell coffee in serving you instant Nescafe or pod coffee by Nescafe. Discovering this created a massive ‘sad face’ moment. There are coffee chains all around Santiago called Cafe Haiti and Cafe Caribe and  maybe some others but we saw these every few shops. We decided to try Cafe Haiti and got an espresso. It was, well to us, so bad like so so bad. I drank it to be polite and then we left. They serve Italian style coffee and I really do not love this. Anyway, these types of Cafe’s are known as ‘Coffee with Legs’ basically the waitresses wear short dresses or skirts with heels and serves coffee which is drunken mostly standing up. This is popular for business men on-the-go and they have a quick coffee and chat with the waitresses or other business men. It seems a bit sleazy but the vibe isn’t there. They are incredibly popular and the outdoor standing area was always packed when we walked past. Meh, I guess if it floats your boat. We were not fans!

After disappointment after disappointment we put some time in to searching Google for decent, real coffee in Chile…which we discovered exists. We started this trip in Santiago and are slowly making our way up the coast of Chile and still in search for good coffee. So far we have discovered the following places that make somewhat good coffee in this country surrounded by Nescafe.

Wonderful Cafe

Location: José Victorino Lastarria 90, Santiago, Región Metropolitana

This cafe is set up well and has an amazing blue coffee machine that is hard  not to admire. Here we order Palta con Tostadas and Jamon and Queso Croissant and two Macchiatos. They speak minimal English but we are slowly getting better at ordering in Spanish, well getting by. The coffee was smooth and they had soya milk so double bonus (even though it is wasted on a Macchiato).

Score: 4.5 out of 5

Colmado

Location: Merced 346 patio interior | Barrio Lastarria, Santiago,Chile

Here we ordered two Macchiatos the first time we visited and went back later for late lunch and had two sandwiches one was a pulled pork and the other pastrami and both had homemade sauce on them. The coffee was also smooth, similar to wonderful cafe, limited bitterness.

Score: 4.5 of out 5

Faustina

Location: Andres Bello 2177 Providencia RM 7500000 Santiago Chile

Here we ordered two Macchiatos and David got the brownie (he is brownie obsessed). The Macchiatos came out as Piccolos. Which was great for David but bad for me as it was cows milk and too much of it. Nonetheless it was still a good coffee. Another smooth coffee with limited bitterness.

Score: 4 out of 5

Melbourne Cafe

Location: Plaza, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso

Here we ordered two Piccolos (yep they do Piccolos) one on cows milk and one on soy milk (yay). Still surprised they had Piccolos on the menu. The coffee was good, smooth and limited bitterness, but they either put sugar in my coffee or the soy milk is super sugary (YUK).

Score: 4 out of 5

Lighthouse Cafe

Location: Manuel Antonio Matta #570 Centro, La Serena

We visited Lighthouse Cafe twice while in La Serena. The shop itself is beautiful to dine in. The first time we ordered two ristrettos and unfortunately we were not a fan. The coffee was quite acidic and not that pleasant to drink. The second time we visited we had breakfast and coffee. David got a macchiato and I got a soy latte (well not exactly). I really wanted something that resembled a piccolo given that is not common to find here, although easy to get as macchiatos are often made like piccolos. My ‘latte’ was a cappuccino and a massive one at that. David’s macchiato came out as a piccolo and I got a stupid cappuccino! *massive sad face*. We ordered the brunch which read as eggs benedict with sides of bacon and sausage. I think there is some confusion about what eggs benedict, well what hollandaise is. The ‘hollandaise’ was cheese sauce. Kind of missed the mark on that one. Nonetheless, the food was still quite tasty!

Score: For the risterettos: 2 out of 5; macchiato: 3.5 out of 5 and ‘latte’: 0 out of 5 because I didn’t order a cappuccino and it was just a big cup of soya milk.

Terracota Cafe

Location: Las Rojas Ote 1642, La Serena

Here we ordered macchiatos but I used my little Spanish to explain that I wanted an a shot of coffee in the short glass but topped with soya milk. YAY IT WORKED! I got that and although this is not technically a Piccolo it was the next best thing. I liked the coffee here and the soya milk was decent. David wasn’t completely sold and thought it was a bit bitter but was okay.

Score: 3.5 out of 5.

Marley Coffee

Location: Amunátegui 2075, Iquique (Apart of Backpackers Hostel Iquique)

This place is apart of the hostel we stayed at in Iquique so we figured we had to try it given the reviews when booking. Each time we got two macchiatos but with lactose free milk as they didn’t have soya. We had the option of making the macchiato as standard or like a piccolo. We opted for the piccolo option. The coffee smells amazing being ground but is only okay when drinking it. Given the experience of sub par coffee in Chile it was okay with low expectations. Potentially the milk is over heated and the coffee is over extracted but we will take what we can get.

Now there are a few Marley Coffee shops and they are not all made the same. They all use the Marley Coffee beans but we made the mistake of going to the one up the road and they have a automatic machine that pores the coffee like you would see at McDonalds. It was pretty bad. It was expensive and BAD. Nothing else to say.

Score: 3 out of 5.

That is it from our coffee exploring in Chile. Our next stop is Peru. Keep up to date with our blog post about coffee in Peru coming soon.

N.

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