As you may have noticed, Chileans are not the coffee experts you may have anticipated. In fact, the closest thing there is in the morning is some boiling water and a can of Nescafé.
Photo by Iván Núñez
You don’t have to live like this: here are 10 acceptable purveyors of espresso and good ambience in Santiago.
Although this café initially has more of a bar atmosphere, the comfortable chairs and selection of drinks make it a worthwhile stop.
In addition to the standard espresso drinks and hot chocolate, Café Abarzúa has a wide variety of cold lattes and iced specialty drinks, which is somewhat uncommon here in Santiago. That's excellent news when wandering the streets of Lastarria in the summer, considering an iced mocha is typically much more refreshing than a steaming café cortado (coffee with milk).
Travelers and expatriates will rejoice over this café's selection of “American” breakfasts, including bagels, pancakes, bacon and eggs. It’s usually packed with gringos who are served delicious, relatively low-priced espresso drinks by a friendly staff. Café Melba is only open for breakfast and lunch, so get going early and sip a latte in this pleasant haven.
Although this café is mainly known as a phenomenal gelato shop, there's no better place to indulge and caffeinate at once. Sit on the breezy, sun-dappled patio and people-watch as you sip a café helado con crema y chocolate (espresso with ice cream, chocolate sauce and whipped cream). The gelato is out of this world, and the coffee is up to standards as well. While it’s a bit pricier than other cafés in Lastarria (between CLP$1350 for a latte and CLP$2900 for an espresso with ice cream and chocolate), it’s worth the splurge just to sample the manjar chocolate gelato and watch the baffled tourists.
Somehow this chic dessert shop always houses an above-average amount of people at all open hours. After reviewing the menu, it becomes clear why: In addition to cakes, pastries, chocolates and all sorts of well-displayed confectionaries, Condi Pastelería also offers rich espresso and tea drinks served with an elegant ambiance. It is also one of the few classy espresso joints in downtown Ñuñoa.
With a good vibe, fresh coffee and a relaxed attitude, this popular, stylish café is well decorated and one could probably lose an afternoon here with the aid of a good book.
For the non-caffeine junkies, the natural juice selection is extensive and tasty.
This is the perfect stop if you are wandering around Bellavista in the afternoon; it provides a sanctuary from the somewhat aggressive clubs and bars along Pio Nono and Constitución. Meander through the random assortment of literature or sit upstairs for some privacy. The staff is kind, the coffee is strong and the vibe is relaxed and casual.
With billowing fabrics lining the ceiling and classic rock albums decorating the walls, their claim that Living del Té has “un grato ambiente, con música agradable para conversar o escuchar, buen trato” (“gratifying ambience with music conducive to listening or conversation, a good set up”) seems true. The specialty drinks, such as the Café Living (with expreso, esencia, crema chantilly o leche), are indulgent and creative.
A legitimate stop for a coffee addict, the quaint café offers three quality levels of coffee, at three different price levels. At CP$700 (US$1.27), the lowest-budget option is "A," Colombia Excelso/ Arabica Premio (is sufficient for a coffee aficionado, but you can roll as pricey as the CLP$950 Orgánico espresso option “D.” Sit on the patio and watch passers-by or check out some of the art inside the spacious, well-lit café.
Right across the street from Tomodachi is, a cute, classic café with a vintage feel and high-quality espresso drinks. The drinks, such as the tasty mochaccino, are nicely styled and full of flavor, and sitting in old-fasioned couches is a comfortable experience. The food, such as the smoked salmon sandwich, are up to standards as well. It gets crowded in the early evening so be prepared to get there early or wait a while.
With an inviting patio, friendly staff, stacks of newspapers and magazines, and a daily menu that always sounds appealing, this café is the perfect place to meet a friend. Men in suits converse and eat salads, young dreadlocked hipsters sit at laptops for hours, and well-dressed women sip coffee and smoke as the hours pass. The espresso is strong, the atmosphere seems intelligent and relaxed, the café helado is decadent and the pastries always look a little too inviting. Perfect after a visit to Bellas Artes or the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo.
If you are really fiending for a cup of "American" joe, the obligatory Starbucks and Dunkin’ Donuts throughout the city make good coffee and espresso. However, the only benefit from going to either of these chains would be a) a feeling of familiarity if you are from the States or b) a Manjar Smiley donut from Dunkin’ Donuts. Those are undeniably delicious.