Coffee in a Barrio? Of course... in Oaxaca!
When I am in Oaxaca, inevitably, I will be spending time in El Barrio Jalatlaco, the oldest neighborhood in the city. When I first started coming here back in 1999, good coffee was something desired, but seldom found.
Thankfully as this area of the city has started to find it’s personality, it has left behind the vestiges of years of coffee abuse at the hands of Nestle and their ubiquotis brand Nescafé Classico, or as it is known here, No es Café!
Now we are seeing a growing coffee and culture in Jalatlaco anchored by Café El Agora, owned by Arnel Cruz, longtime owner of Casa Arnel, a wonderfully quaint bed and breakfast hotel that has been in the area for years. (Full disclosure, I have stayed at Casa Arnel many times and count the owner Arnel as a friend.]
Think of Café El Agora as the gathering place. Holding court at the corner of Aldama and Hidalgo, Café El Agora has been open a little over two years. In that time it has gradually increased its menu and is now offering baguettes and breakfast alongside the typical coffee house menu of frappes, lattes and cappuccinos. Weekends also give you live music in this beautifully designed shop.
If an up and coming crowd, live music, coffee and a snack is what you are seeking, this place is for you.
Next up is Café Xiguela, located a block away in the shadow of the Church of San Matias. This is the anti-hip option in Jalatlaco. It serves up organic coffee and has an extensive tea list. Small and friendly, Xiguela is only open until the afternoon.
The coffee is good, fresh and strong, the way I like it. Xiguela is quiet and they also offer free Wi Fi, not an option at Café El Agora.
With lots of tables, clean restrooms and plenty of snacks to munch on, it’s a great addition to this part of Oaxaca, and if you need to work and connect, it’s perfect.
Finally, we take a look at Café Blasón, located kitty corner to Xiguela in Jalatlaco. This is a small place and it is more like a coffee bar. In fact with only four tables, their bar is actually filled most nights with people talking to the baristas like they might talk to their local bartender.
Now if you’ve been in Mexico for any length of time, you will recognize the Blasón name as one of the more famous Mexican coffee brands. For years you could only find this brand in local tienditas and supermarkets. The trouble was, what you found then was not what you would want to drink. Think dry, bitter and old.
But the product that this company store is offering here was remarkably smooth. I ordered a latte and it was strong, but not overpowering. Just like I wanted it. The barista even added a nice little touch of latte art.
I went back a few days later and ordered a half kilo of their coffee and it made a great, smooth pot of coffee.
So here’s the deal… you just want coffee? Go to Café Blasón. Looking for a quiet place to work while getting some great organic Oaxacan coffee? Head over to Café Xiguela. And if you are on a date or maybe want a late night snack for cena, you can’t go wrong at Café El Agora.
All three are within a block of each other in the Barrio Jalatlaco, the oldest corner of Oaxaca City, Oaxaca, Mexico. And all three are, in their own right, adding a few distinctive touches to the growing reputation of Oaxacan gastronomy and cuisine.