Michael: Colombia is coffee. In Bogotá great coffee shops abound. No, you won’t find any Starbucks here. But those places where one can partake of the brew come in various types and sizes. Sure we have the big places that specialize in coffee while offering a few goodies to snack on. There are many shops where their main product is baked goods but they do a good business in coffee to go with it. Then there are the small hole-in-the-wall mom and pop type that serve coffee and have a small oven where they bake such Colombian delights as pan de yucca and pan de bono. Almost no matter where you go in the city you can find coffee within one block of your location. Heck, early in the morning you even find the tinto (black coffee) salesmen on the street.
Graciela: For over eight years now Michael and I visit a coffee shop at least 300 days a year. We have tried several places in many different parts of Bogotá. So when we sat down to make out top ten favorite list it was not easy. We both had different opinions. Obviously we needed criteria.
Michael: To make the list the coffee must be excellent . After that we considered what offerings the place had to go with the drink. Service and environment is important. Service is where many places lost points. Concerning environment, it is basically a feeling taking into consideration things that affect the five senses.
It still took some debate, but finally we came to an agreement on the list. Ladies first, so I’ll let my wife deliver the number 10 position.
Graciela: #10 – Pan Fino -There is a reason why a place stays in business for years, especially with much competition around. I visited Pan Fino on Carrera 7 near Calle 53 with my parents when I was six years-old. Sine than it has maintained the practice of offering quality products at a fair price. That was well over 50 years ago. What really puts this place in the top ten is their delicious breads, deserts and pastries. They have such a wonderful selection of breads that you just can’t help but take a loaf home.
Michael: #9 – Muffins y Panes – I watched them refurbish the building to become Muffins y Panes. The owners took their time seemingly trying to get things correct. In my opinion, the forte is their pastries which are displayed in a long glass case as you enter.
There are many offices nearby their location in Pasadena Bario on Calle 103 with Carrera 53. It only made sense for Pannes y Muffins to offer a breakfast and lunch menu.
Environment is enjoyable enough. Though when the street is busy the outside tables could be considered a little too noisy by some. There are three inside tables. Outside under an awning surrounded by glass walls has another dozen tables. It seems that most customers gravitate outside.
Graciela: #8 – 27 Café – One gets the feeling of sitting outside while inside. Three of the walls are glass. However if you wish to enjoy the weather the Niza Centro Comercial has a patio just outside the doors with tables and chairs. Though the busy streets of Calle 127 and Avenida Suba are near, the coffee shop is shielded from both of them.
27 Café made our top ten also because of eats and service. Their assortment of delectables to eat with your coffee is not huge, but varied enough. It has a selection consisting of pan de bono, pastel gloria, various cakes and occasionally pan de yucca. We have been there many times and service is always excellent. Drinks and goodies are delivered quickly and tables are cleared expediently.
Michael: #7 – Oma in Centro 93 – Oma has both coffee shops and restaurants throughout the city. I have been a big fan of their brand of coffee from my first trip to Bogotá several years back. The company calls their food places coffee restaurants. However in our experience they do not give the feeling one can just drop in for coffee and stay awhile. Many of their coffee places are open areas in a mall. Usually the design is such that the cacophony of noise interferes with a pleasant conversation while trying to enjoy the beverage. There is an exception to this. It is the Oma inside of centro comercial Centro 93. The location in barrio Chicó Norte a couple blocks from Parque 93 draws not just shoppers but many business people in the area. The fact they are on the second floor away from main traffic creates a more comfortable environment.
Like most Oma coffee only places the tables are small and perfect for one or two people. However there is a place for four people to sit and talk. Decoration is standard for their shops, simple with much red color used. A high glass front case holds a selection of coffee accompaniments from cookies to cakes and breads.
#6 – Cinemania – Hold on just a minute. I can see the wheels turning in the heads of those who know Spanish, Bogotá or both. This place is a movie theater. Well, right you are, but the pleasantness of its coffee area combined with some delicious pastries put it in or top ten.
There are a couple tables inside. It is the outside awning covered area with plants and glass walls as well as heaters for the slightly cooler days that entices you to take a coffee before the movie starts, or enjoy afterward and discuss one of the art movies they excel in showing on the silver screen.
It is in what I consider a gringolandia area, a block from Parque 93 at Carrera 14 #93-85. That means there many expensive places around to get a coffee. But in my opinion you can’t beat Cinemania for ambience. The exception of course are those who get a rush from loud noisy places with ostentatious decoration charging you high prices. With Cinemania, see a great movie and enjoy a coffee and pastry in an enjoyable environment.
Graciela: #5 – Romannoti Pasteleria – There are three other coffee shops in the area of Autopista and Calle 125, but this place always has the most customers. The variety of breads filling the front window is a draw. It is also one of the few coffee shops where someone will take your order at your table. The servers hustle, so service gets a high rating. There are both inside and outside tables. Like other places the outside are under an awning and surrounded by glass walls. It is a pleasant place to sit and watch the people hustle and bustle about.
Michael: #4 – Nico Pan – The only way my wife can get me to accompany her to Sunday church is to promise a coffee and goodie at Nico Pan. The house turned panaderia/coffee shop also serves small meals like tamals and eggs. It is located across from San Juan de Avila church on Calle 134 near the Avenida 19.
Nico Pan is the opposite of many other coffee shops in that they have more tables inside than outside. The three outside tables have potted bamboo plants on two sides. Many times I see customers there with their dogs. It is a great stopping place when out walking your dog. Another approximately 20 tables are inside on three levels. The owner is frequently on the premises and greets customers with a smile. After that service is most often expedient.
While sweets and cookies fill the glass front showcases it is the bread type baked delights sitting open that tempt my taste buds. Nico Pan does make one of the best pan de yucca in the city. Plus it is one of the few places offering a quality corn bread.
Graciela: #3 – Brot Bakery and Café – Located at Calle 81n. 7-93. This coffee shop is so good that Michael and I previously wrote about it. In our opinion it has the very best outside seating. Both the variety and taste of their breads is excellent. I highly recommend the place and their pan de chocolate to visitors.
Michael: We are down now to the last two places vying for the number one spot. My wife and I debated for an hour which should receive the honors. Conclusion is they both should. The reason is that each is number one in its own category. One is a primarily a coffee place. The other is a panaderia (bakery) that also serves coffee.
Graciela: #2 (really sharing the #1 spot) – Moksha Pasteleria – We did a full review on the coffee shop/artesanal bread and its owner both in English and Spanish. It is a small coffee shop that specializes in artesanal breads, cupcakes and more. What puts Moksha at the top of our list is it has everything, quality products, fast personal service and a very comfortable environment. While other coffee places may have one strong point, Moksha is superb in every area.
Michael: #1 – Juan Valdez at centro comercial Porto Alegre – What can I say? Colombia is coffee and Juan Valdez is Colombian coffee. The company conducts extensive tests to make sure their coffee is the best. Sometime back I was privileged enough to be allowed in to the testing labs. There I saw the lengths the company goes to retain its quality standards.
The company has 64 coffee centers around Bogotá. My wife and I have not been to every single one, but I believe we are close. Obviously the customer is going to receive the same great coffee no matter which Juan Valdez they choose. The cookies, donuts cakes and breads offered are pretty standard as well. It is the service and ambiance that puts the Porto Alegre location above the rest. There are no inside tables. Everything is open air. They use an awning system that, depending upon the weather, allows the coffee drinker to choose whether to sit in the sun or shade. For cooler days heaters are stationed around. Plants and glass walls surround the round tables and comfortable chairs. I feel very relaxed sitting there with my coffee and writing. The huge difference is service. From our experience this is the only Juan Valdez that has one person continually cleaning the tables, arranging chairs and helping customers who may have sat down and forgot napkins, sugar, stir straws or something else. Plus that person always seems to have a greeting for regulars. The personal attention makes a difference.