Coffee Shops in San Juan
Image cc Puerto Rico Tourism Co.
There’s something magical about a cup of coffee. Well, not just any cup of joe! It must unquestionably begin with quality beans. [Disclaimer: I’m not a purist and I will sometimes add cinnamon and other toppings if the beans are not great to begin with] For me, it’s a double-shot latte, extra frothy, with brown sugar (don’t judge!) and preferably with some sort of latte art (ok, go ahead and judge!!). I drink it for the taste, the aroma and for the happiness it evokes. It’s an art and a ritual; one I hope to enjoy for the rest of my life.
If you appreciate coffee like me, you’ll find that Puerto Rico is a coffee lover’s paradise.
The Island’s coffee has been ranked as some of the best in the world. The climate, elevation, soil and hard-working farmers that labor to make ‘bean to cup’ a reality have made it an exceptional place for coffee cultivation.
The history of coffee in Puerto Rico dates back to the late 18th century and is credited to the Corsicans who brought the Arabica coffee bean to the Island and began cultivating coffee in the mountains. The 19th century marked the golden era of coffee production and coffee became one of the Puerto Rico’s largest exports along with sugarcane and tobacco. At the turn of the 20th century, the coffee industry entered into a decline due to several factors, including increased global competition, hurricane destruction and inflation. The 1950s fostered another setback. The United States Government implemented a series of tax incentives for corporations, mainly pharmaceuticals, to relocate to Puerto Rico and open manufacturing facilities. This had a detrimental effect on our agriculture. In its simplest form, people went to work in the factories and stopped farming (generally speaking).
Teddy Wolff for Spoon Food Tours
But as Puerto Rico does, we persevered. There remained a handful of companies and families that continued the tradition of cultivating and processing their coffee against all odds. In recent years, the global trend of seeking out quality, bean to cup coffee has resulted in a surge of interest and the opening of coffee shops throughout San Juan.
Hurricane Maria, which made landfall on September 20, 2017, destroyed 80 – 90% of the Island’s coffee crops. The challenges faced by the local coffee industry are monumental but the farmers, baristas and shop owners are optimistic and determined to create consciousness of specialty Puerto coffee throughout the world.
Without further adieu, here’s where we’re drinking coffee now:
Café Comunión – San Juan’s newest kid on the block is the brainchild of Abner Roldán & Karla Ly Quiñones García. It’s location in Santurce and minimalist design with concrete finishes, touches of green and high ceiling, makes this shop an Instagrammers dream. Aside from the cool decor, the coffee, which comes from top local & U.S. roasters (Café Satovento, Barista, Onyx, Panther etc). is silkier than your finest Turkish sheets. Kudos to this coffee power couple for opening up post María. That alone is worth the visit and support.
cc: Café Comuníon
Café Don Ruiz – This coffee shop is near and dear to our hearts. We’ve been working with owner Abimael Ruiz and
manager Josué Sanjurjo (now owner of Affogato Ice Cream & Coffee Bar) since they opened their doors in 2013. Thank you Abimael and Josué for infecting us with your love for coffee and for teaching us all about this beautiful plant. The coffee served at Don Ruiz is a medium bodied, specialty blend from the mountains of Yauco. At this family Hacienda, orange trees have been planted alongside the coffee plants, giving their specialty blend beautiful citrus notes. The location is also unbeatable. It’s set in Cuartél de Ballajá, a historic courtyard in Old San Juan.
Café Don Ruíz | cc: Teddy Wolff for Spoon Food Tours
Hacienda San Pedro – These guys are one of the pioneers of the coffee revolution in Puerto Rico. They’ve paved the way for many to join the coffee industry and open shops. Their coffee comes from a 360 acre farm in Jayuya and the company has several outposts in San Juan. Our favorite is located in the back of La Hacienda specialty shop in Miramar. Take your coffee to go our enjoy it at the shop’s patio underneath the large almond trees. You’re in luck if Bobby Cruz is your barista, he makes one of the best lattes in town.
Gustos Café – Great design meets great coffee. With its high ceilings, modern yet welcoming appearance and outdoor terrace, its a place to see and be seen. They serve a full breakfast but waits can be long in the morning – its become quite the hot spot. We love their perks program, for frequent visitors, download the Clover app and your 10th cup is free. Again, this if for FREQUENT visitors. They’re also pet friendly! Bring your four-legged friend along for your coffee date – they have water and treats for the furry ones.
Gustos Miramar | cc: Paulina Salach Antonetti
Café Regina – What we love about Café Regina is the laid back vibe and yummy treats. Café Regina is one of the many kiosks located in Lote 23, an outdoor food space in Santurce. Yes, the coffee is wonderful but their breakfast options are on point. The seasonal menu has included items such as whipped goat cheese with honeyed clementine jam, mint, sesame, and olive oil all on top of a sourdough slice from El Horno de Pane. Afternoons are steamy at Lote so go early! (Café Regina just opened their second location in Ocean Park so if you’re in the area, check them out).
Café Regina | cc: Bria Solack
Caldera Café – Local, simple and delicious coffee from the mountains of Maricao. This no-frills shop has two locations – one in Old San Juan and the other in Miramar. The Miramar location has wifi and a full generator making it an ideal place to get some work done without the distractions of more trendy coffee shops. After the hurricane, these perks are gold!
Café con Cé – Tucked behind a huge yellow container home to Tresbé, Café Con Cé is easily missed. The tiny coffee shops leads to a serene patio with floral vines as the backdrop. It’s peaceful, secluded setting makes it a perfect respite from a busy day. Available for sale is a curated selection of locally produced items such as honey and hot sauce that are great for gifts.
Café con Cé | cc: Paulina Salach Antonetti
Cuatro Sombras – The shade-grown, single origin coffee served at this coffee shop comes from an hacienda in Yauco that has been in the owner’s family since 1846. Located on the ground floor of an old colonial home in Old San Juan, the shop’s high ceilings, red and wood accents and checked floor make it a beautiful spot to visit. There’s a micro-roaster on site so you might be lucky and catch whiffs of freshly roasted coffee. The aroma is magical.
cc: Cuatro Sombras
Thank you to the Puerto Rican farmers, baristas and industry professionals for continuing the fight for Puerto Rico.