Like the rest of my trip to Colombia, I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do in Cartagena. I knew the “thing” to do was walk around the Centro Historico and take photos of the brightly colored buildings, but I’d been doing a lot of that around Colombia. When I arrived at my Airbnb and realized I couldn’t make coffee myself, I knew the first thing the next morning I would have to go in search of my caffeine fix. Little did I know this would lead to the discovery of so many irresistible cafes. My list of the best cafes in Cartagena Colombia certainly does not include that guy in a white hat with his donkey.
If you read my post about the fantastic WakeCup coffee tour I took with Experiencia Cafetera, then you already know that Colombians have figured out the advantages of not exporting all the good stuff. Specialty coffees – truly special coffee – can be found in cafes all over Colombia now. I noticed this is Medellin, and continued searching for the best cafes in every town I visited. But when I arrived in Cartagena, that’s when I knew Colombians have definitely stepped up their game when it comes to coffee. The best cafes in Cartagena seem to be competing to see who can outdo the others. And I enjoyed every minute of the competition.
My search for the best cafes in this beautiful historic center made me wish I had more than four days here. But I didn’t, so here are the best of the best that I discovered on my cafe journey through Cartagena, Colombia.
#1 La Presentacion
This gem of a cafe was my second stop on my first day, and I came back again the next day. My top recommendations are the cold brew and the siphon coffee Americano style. You won’t need milk or sugar. This atmospheric cafe is located inside Casa Museo La Presentacion. They sources their coffee from one local specialty grower, and they use a variety of brew methods to bring out the flavors in the coffee. Coffee is like science here. The staff working here is friendly and the service is great.
La Presentacion also has coffee tastings. The Coffee Trip tasting has 1 hour of explanation and tasting with instruction in three different brew methods. The Sensory Experience lasts 1.5 hours and spends more time on identifying the aromas and flavors of the coffee and includes 1 preparation method of your choice. They have AC and comfortable seating in an inviting space inside the museum. While you’re here, you can check out the modern art exhibit.
I loved this place from the moment I walked in. I can’t list it as #2. It’s definitely in first place with La Presentacion. They do everything here related to coffee, including roasting their own, as well as cocktails, food, and beer, and they do it all well. But I must focus on the truly unique coffee. Epoca collaborates directly with eight small coffee farms in Colombia to source their beans. They ensure fair trade and sustainability. Located at Carrera 5 #34-56, the cafe will be easy to spot because it will be busy. Depending on the brew method you choose, they may brew it at your table and teach you about the process.
The signature drink here is the Carajillo Epoca, which is sheer indulgence. This coffee is subtly spiced with sugarcane, cassia, aguardiente, which is a liquor, and it is smoked with parchment paper. I cannot describe how divine this is. At first I thought the smoking was just a bit much, but after she smoked the glass at my table, and poured the chilled coffee into it, I got it. The smoke is truly part of the drink. They have another drink called Campesino which is coffee accented with lime, sugarcane, and cassia. Also absolutely delish. The uniqueness of this place and their coffees is what makes it irresistible. Lime and coffee? Who knew? Not me, but now I’m hooked. Forget the milk.
The food here is also excellent. I had lunch here one day, and breakfast the next, and loved them both. The Diablo sandwich was actually spicy, and the coffee afterwards made it that much better. For breakfast, the chilaquiles con pollo with verde salsa was truly outstanding. Get the perfectly fried egg on top.
Don’t let the name fool you. It’s not only about the mezcal. They know their coffee and have their own organic brand of coffee and like everything else in their restaurant, including the beer, it is sourced locally, specifically from the Chinchiná, Caldas region of Colombia. They also offer coffee and mezcal tastings, which is a surprisingly tasty combo. I had the smooth-as-silk espresso martini, and went back the next day for another. It’s not cheap. It was 30000 CP, or about 11 USD, but it was worth it.
Boundless also has a unique menu including octopus and a selection of charcuterie and cheeses. The atmosphere here is relaxed but refined, with cool leather couches and a sort of industrial feel. They also have an upstairs where they feature live music. They are located in Centro Historico in the Torre del Reloj (Clock Tower) plaza.
My first morning in Cartagena I was quite desperate for coffee by the time I got to the historical center. I had already worked 1.5 hours and walked 1.5 kilometers to get there, all with no coffee! Cafe San Alberto caught my attention as soon as I got close. I could smell wonderful smells coming from the open doorway, and the AC was very tempting as well. Inside the downstairs is a bit small, but I had the upstairs seating area all to myself.
San Alberto’s coffee, from a farm by the same name, comes from the Quindiano region of Colombia near Buenavista. The altitude between 1500 and 1800 meters, and the 8 step selection process, are what gives this coffee its smooth and flavorful taste. I had a macchiato here that went down far too easily. I wanted another, but decided I felt human after the one. San Alberto’s in Cartagena also offers coffee tastings that they refer to as Coffee Baptism.
The library-turned-cafe is located on the corner of Calle de La Iglesia and Calle de La Mantilla. It has a cool sign and entry that you can’t miss. When you enter, the floor-to-ceiling books – and liquor! – make for an inviting and tempting place to spend hours with coffee or cocktails reading and chatting. I had a simple macchiato here, expertly crafted, but rumor has it the barista is also a mixologist and can mix up a variety of tasty cocktails.
Ábaco Café has been around for over ten years, and the bookstore has been around even longer. They source their specialty coffee from Hacienda Samaria in the Risaralda region of Colombia. Cold brew cocktails are the specialty here. One of the Soul, Mind, or Love Brew cocktails is sure to satisfy you. I love the smell of coffee and books, and this well-known spot has them both.
#5 Beiyu in Getsemani (both locations!)
Google maps will only show you one location of this spunky little cafe, but there are two and I was so curious I went to both. They have very different appearances and vibes, but the same great menu and coffee. I wasn’t able to quite catch where their coffee is sourced from, but it was silky smooth and perfect. I had the campesino at the first location. This coffee with lime and panela is really growing on me! At the second, I was hot and needed something cold, so I chose the ice latte which was excellent.
They have an interesting menu with omelets and acai bowls and other great treats. I may have imagined this, but I think I saw a crepe maker at the first location. From where I was seated I could see straight into the spotless kitchen and watch these three creative ladies whip up their morning magic. The atmosphere at the first location was fun and funky, while the second was a bit more refined and tame, but folks there were still having fun.
I came upon ADN by accident after a visit to La Presentacion, my first pick for coffee in Cartagena. So I came back a day later to check out ADN Coffee. Inside is a relaxed and comfortable space with friendly service. The gals working there were clearly proud of their products and paid close attention to detail when it comes to service. They have a wide variety of brewing methods and in addition to coffee, there are lots of sweet treats to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Their coffee comes from three Colombian regions as far as I could tell, which are the Risaralda, Caldas, and Sierra Nevada. I loved the display and the atmosphere and how much pride they took in their work. Their latte was not my favorite which is why I ranked them at #6, but it was good and the chocolate torte was excellent with house-made whipped cream! It’s located on Carrera. 5 #36 174.
I hope you enjoyed reading about my picks for the best cafes in Cartagena. If you’ve been here and have other suggestions for great cafes, I would love it if you left a comment and shared your choices. For my readers who haven’t made it to Cartagena yet, be sure to set aside plenty of time for great Colombian coffee when you do go.