During the long, cold, gray winter months in Rochester, New York, there are countless days when the only way I can motivate myself to do homework or study is to accompany the arduous task with a cappuccino. For those yet unfamiliar with this incredible drink, the recipe is quite simple. It consists solely of a single shot of espresso topped with milk foam, yet its simplicity leaves a lot of room for error. Because of this, it’s quite easy to separate the good from the bad. And if you want a good example in Rochester, there’s really only a few options that I know of. Combine the inconvenience of driving a good 20 minutes to the cafe, finding a parking spot in the city, and waiting in line behind other caffeine fanatics and it’s easy to see why it can be difficult to motivate myself to make the trip.
On such a day this past Spring, I made use of my wide array of coffee-related tools to prepare myself a pour over and watched the snow fall outside my window as I thought about how I’d be in another continent in just a few short months. Knowing very little about the coffee culture that I would be entering in Argentina, I made a mental note to pack all my coffee gear (hand grinder, electric kettle, V60, filters, digital scale, etc.) so I could guarantee myself a good quality cup from home. As it turned out, I needn’t have concerned myself with the stress of fitting and securing all this gear because Buenos Aires turned out to be a coffee lover's dream. Let me paint you a picture.
I arrived at the end of winter, but instead of being greeted with feet of snow and daily blizzards, it was a cool 50 degrees on the worst of days. Shorts weather, yet cold enough to have a strong craving for a cappuccino and a good book. A quick search on Google Maps returned not 1, not 2, but 5 cafes within a quarter mile of my house, each one more intriguing than the last. No driving necessary, and no need to worry about parking. When you walk in, it’s as easy as just sitting down at a table and waiting a few minutes for a waiter to notice you and bring the menu. And long after the coffee has been drunk and the studying has begun, no one comes by to ask if you need anything or give you the check and imply that it’s about time you left. No. The table is yours to enjoy for as long as you like, and the length of your stay is determined by you and you alone. On top of all this, the quality of the coffee at any one of these places was at least on par and often better than the best cafes I’d been able to find in Rochester. I was in paradise.
During my time in Buenos Aires, I made a point of walking whenever possible in order to discover as many new coffee places as possible. Everytime I came across a coffee shop that peaked my interest, I’d note it in Google Maps and make a point of coming back to it. During my time there, I must’ve visited more than 20 different cafes of all different types. From “cafes notables” where the beautiful buildings more than made up for the average brews to a coffee shop inside of a plant store, from Flat Whites in fancy mugs to un magic served in quaint glasses, and from 5 hour study sessions to “un café take-away” during a 15 minute break, coffee underscored a lot of my favorite experiences in Buenos Aires. It helped prepare me for my first tattoo appointment in a foreign language, it gave me motivation to study for final exams in subjects I never thought I’d encounter, and it woke me up after unforgettable late night outings with new friends. While there are many things that I am already missing about Buenos Aires, I’d be remiss not to put their coffee culture at the top of my list.