Did you know, in 1896 Puerto Rico exported 58,656,826 pounds of coffee? The export value was 13,864,341 pesos. According to Guillermo A. Baralt, author of Buena Vista: Life and Work on a Puerto Rican Hacienda, 1833-1904 over 120,000 acres of land were planted with coffee trees by the end of the century. And 41% of the cultivated land in Puerto Rico was for planting coffee.
During that time, Puerto Rico’s central mountain range – cordillera central became one of the most densely populated areas of the island. Today, the central mountain range is the least populated region, but great coffee is still being produced in Puerto Rico mainly for local consumption.
Puerto Rican-grown coffee is the best-kept secret of The US Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Most day-trip tourists, like cruisers and even those who stay for a couple of nights, miss out on the best coffee as they wander around without a guide.
We found a way to solve that problem: Join a 3-hour food and culture walking tour with Flavors of San Juan.
The tour included coffee tasting at Aromas Coffee House and Restaurant at 201 Calle Tetuan, Old San Juan. Aromas Coffee House is located in a historic building with high ceilings, wood beams, and a small courtyard. They kept the hole on top of the front door for cross ventilation just like in the olden days. Despite the humidity outside, Aromas Coffee House stayed cool for us to enjoy a hot cup of cafe con leche (coffee with milk).
Aromas’ cafe con leche without sugar had a hint of sweetness and was genuinely good to the last drop. They use Arabica coffee from Adjuntas, one of the coffee regions of Cordillera Central. The cafe con leche paired perfectly with grilled ham and cheese mallorca sandwich.
Mallorcas are puffy sweet buns sold all over Puerto Rico. They are sliced in half, buttered and flattened in a griddle, and commonly used as the buns for grilled ham and cheese. Before serving, confectioners’ sugar is sprinkled over the top of the mallorca, creating a sweet and savory sandwich that is unique to Puerto Rico.
Mallorca is named after one of the Balearic islands in Spain’s Mediterranean. According to TastyKitchen.com, it originates from Mallorca’s ensaimades bread. You can make your own pan de Mallorca using Tasty Kitchen’s recipe.
The stop at Aromas Coffee Shop was a great introduction to Puerto Rican coffee and mallorca. Throughout the 3-hour food and culture walking tour, Carmen, our tour guide pointed out top coffee shops to visit. We actually did visit all three recommended coffee shops during our stay in Old San Juan. Here they are:
Cuatro Sombras gets its Arabica coffee beans from Hacienda Santa Clara, in the mountains of Yauco Puerto Rico. The coffee shop has ample seating along a wall opposite the workstation. Next to the workstation is an in-house roaster and stairs that led to outdoor seats. Behind the baristas is a chalkboard explaining the size of your order and the prices.
Finca Cialitos has its own coffee farm in Ciales, about 3,000 feet above sea level. The 100% Arabica coffee beans are pre-packaged is available for purchase at the coffee shop. This is our favorite coffee shop in Old San Juan. We like the Caribbean vibe where the front door is left open and the windows are low. You can sit by the window and people watch. Comfortable seats are around the small round tables and the staff were friendly and ready to serve.
It is located 150 Calle Justo, Old San Juan.
Cafeteria Mallorca is the ultimate place for a simple cup of black strong coffee and authentic mallorca for breakfast in Old San Juan. This old school diner is where the locals hang out in the morning. Cafeteria Mallorca takes only cash – no credit card. This place is usually crowded which is a good sign – good food!
Cafeteria Mallorca is located at 300 San Francisco, Old San Juan.
The Poet’s Passage
We visited The Poet’s Passage but did not dine there. It is an eclectic coffee shop located inside a gift shop at 203 Calle Cruz, Old San Juan.
Flavors of San Juan food and culture tour includes five other places to savor authentic Puerto Rican food and drinks. It’s the best introduction to coffee, food, and culture in Old San Juan. You will leave the tour with an insider list of places to drink coffee, dine and wine.
Have you been to Old San Juan Puerto Rico? Which was your favorite coffee shop?
Note: Our tour was provided by Flavors of San Juan. Opinions are our own.