You will hear and read a lot about BA's cocktail renaissance and wine revolution and tea takeover and so on; but chill. Fact is, this city still runs on coffee. Most porteños start their day with a café con leche (milky coffee) and call it breakfast. For yet more lactose, order a lágrima—hot frothy milk with a "teardrop" of coffee. My preferred caffeine delivery system is the cortado, a sturdy brew with just a "cut" of milk. (In theory you can order this mute by miming a pair of scissors in action. I should warn you that I've never done this without making a fool of myself.)
The quantity of coffee consumed in Buenos Aires has always been remarkable, the quality much less so. This is changing. Chalkboards in newer cafés proudly assert the strength, provenance, and extra-special toastiness of the house beans, sourced in the fairest way from the most contented growers, of course.
Colombian-Irish couple Victoria Angarita and Alan Jordan set up Full City in 2011. Since then, it has switched neighborhoods (from Chacarita to the more upscale Palermo) and won a devoted following for its pure, satisfyingly astringent Colombian coffees. The cortados are the best in Buenos Aires, the service unfailingly sweet and efficient.
“Caution: Our coffee is extremely addictive” reads the chalkboard outside. It’s nice to be warned, even if it comes far too late for most of us. Anyhow, if you’re going to be hooked on something, it may as well be the strong yet silky cappuccinos of Daniel Cifuentes, Colombian barista and owner of this mocha mecca. (Hat tip to Allie Lazar, whose essential blog Pick up the Fork alerted me to this place.)
A stunning work of industrial design, San Telmo’s covered market has been enticing shoppers to its stalls laden with fruit, veg, meat, and knickknacks since 1897. Now, thanks to this café run by a team of serious coffee experts, you can add coconut mochas and vanilla lattes to that list. This is a hit franchise waiting to happen.
This perma-hip French coffee shop serves one of the best cafés con leche in town—rich, creamy and begging to have a croissant or pain au chocolat dunked in it. Go for breakfast, read the paper, and stay for lunch. The salads and sandwiches are top notch. There are two branches, both on the same block.
If you like your decor Brooklynite and your cappuccinos topped with a heart- or rabbit- or Hello Kitty-shaped swirl (or whatever; latte art is a flexible genre), Birkin is your café. It’s also a good spot for afternoon tea and carrot cake, before or after a stroll in the Botanical Garden.