As I was planning our trip a few weeks ago, I spoke with a friend of mine who lives in the southern Puerto Rican city of Ponce. She grew up on a coffee plantation and is as passionate about coffee as she is about animals (she’s a veterinarian by the way). She gave me a list of four coffee shops in the San Juan area which she claims has some of the best espresso on the island. Because of the heat and the over-abundance of cocktails on this trip, we were only able to visit two of them.
The first stop on our journey was down near the cruise docks on Recinto Sur. Surrounded by gift shops and restaurants, somehow the interior of the place was cozy and calm. It looked and felt super familiar. Part Old San Juan charm and part hipster coffee shop ala Intelligentsia or Blue Bottle. We ordered our coffees, took a look around, then plopped down in their comfortable seating area. Their beautiful red roaster caught my eye as well as the burlap sacks of single-origin coffee from just kilometers away on the island.
The coffee was very good. I ordered an iced mocha which was made with a natural chocolate to help cool down as well as a machiatto to get a better idea of the quality of their coffee. The first thing that I noticed was that my drink was incredibly hot — served at a much higher temperature than I am used to in the States, yet somehow the beans weren’t burnt. Instead, I was delighted to find a well-rounded brew with a deep malt flavor and bright (not tart) acidity.
Needless to say, I was very pleased to discover that Puerto Rican coffee does measure up with some of the greats like Costa Rica and that there are totally hip coffee shops that aren’t tourist traps in the OSJ area. Prices are incredibly cheap (compared to the crap at Starbucks) and the baristas are very friendly.
Cuatro Sombras is located at 259 Recinto Sur, Old San Juan, PR.