Argentina

WIT: 5 of Buenos Aires’ Best Cafes

Buenos Aires’ cafes are catching up with the rest of the world, but this isn’t a city known for its overwhelming selection of new-wave brews. Not many places in South America are, quite frankly. The Argentinian capital famous for tango, street art, football and Malbec has rarely concerned itself with its neighbours’ little brown beans.

As frustrating as it is mysterious, the cool and crisp cup of noteworthy coffee is yet to develop in many South American streets. Especially in more remote areas, instant coffee is the only choice. After arriving in many new towns you’ll scour all that the internet and the guide books have to offer, only to find a surprisingly poor selection of artisan roasts. Even with some of the most sought-after coffee farms nearby, much of it is ignored. Don’t be surprised if they plonk a tub of good old Nescafe down with a side of hot water (this actually happened to us a fair few times in South America).

A man sits at a dark old bar of El Federal Bar in Buenos Aires, Argentina
El Federal’s a classic Buenos Aires establishment

Traditional Buenos Aires Cafes

At first sight there is an abundance of cafes in Buenos Aires. The romantic and old-school Buenos Aires bar-cum-diners dot the city. You’ll find plenty of them in historic San Telmo with antique, aching tables, bustling bars, tired tiled floors and pictures of past celebrity visits on the walls. These charming and nostalgic little haunts are an important part of the city’s identity but are more accustomed to serving dinner and drinks in a delightfully busy atmosphere. The ‘traditional’ coffee and breakfast usually leaves a lot to be desired.

Bottles fill the shelves next to the window in El Federal Cafe, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Every space is occupied with artefacts and articles from over the years

However, in the modern neighbourhoods of Palermo, Belgrano and Recoleta, a new generation of baristas are slowly making their mark. Delicious coffee is finally being welcomed to the street. Buenos Aires – at least – is beginning to see newly opened cafes that are brave enough to explore the possibilities of roasting and retailing high quality coffee. These are 5 cafes that we believe are serving the best coffee in Buenos Aires.

La Poesia the traditional one

Ok – this first Buenos Aires café isn’t one of the new wave ones. It’s our favourite traditional one, and we’re mentioning it so that you get an idea of what the classic and historic BA café is. To get a sense of what these creaky old cafes bring to the city, visit for breakfast and you’ll find a scene which probably hasn’t changed in many years.

La Poesia has the tiled floor, the dark, varnished wood settings and the walls stuffed full with memorabilia. There are newspaper cuttings and just about anything else you can think of. There are old boys at the bar reading the daily papers and sipping back an early wake-me-up drink. The usual breakfast is toast loaded with marmalade and butter, orange juice and a bitter short coffee.

Sausages and bottles make up the backdrop over La Poesia Cafe in Buenos Aires, Argentina
A sight that hasn’t changed in many, many years

The special thing about La Poesia is that you’ll be in the company of writers past and present. Created by poet Ruben Derlis in 1982 the café quickly turned in to a literary hangout. Journalists, poets, novelists and other thinkers worked, debated and composed their craft here. These days, it shares the same owners as nearby El Federal and still retains much of its atmosphere, the bookcases still crammed full with treasures. As you can see, we don’t recommend visiting for a delicious home brew – visit for the atmosphere.

WEE TIP: arrive early enough and you can also sit outside. The corner café spills on to the street and it’s a fantastic people watching spot, as well as a sun trap. Sip back a glass of cool white wine and watch wanderers of every country come and go in San Telmo’s historic streets.

The seating area of La Poesia adorned with frames and decorations, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Many artists and thinkers have done their work in la Poesia over the years

LAB New American Cuisine & Coffee Shop the hip one

On the other hand, you have LAB New American Cuisine & Coffee Shop – Buenos Aires’ most happening coffee-craving corner. LAB is found in fashionable Palermo, a little down the way from a train track and around the corner from countless street art murals.

Coffees and snacks line the bar of LAB Cafe, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The cool layout of LAB

They serve up fresh and floral espressos and take careful attention with every detail from roasting to serving the perfect pull. Or, you have the option of sharp filter coffees using every imaginable filtering method. The ever-present Chemex and V60 feature, but they also make use of the Clever filter method. Let the knowledgeable staff choose which filtering method works best for your taste.

LAB serve house-roasted filter coffees from all over the world including Costa Rica, Burundi, Uganda, Congo and Colombia. With gorgeous floor-to-ceiling windows, smart décor, fast wifi and ample space for sipping outside in the sunshine, this is the must-visit café in Buenos Aires’ Palermo district. They even train baristas here and have designed full train courses for professionals and amateurs alike. Bags of coffee are also available for purchase.

A mug and a jug of filtered coffee in LAB Cafe, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The Costa Rica filter was particularly tasty, as recommended by the barista

WEE TIP: LAB is in the perfect location for visiting the famous BA street art! Tie this in with your visit. Plenty of the street art tours start and end nearby. If you’d rather do your own thing, then you’re around the corner from many of the most famous pieces.

The Shelter Coffee the cool one

We found The Shelter Coffee completely by accident, wandering around Barrio Retiro. Its shadowy, moody exterior is easy to walk past. This has to be the only reason it doesn’t feature on many ‘best cafes in BA’ lists.

Like Recoleta, Barrio Retiro is known for its wealth and was formerly one of the most exclusive neighbourhoods in BA. These days you’ll find many of the city’s 5-star hotels here among the grand architecture and super-clean streets with an obvious Parisian vibe.

Two mugs of coffee on a black table outside Shelter Coffee, Buenos Aires, Argentina
The dark exteriors of Shelter Coffee with the best coffee in town

Shelter cook up strong and punchy espresso pulls. They use their very own organic Colombian roast to produce the sweet chocolatey aftertaste. You’ll even find a rare-spotted flat white on the menu, which is served to perfection. Think latte art, black coffee cups and cool vibes. The warm leather sofas and dark design make for a sophisticated and relaxing place to work inside. As for the outside, there are a few seats and tables in the leafy street where on weekends you can normally enjoy pop-up cuisine. Their espresso was the best coffee we had in Buenos Aires.

Coffee Place the underdog

Another accidental discovery, Coffee Place is the new kid on the block and a hole-in-the-wall café on Adolfo Alsina. Centrally located and kitted out with a minimalist style, this is one to enjoy take-away rather than sit in.

The hole-in-the-wall style Coffee Place, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Easily missed

Leopoldo – happy to chat about all things caffeine – comes from a great coffee background and roasts the house coffee himself. Coffee Place is also another rare BA café that offers flat whites. Surprisingly, the house brew is a Brazilian bean and the espresso is excellent and bright, with strong fruity flavours.

If you’re looking for a filter coffee they also stock BA-based Modo Barista’s roasts from Africa, South America and Central America. Place serves up one of the cheaper coffees you’re likely to find in the city and is also, in our opinion, one of the best.

WEE TIP: check out SUMO House a few doors down at Lo de Luca. This was Luca Prodan’s home when he was a BA resident. The Italian-Scottish musician (lead singer of Sumo) is regarded as one of Argentina’s most important artists and is still a rock culture icon today. Check out the scribbles on the doors, and even leave your own message.

SUMO text and other graffiti written on two dark doors, former home of Luca Prodan, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Pay your respects at the doors to Luca Prodan’s former home

Coffee Town  for the full range

No stranger to Buenos Aires, Coffee Town‘s main stand takes centre stage within San Telmo market. Coffee Town prides itself on offering a huge and varied selection of coffees from around the world. All of it is quality checked by their expert staff (which includes a former barista world champion).

The Coffee Town stall centred in the San Telmo permanent market
The place to grab a pick-me-up during the San Telmo Sunday morning market shopping

Try a house-roasted coffee from one of the more unusual farms in the world including Zambia, Papua New Guinea and Yemen. As for the filtering method, the staff will decide what’s going to work best. Just take their advice. There’s a full novel of coffees and farms, highland descriptions and grainy details to keep you entertained while you sip back the unique and dynamic brews on offer.

Coffee Town's menu shows all of the coffees they serve from around the world
A seemingly endless list of coffees from around the world

WEE TIP: Coffee Town finds its way to a few pop-ups around town, but for the best experience check it out at the San Telmo markets on a Sunday morning. Haggle your way around the never-ending Sunday morning market inspecting old antiques, clothing and craft. Then, hurry down to the permanent market and refresh with a delicious coffee inside.

To Conclude

Every visitor discovers that BA is huge. There are an overwhelming amount of cafes to try. This is the best of what we could sample on our first trip, but we plan to visit again very soon. When we do, we’re hoping to visit Full City Coffee House, All Saints Café and Catoti.

If you’re willing to put in the effort, there is delicious coffee in Buenos Aires. The coffee shops creating tasty and interesting cups of brew are few and far between, but they are certainly worth seeking out. Stick to our list of 5 of the best cafes in Buenos Aires and you’re likely to get off to a good start. If you discover any more on-point coffee shops and inspiring blends, then please do get in touch with the Comments below. Happy sampling!

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It is surprising how difficult it is to find good coffee in Buenos Aires. Use our Cafe Guide to find our top 5 cafes in Buenos Aires.

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