A cup of coffee, please
Understanding the ritual of having the most beloved drink in the world when you are in Buenos Aires.
“A coffee, a coffee with a little milk, please”. This is the most common phrase you are going to hear at a “café” in Buenos Aires. Taking a break in our daily routines and having a coffee is an experience not to be missed.
For a “porteño” (person from Buenos Aires), having a coffee doesn’t mean to have a 5-minute break, drink it and go on. It means to sit down, read the newspaper, meditate… A “café” is also a meeting place for friends and that will be the perfect opportunity to “solve” issues about economy, world crisis, politics, family and so on. Then, how long do you need for a coffee? It may be from half an hour to hours… The ceremony begins by choosing a table, usually the same one if we are habitués to a place, then we ask for a coffee to the waiter with the usual sign using two fingers, the thumb and the forefinger.
Waiters play a central role in a “café”. They will remember several individual orders without even writing a word and they will deliver everything without making mistakes. Furthermore, they usually work in the same place for a long time and are able to feel their customers´ mood. Many of the oldest “cafés” were opened by Spanish immigrants. By the end of the 19th century, only 1 out of 20 owners was Argentinian.
There are about 80 “Historic cafés” in Buenos Aires. ¿What does it mean? It means they were recognized and known specifically for something. Some of them were the meeting place for musicians, actors, writers or politicians. Others are known for being antique, for the architecture and they are part of the city cultural heritage. We can find them all over the city and each café has special characteristics turning it into a unique place. Visiting some of them is -without a doubt- not to be missed in your itinerary through Buenos Aires.
Bar La Biela, located in Recoleta, opposite the Cemetery. Even though it was already opened as a “café”, it was given this name in 1942. Place chosen by car racing lovers, the photographs decorating the walls give evidence of these meetings. As soon as we open the door, two writers’ sculptures (Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares) will welcome us. Let’s go to San Telmo and to El Federal, an antique café which will astonish visitors with the original interior, beautiful furniture and stained glasses. Sitting around and having a look is like going back in time.
Café Tortoni, close to Plaza de Mayo (May square) and founded in 1858. Marble tables, stained glasses and the boiserie bear witness to a great part of Buenos Aires history. Carlos Gardel, the famous tango singer, and writers Federico García Lorca, Julio Cortazar and Alfonsina Storni were usual customers. On October, 26th, we celebrate the “Cafés Day”, it is the anniversary of the façade opening on Av. de Mayo (May Avenue). This is, beyond doubt, the most visited “historic café” in Buenos Aires.
Included in tango lyrics, films and books, when visiting Buenos Aires, please do not miss the opportunity to ask “a coffee, please”. Perhaps this will be the most unforgettable moment in your stay.