The never-ending coffee trails of Quito

09/Julio/2012 | 14:24


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Here in the Miami Herald International Edition in Ecuador there are two themes we often cover: tourism and dining out.   Though we treat them separately, they often overlap with both topics offering new journeys and unforgettable discoveries. 

It seems like everyone these days, at least in Ecuador, is guided in their travels by pre-defined “trails” or “routes” that take them on a thematic journey. 

From the off-road “Eco-Route” that offers a drive through Quito’s rural parishes to the “Flower Trail,” which connects the food, haciendas, and other attractions surrounding Ecuador’s flower farms, these paths join like-minded persons and their varying interests. 

Though these trails and “rutas” can be convenient and efficient ways for tackling your tourism checklists, they lack one thing that many travelers yearn for: genuine exploration.

An authentic and varied tourism experience would combine both the efficiency of packaged tour and pre-defined trails with an opportunity to make your own discoveries without a tour guide or even a map.


Back in the 1980s a man named Tom Miller came to Ecuador to explore the Panama Hat Trail, producing a book by the same title.  It was a trail that he blazed himself, based on his own research.  The Panama Hat (despite what the name suggests) comes from Ecuador and Miller was in search of its origins.  But along the way he had one very big frustration.  He could never find a good cup of coffee in Ecuador.

Afterall, great coffee has always been the product of Colombia, not it's souther neighbors, right?

Today, Miller’s experience would be hard to duplicate because in the past decade Ecuador has seen an explosion in great coffees and great places to drink them. 

It seems today that a good cup is to be had in every restaurant and café in Quito.  But great coffee can also be savored in the cafes of some of the city’s museums or enjoyed as you sit before one of the many panoramic views of Quito.

We challenge you to go out into the city and wander in search for great coffee to see what else you discover along the way.  Define your own trail and make your own urban adventure.   If you need a few suggestions, we have two routes which can get you started.


We begin our tour at Café Mosaico on the eastern hillside overlooking old town - a blend of Greek, American, and Ecuadorian.  Enjoy their espresso with an unforgettable view, following an unforgettable meal.  Address: Manuel Samaniego #30 y Antepara, Itchimbía / 254-2871.

Next, head to La Cuchara de San Marcos.  This vegetarian restaurant, art gallery, and shop in the old San Marcos Neighborhood offers great local coffee prepared in a siphon at your table.  San Marcos is one of Quito’s oldest neighborhoods and often missed by the main tourism crowds.  Address: Junín E3-121 y Manuel Jijón, in the cul-de-sac, or “cuchara.”  295-1713

For 150 years San Agustin Heladeria has been serving coffee, ice cream, and as many as 60 different traditional sweets along Guayaquil Street in the historic district.  Located in front of the monastery, from which it takes its name, San Agustin Heladeria offers a chance to enjoy “café del pasado” – the way coffee used to be consumed – in a traditional home.  The first floor has adobe walls that are more than a meter thick, with no windows (windows are on the second floor), illustrating the architecture of the time.  Located at Guayaquil N5-59 y Mejía. 

All travelers make it sooner or later to Quito’s oldest and most iconic public square, the San Francisco Plaza.    We invite you to go beneath the atrium to the Café Tianguez, an artisan craft shop, museum, restaurant and coffee shop operated by the Sinchi Sacha Foundation.  They serve locally made specialty coffee from different producers, but it is the combination of great flavor and the historic setting that will remain with you long after you have left.  Location: San Francisco Plaza,

Finally, you will surely want to take some great smelling and great tasting coffee home after your visit to Quito.  Aguila de Oro, located behind the Metropolitan Cultural Center, attracts people daily with the aroma of their roasting coffee beans.  For more than 60 years they have been selling coffee from the Loja region of the country.  They offer three simple roasts: dark, medium, and light, and sell it by the pound.  Address: Benalcazar Street (N3-123 & Espejo). 


Though everyone visits the historic district, many also find their way to the northern sections of the city.   The Mariscal District, in particular, is a great place to discover a good cup of coffee, but first we start you off a bit further north with a traditional, local hangout for breakfast and lunch: Mister Bagel. 

Mister Bagel  is the only bagel shop in town and perhaps the only coffee shop that offers free refills.  Stop by in the morning or try a slice of home-made apple pie in the afternoon.  They have two locations: Portugal E10-95 & 6 de Diciembre / 224-0978 & Cordero & Tamayo / 223-9729

You may have seen the Café Galletti coffee brand in stores throughout Quito. Why not stop by the shop for a taste of their café, brewed their way?!  Locally produced, you can try a cup and buy a bag to take home.  Select from their House Blend, Turkish Mist,  Ecuadorian Mountain Coffee, and other products.  Address: Carrion & Juan Leon Mera,,   252-7361.

Though it seems to be off the radar, Nocion produces some of the best coffee enjoyed in Quito’s finest restaurants. They also export their beans all over the world.  But you need only go to the Mariscal neighborhood for a hot cup.  Address: Mariscal Foch E8-57 & 6 de Diciembre, 254-5139.

Finally, this tour comes to an end at a place where money will only burn a hole in your pocket. 

The Galeria Ecuador Gourmet is by far one of the best places to buy your gifts before heading home – an artisan shop that brings together more than 60 different products and brands from jewelry to clothing, to gourmet food products.  You can buy all the top brands of coffee in one place and then enjoy a cup in their café before you leave.  Address: Reina Victoria N24-263 y Lizardo García / 223-9469 / 255-8440.


These nine stop for great coffee are merely that – nine stops.  We could find nine more or even ninety.  This is merely a start.  As you trek through the city and find a place that is not on your itinerary, check it out.  Try the local brew.  You may be surprised. 

What many people don’t know is that, just like the Panama Hat is an Ecuadorian secret, so too, is the coffee.  In fact much of that famous Colombian coffee is imported from this great country in the middle of the world.


Ciudad Quito

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lbrashear - en Diario HOY - Noticias de Ecuador.