bogota colombia

Colombia: The Debrief

Stuff we did that you can do too…

Eat: Bandeja paisa

This Medellin dish isn’t so much a delicacy as a massive heart attack on a plate. The ingredients are fried pork, red beans, white rice, ground beef, black pudding, fried egg, plantains, avocado and arepa (Colombian flatbread).

There are variations to this of course but however you do it, a bandeja paisa makes the English Breakfast look like a wheatgrass and kale smoothie.

Medellin food

Don’t worry, he didn’t eat the whole thing – we shared a plate

Drink: Aguapanela

Made by dissolving unrefined cane sugar in either hot or cold water. Essentially it’s nothing more exciting than sugary water, but the addition of a bit of lemon or lime turns it into a refreshing pick-me-up on hot days. You’ll find it sold on city streets, while out in the country it’s just as good for attracting hummingbirds as it is for refreshing tired hikers.

hummingbird sanctuary

Try: A game of tejo

This is a game that dates back to pre-Columbian times. Players hurl metal discs weighing about 680g at gunpowder-filled squibs resting in pits full of clay, some 20m away. A loud bang means you scored points, but you can find out more about the scoring system here. Tejo is second only to football in the Colombia sporting consciousness. Best played while drinking copious amounts of beer.

Buy: Fresh coffee

There’s surprisingly little good stuff available to order in cafes or restaurants, with most of the quality beans earmarked for export. But near the coffee-making town of Salento, you can pick up some great fresh beans and grind them yourself. Try the Don Elias coffee tour and pick up a bag at the end.

salento coffee tour

Do: Consider flying instead of taking the bus

Buses are still the cheapest way to get around but Colombia has some surprisingly cheap and regular flights between its major cities. Check out Avianca or, if you can do without hold luggage, low-cost airline Viva Colombia does some good deals. The mix of dense jungle, high mountain plains and plunging valleys means that it can take 20 hours to get between cities that really aren’t that far away from one another. So if you book early and grab a good deal, flying can spare you a long journey through winding roads with someone being sick in a bag next to you. Seriously.

Don’t: Believe the scare stories

As Rob discussed in his post on former murder capital Medellin, Colombia has come a hell of a long way in the last decade. Reputations take longer to change than reality and it’s likely that friends and family will bombard you with horror stories about Colombia.* The truth is, the necessary precautions are much the same as you would take in any other part of Latin America. Of course Colombia has crime. The drugs trade has not vanished overnight (though it is largely contained in certain areas) and the wealth divide exists just as it does anywhere. Obviously don’t go wandering into the dodgiest neighbourhood at night waving your iPhone but would you really do that in any city?

Bogota skyline

Bogota is perfectly safe as long as you’re sensible

Above all, don’t let your preconceptions (or other people’s) stand in the way of getting the most out of this amazing, magical country.

* Or, if you’re Franki’s dad, a warning based entirely on a fictional scene in the film Romancing The Stone.

And not forgetting…

…the time our taxi was held up for half an hour by about ten thousand roller-bladers dressed in Father Christmas outfits. Colombians don’t do Christmas by halves.

Medellin Colombia

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Caffeine dreams in Salento

We were due to arrive in Salento around 4pm. At 3.55 the storm that had been threatening all afternoon, as we made our way through the Antioquia countryside from Medellin, broke.

Hauling our already-drenched backpacks onto our shoulders, we splashed across the flooded street into the tiny tourist office where we stood shivering until someone was able to call us a cab. I say “cab”. In Salento local taxis come in the form of 40-year-old Jeeps.

Nestled in the Quindío hills and the heart of Colombia’s coffee country, Salento is tiny, scruffy, but oddly charming. The whole place seems to move at an appealingly slow pace and the colonial architecture in the town square and its surrounding streets add a touch of vibrancy to this sleepy town.

Salento Colombia

Outside the centre it’s fair to say the rest of the town is plainer and more functional. Fewer than 8000 people live here and they work in agriculture, tourism, and of course coffee production.

But the countryside that surround the town is breathtaking and that, after all, is why we’re here.

Salento Colombia

We arrived dripping wet at La Serrana, our farmhouse-style hostel, where they have hot showers (our first for a while). The cosy common area, filled with solid furniture and agricultural curios, was a welcome retreat from the thundering weather and we were only to happy to settle ourselves in for the evening.

People, ourselves included, come to Salento for two things: coffee and palm trees. We started with palm trees.

Nearby Valle de Corcora is home to the world’s tallest palm trees. A looped walking trail that takes you through the lush valley, up into the hills, reaching altitudes of 2400 metres, and back down again. It takes around five hours.

We took a jeep from the town square around 11am, arriving around 11.30. The last jeep back was due to leave the valley at 5pm. Which gave us exactly five and a half hours. Time to crack on.

Vintage jeep

The route is not so much a walk as a scramble. It’s muddy, rocky, jungly, steep, wet and in parts you’re following the river so closely you’re practically in it. On our way up we passed a British family with two boys under five. At least two of the party were wearing sandals. I will never know how they managed it.

Valle de Corcora
Oh, and did I mention the dark clouds were starting to gather again?

Still, we weren’t going to be discouraged. We had heard there was a hummingbird sanctuary at the top where they also (and perhaps most crucially) served drinks and lunch.

Valle de Corcora

Valle de Corcora

Like I said, it’s jungly.

We clambered over boulders, scrambled up muddy banks, lost our footing on several occasions and once, while balancing precariously on a tiny strip of path between a barbed wire fence and a muddy trench, slipped and accidentally grabbed a handful of spikes.

From the start of the trail to the hummingbird sanctuary took us just under two hours and after the uphill climb we were looking forward to sitting down for a hearty lunch.

Except it didn’t quite go like that. The “hummingbird sanctuary” is actually the home of a canny local woman who has put out bird feeders filled with agua panela  or sugar water to attract wildlife. And “lunch” is whatever she has in her larder to sell. By the time we arrived at almost 1.30pm, the cupboard was  virtually bare. Options included a single chorizo sausage, mugs of hot chocolate and some agua panela served with cheese (pretty much as revolting as it sounds). We said yes to everything.

As we sat down to pick at our meagre meal, we saw there were two hikers already there, finishing off what was clearly the last of hummingbird lady’s reserves.

“I’m done with mine, you’re welcome to finish it if you like,” said one, pushing a quarter of a plate of seasoned rice towards me. I am not in the slightest bit ashamed to say I took it. And I’m not embarrassed to admit the world looked a lot better after that leftover stranger-rice. Plus, there were hummingbirds.

Hummingbird sanctuary Colombia

Hummingbird sanctuary Salento

On the way back  towards the trail we bumped into the British family with the kids, still climbing, the younger of the boys now riding on his dad’s back.

“Is it much further,” the dad asked. We assured him it was not.

“And can we get drinks there? Lunch?”

We hesitated, unsure whether we had the heart to tell them.

“There’s hot chocolate,” I volunteered.

“Wow, boys, hear that? Hot chocolate!”

And so with happy cries of “Hot chocolate! Hummingbirds!” they continued on their way. We, emboldened (and a little humbled) by the enthusiasm of these two tiny humans, scrambling through the Colombian jungle spurred on only by the vague promise of a hot chocolate, decided to hike on and climb to the top of the hill.

The Valle de Corcora trail begins at the road. You can start in the valley, as we did, and scramble up alongside the river, making a 1.5km detour to visit the hummingbirds, before climbing the final, steep, kilometre up to the finca (farmhouse) on top of the hill. From the finca, the walk down to the valley is an easy two-hour descent down a dirt road with breathtaking views along the way. Alternatively you can do it the other way around.

If you’re not much of a hiker, I’d very much suggest you do the latter because that final climb is killer. Also the breath-taking views are very much cloud-dependent.

Valle de Corcora

Hmm. That said, there’s something wonderfully spooky about catching your first glimpse of the famous palm trees through the rolling fog.

Valle de Corcora

Valle de Corcora’s wax palms are the tallest palm trees in the world. Up to 60 metres high, they seem barely possible as they sway over the lush landscape. The effect is almost fantastical, like a set from a science fiction movie.

“At any moment,” said Rob, reading my mind, “we’re going to see a brontosaurus lurching towards us.”

As we descended out of the clouds, our surroundings became clearer and the verdant, mist-soaked hills rose up before us, studded with these amazing trees.

World's tallest palm trees

Towering above and around us on every side, they were every bit as breath-taking as we had been promised. Naturally, I took about a hundred photos but I’m going to be very self-restrained and only post one more…

World's tallest palm trees

It was difficult to drag ourselves away. But the last Jeep back to Salento was due to depart and we had to go. We made it back to the road with fifteen minutes to spare.

The following day we went to visit a local plantation. Like many tourists, we had flocked to the area in the hope of sampling some of the purest, freshest Colombian produce, close to source.

Yes, as stoners to Amsterdam, so we came to Salento in search of coffee. Our hostel recommended the Finca Don Elias but be warned, the sign is hard to spot and the farm next door does a good line in nodding and smiling at confused visitors as they usher you in to their tour. Just so you know for sure that you’re in the right place, here’s the man himself, offering us bananas which he grows among the coffee plants to act as a pest-deterrent.

Don Elias coffee plantation

The plantation is entirely organic, as it has been since they started business when Don Elias was a young man. Banana, mango and pineapple trees provide shade while their fruits attract bugs away from the coffee and provide sweet compost for the soil.

Beans are picked by hand, and shelled using a hand-cranked machine. They are then laid out in a makeshift tarpaulin greenhouse to dry and roasted in great pans on top of the brick oven.

Don Elias coffee plantation

And if you want to buy a bag of coffee – which obviously we did – you also have to grind it by hand.

Don Elias coffee plantation

All that was left was to sit down and enjoy a cup of the stuff. There are pictures of me doing so but they’re not for public consumption. Let’s just say grinding coffee is sweaty work.

That evening we went out to sample Salento’s nightlife. You think I’m being ironic but let me ask you this, when was the last time you threw chunks of metal at a clay pit filled with gunpowder?

Tejo, the local pastime, involves arranging small packets of gunpowder into a “target” shape in the clay and throwing a 680g metal disc at this target. The gunpowder, as you would expect, explodes on impact and there are different amounts of points allocated depending on where on the target you hit. The pros (yes, really) throw from a distance 20 metres. We tried it from five.

I am and always have been terrible at all forms of sport so I don’t mind telling you I failed to trigger a single explosion. Rob, however, would like me to let you know that he got two direct hits. On the sidelines our new local friends barbecued meat and drank aguardiente  (a local aniseed liqueur) as though nothing in the world made more sense than to combine alcohol, fire, and explosive materials.

Finally, tired, tipsy and with the scent of gunpowder still in our nostrils, we made our way back to the hostel.

After three days in coffee country we packed up and were on our way back to the capital feeling as though we’d awoken from a strange and wonderful dream. Once again we’d experienced Colombia’s unique brand of magic… and, much like the coffee, it’s addictive.

Salento Colombia

La Candelaria Bogota

How to be a hipster in Bogotá

The once dangerous capital is now the trendiest place to hang out in Colombia. Despite a history of violence and conflict, the city is now a hotspot of urban cool that regularly appears in Hip Cities of Latin America lists.

Everywhere in Colombia has seen dark days. The country’s second-largest city, Medellin, has emerged blingy and triumphant with a stereotypically Latin American appetite for tackiness. Meanwhile Bogota has taken the last decade of relative peace and order to nurture its vibrant cultural scene and international outlook. The result is a buzzing, arty city full of alternative places to eat, drink, shop, and party.

In short: Bogotá is hipster. And if you’re in town you’ll no doubt want to try to channel some that Colombian cool. Here’s how:

 Instagram some street art

Like any hipster city worth its salt, Bogota has a thriving street art tradition. You can even do a graffiti tour which takes in some of the best work and provides some introduction to the most prolific artists . If you don’t want to fork out for the 20-30,000 pesos (around $8-12/£5-8) “donation” it’s easy enough simply to walk around and spot your own favourites.

 

(NB Do exercise a little caution before waving your camera or iPhone around. Bogota is not the danger zone it once was but like any big city, there are opportunists who will gladly relieve you of your valuables if you give them a chance.)

Eat quinoa

I’m not sure it still counts as hipster to consume a food in the country of its origin but seeing as quinoa – along with its cousin amaranth – is only recently making a comeback in Colombian agriculture, I think we can include it. Unlike neighbouring Peru which produces and consumes the so-called superfood by the bucketload, quinoa was barely seen in Colombia for decades, doubtless due in part to the vast swathes of farmland and countryside taken over by guerillas.

Quinua y amaranto bogota

Thanks to various farming initiatives, quinoa is back and gaining popularity in Colombia, as in the rest of the world, on account of its high nutritional value and versatility. In Bogotá you can try it at veggie cafe Quinua y Amaranto on Calle 11 #2. It’s open from 8am to 4pm and has a set menu, including a soup, a delicious plate of grains and greens and a pudding for around 14,000 pesos (£3.70/$5.80).

Drink coffee in a cafe housed in decommissioned transport

Taking a piece of public transport and turning it into a coffee shop is apparently THE thing to do in Bogotá. At Cafe de la Estacion on Calle 14 #5-14 you can go for coffee and cake in a charming old-fashioned train carriage.

Cafe de l'Estacion Bogota

And in the Parque El Chico there’s even a converted London Routemaster doubledecker bus. The 159 to Streatham Hill, to be precise – a bus I know well from home! What Tfl fuck-up caused to divert to Colombia? I don’t know. But I do know you can sit on its upper deck and drink coffee.

parque el chico london bus bogota

Wander around La Macarena

The bohemian, arty area of Bogota, this tiny hillside neighbourhood has boutiques, quirky cafes, restaurants and bars as well as some of the most developable property in the city. Forget loft conversions, how do you fancy refurbing one of these:

La Macarena Bogota

Chuck in a patched-up sofa and some salvaged door knobs and you’re away!

While you’re in the area, stop in at Tapas Macarena or its sister restaurant, tapas-Indian fusion cafe El Mat where the spicy satay dip with flatbread is delicious and the creations listed on the menu are as vibrant as the cafe’s interior.

El Mat Bogota

Have a drink in a cafe/bar/art space/gig venue/boutique

No hipster day out is complete without a stop at a multi-purpose venue. Step right up A Seis Manos. It has everything you need for the perfect experience: random objects hanging from the ceiling, tables decoupaged with vintage magazines, a chalk board of upcoming music and art events, an area inexplicably lit in red, and an annex with a vintage clothing boutique.

A seis manos bogota

They have a fairly full menu of food (think steak sandwiches), a variety of beers (see below) and their coffee is pretty decent too.

A seis manos bogota

Yes, I did give in to temptation in the vintage shop. Of course I did.

Hang out in Chapinero Alto

If you’re a trendy young thing living in Bogotá, mark my words this is where you’ll be renting an apartment. A residential neighbourhood with pockets of groovy bars, restaurants and clubs, Chapinero also offers plenty to amuse the trendy young visitor.

Salvo Patria Bogota

Bars and restaurants abound, with our favourite being Salvo Patria (have the lamb neck) which serves craft ales and brings you miniature plastic animals with your bill. What’s not to like?

Salvo Patria bogota

LGBTQ-friendly Chapinero is also home to Theatron, the biggest gay club in the city and many nearby hotels market themselves as “gay hotels”.

Day to day you can drink loose-leaf tea at the Taller de Té, watch independent films at In Vitro and realign your chakras at the bikram yoga studio.

Drink craft beer

Chelarte cerveza beer

According to Wikipedia, Colombia is opening microbreweries at a rate that outstrips regional demand. There is no source for this “fact” so I think we can safely assume it’s at least a mild exaggeration. It is, however, true to say that craft beer is on the up in Colombia, as it is in every part of the world that deems itself even remotely ‘with it’. The foremost player is the Bogota Beer Company, founded in 1997, which churns out a reasonable offering of ales, lagers and one porter all named after areas of the capital city. You’ll find them on draft and in bottles.

To be perfectly honest, they aren’t fantastic but they’re a welcome effort. In fact we preferred the  offerings from local cervecerías Chelarte and Moonshine. The American Pale Ale-style Raquel was just about crisp enough for me while Rob liked Moonshine’s Amber Ale.

And they all come with suitably artsy labels.

Get your hair cut by hairdressing assassins

La Peluqueria hair salon, in Bogotá’s historical La Candelaria neighbourhood, describes itself as a “contemporary cultural art center” which offers not just a hair design service but an artistic experience and social event rolled into one.

La Peluqueria Bogota

The concept of the “hairdressing assassin” was created by founder Melissa Paerez who, after a period living in London’s uber-hipster Hackney, decided Bogotá needed a more radical approach to hairdressing. At La Peluqueria both male and female clients put themselves entirely into the hands of the stylist.

A brief chat on the kind of vibe you are going for is all that’s needed before they come at you with their scissors and razors. There are no mirrors and as you sit on your vintage salon stool in the middle of the mosaic floor, metal blades clicking around your ears, all you can do is pray that your requests didn’t accidentally get translated as “a number one all over”.

Never one to pass up on an opportunity to revamp my look, I let the lovely (English-speaking) Julia loose on my barnet. Here’s what she came up with:

Francesca Cookney

I gotta say I’m pretty chuffed and, if I’m honest, rather relieved! Cuts cost 40,000 pesos (£10/$16) and colour starts at 57,000 (£15 /$23) with top tend treatments such as highlights coming in at around 135,000 (£36/$56).

Oh and it’s a cafe and vintage shop as well – obvs.

La Peluqueria Bogota

Fuck the flat white: An espresso-drinker’s guide to San Francisco coffee

Hi, and welcome to the internet’s billionth blog post about coffee in San Francisco (trust me, I’ve read at least half of them myself so I am aware that this is well-trodden ground). So why am I bothering? Well, I like  coffee. And I like drinking it in nice places. And any city that caters so extensively to that surely bears some further examination.

I wouldn’t by any means call myself a coffee connoisseur. I’m not geeky about it. I just want it to taste good. And to me that means strong. I don’t add milk, water or – heaven forbid – any manner of syrup, sugar, or flavouring.

At a push I will drink cafetiere coffee but I will usually need a ‘proper’ coffee afterwards. I was recently introduced to the Chemex method and although I admit the thing looks sexy, I just can’t get on board with the weak taste. A hazelnut macchiato to me seems more like a pudding than a coffee. Flat whites? Give me a break (actually I didn’t really see an awful of lot white-flatting going on, the trendy coffee here seems to be the “drip” coffee but the title worked better).

That’s not to say, I’m not interested in knowing where the coffee comes from, how it’s farmed, blended and processed. But offering 36 different blends of coffee is wasted on me because if you only do one type of espresso, that’s all I’m going to end up sampling.

So rather than focus too much on what bean blends and vile “coffee creations” a place offers, I’ve endeavoured simply to tell you which places I rated and which I didn’t. I was only in the city for a week so this is by no means an exhaustive report but I hope I’ve covered some decent ground.

So with all that in mind, here is my guide to San Francisco’s coffee scene…

Ritual, 1026 Valencia St

Ritual coffee San Francisco

The look: Airport-chic.

The staff: Cool and aloof.

The espresso: Bitter as hell.

The WiFi: I was too scared to ask.

I know it’s fashionable but I find these big-open-space cafes a bit soulless. I also don’t like it when the bar area takes up most of the room. I know you want to show off your science lab-style brewing and grinding devices but to be honest I’m not all that interested. A few more tables would make this place more buzzing and I wish places would stop thinking long communal tables are the way we want to be seated. I’m from England, I like cosy corners and nooks. And, more crucially, I’m from London so I hate other people. On the plus side, there is a mini garden at the back with cacti in which is the kind of quirky detail I enjoy.

Coffee in San Francisco Rob enjoying the cacti. The coffee, not so much.

 

The Mill, 736 Divisadero St

The Mill San Francisco

The look: So fresh and so clean.

The staff: Effortlessly trendy.

The espresso: Photo-worthy. Otherwise ok.

The WiFi: You’re kidding, right?

I’ll say one thing. It’s lovely and bright in here – all white tiles and sanded wood. As a European I would instinctively call this ‘Scandi’ style but I am assured this is pure San Francisco. Gorgeous but in a slightly intimidating way (as in: I feel like you also have to be gorgeous to go in and I fall quite drastically below par). Another whopping great bar area but it’s at the rear of the shop so doesn’t dominate in the same way. Plus they make bread here so you have to assume they genuinely need the space. Not enough tables for my liking and the airiness wouldn’t inspire you to hunker down for long but perhaps that’s the point.

If I was staying nearby (which I was) I would quite happily swing by this place of a morning. I would probably get take-away though so as not to sully the place.

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The Mill coffee San Francisco

 

 

Matching Half, 1799 McAllister St

Matching Half San Francisco

The look: Eclectic botanical (is that a thing?)

The staff: The first to actually talk to us in a way that extended beyond “what can I get you?”

The espresso: Great. Plus I had a mini-rant about how much disrespect I felt there was in other places for the humble espresso and the barista had the good manners to laugh.

The WiFi: I want to say yes but I actually can’t remember. And I didn’t make notes. I’m the worst blogger ever. It’s ok, you can say it.

Alright, I don’t know what ‘eclectic botanical’ is either but they do have plants in here and outside which instantly gives it more of a ‘local community’ vibe rather than the ‘caffeine warehouse’ look channelled by so many others. It’s small, which I like, there are tables outside, and the staff were super friendly. It was also a bit more cluttered, with an array of artwork and decorations on the walls, countertop cake stands (unusual – see below for more on the subject of cake), and it just generally felt like a place with a bit more character. Ok, I’m going to come right out and say it: this was my favourite. Kind of ruined the suspense, haven’t I? If you’re still interested in hearing about the others, then do by all means read on.

Matching Half coffee shop

 

The Grind, 783 Haight St

The Grind San Francisco

The look: Friendly neighbourhood cafe.

The staff: Friendly (obvs).

The espresso: Good. I was absolutely gagging for one by the time we got here so I pretty much just knocked it back.

The WiFi: Available on weekdays. We sat with our laptops for a good hour without anyone minding (or seeming to mind).

The outside looks trendy but inside it’s just a standard cafe, really. They do quite a lot of food as well as coffee so you don’t get that wonderful coffee-smell as you walk in the way you do with some of the others but there are plenty of tables and the veranda area at the front is quite a pleasant spot to sit in and people-watch.

 

Wicked Grounds, 289 8th St

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The look: Student-flat-meets-kinky-boudoir.

The staff: Underwear-clad but not very friendly.

The espresso: Fine. It’s not really about the coffee here but it’s good to note they can do a decent job of it.

The WiFi: Present and correct although they clearly didn’t like us sitting there using it for as long as we did. Perhaps I should have bought a sex toy to sweeten the deal.

I’ll be honest, we only went here because it bills itself as a “kink cafe” and who wouldn’t be curious about that? However, it does neither kink nor cafe particularly well. The boutique aspect consists of a few whips and paddles in various materials (including REAL raccoon tail – I was tempted) although there are some interesting books. There are (rather poor) portraits of people in varying stages of rope bondage on the walls and a lot of postcards and flyers advertising various erotic and educational services around SF but beyond that it wasn’t very inspiring. Seats are largely faded sofas that look like skip-salvage (perhaps they are) and there was only one item of furniture upholstered in red velvet which seems like a missed opportunity to me.

I genuinely wanted this to be a ground-breaking synergy of sex-positivity and coffee but I found it completely lacklustre. However, I’d be interested to pop in again to see if they’d developed it at all or just when it was a bit busier.

 

 

The Buena Vista Cafe, 2765 Hyde St

I didn’t take a photo but it looks like this:

Buena Vista Cafe

The look: Irish pub crossed with cafe-diner.

The staff: Slightly manic.

The espresso: In a wild deviation from my whole ethos, I am going to make room for a discussion of “other kinds” of coffee because there’s really only one reason you come here and that’s for the Irish coffee.

The WiFi: Found it, logged onto it, used it.

Of course, like so many coffee creations (pumpkin-spiced latte, I’m looking at you!), Irish coffee isn’t coffee at all but a coffee-flavoured pudding (with booze in). I accept that and I only include it in my coffee guide because otherwise there isn’t really anywhere I can get it in. The Buena Vista claims to have been the first place in San Francisco to serve them and I must admit, they are excellent. I even got over my  irrational fear of dairy to consume the full-cream they come topped with. The bar is crammed full of tourists and the staff deal with you as only people who churn out sixty billion Irish coffees a day can: with slightly intense efficiency.

 

Mojo, 639 Divisadero St

Mojo coffee San Francisco

The look: Quirky workshop.

The staff: The barista seemed a little dazed. That’s not necessarily a criticism…

The espresso: Good. Although it seemed to take an inordinate amount of time to make. And I was partially distracted by Rob inexplicably ordering an Americano.

The WiFi: Mon-Fri 7am-3pm.

I actually loved it in here. It’s part coffee shop, part bike store and workshop, a bit like Look Mum, No Hands! in London but far, far less pretentious. Also, the bike area is through the back which means if you’re not a bikey person you can still come here and not feel like a 12-year-old who just accidentally wandered into the 6th form common room. Despite the communal tables, it felt quite cosy and there were plenty of smaller tables outside too. The walls are wood-panelled and the industrial-look lamps hang low. So far, so on trend but it all works and doesn’t feel overly contrived. NB they only take cash.

Mojo coffee San Francisco

Other cafes I walked past but didn’t have time to go in:

PhillzSupposedly THE place to go in the Mission, it just looked like a regular cafe to me. Apparently they do really good mint mojito iced coffee though so… *raises judgemental eyebrow*

ReveilleThis looked lovely – all fairy lights and sunny outdoor patio, tucked underneath a big Victorian town house. But we were both starving and it was quite busy so we rushed on by to find somewhere to eat.

Coffee Cantata (see main photo above) – Really liked the slightly dark cluttered look of this place  as well as the genuinely retro tiles and signage. Also, what oh what is Boba tea? I may never have the chance to know.

ONE LAST THING ABOUT COFFEE SHOPS IN SAN FRANCISCO AND THEN I’LL SHUT UP.

Where are the cakes? It’s a serious question. I’m not even a cake person but I couldn’t help noticing the lack of pastries and biscuits on offer. In Europe you walk into a coffee shop and it’s all cream-topped sponge, sugared pastry, glistening tarts, squidgy brownies, strudel, croissants, cornetti, and not to mention the dreaded cupcakes. But in San Francisco a few dried up muffins and the odd stale-looking scone were all we really saw.

It’s probably a good thing. Heaven knows easy access to pastry hasn’t done the UK’s obesity figures any good. But there’s something a bit sad about walking into a coffee shop and seeing only this:

Coffee shop San Francisco

So what do you think? Did I miss anywhere (I obviously did)? Do you agree with my reviews? Do you have any recommendations? I’m heading to Latin America next where good coffee may be hard to come by so any suggestions you have will be very gratefully received.

For more round-ups of San Francisco coffee houses check out Thrillist, Mr Archer, and SFist – all of which I referred to regularly in my hunt for coffee.

Coffee girl