Meet Pergamino, a new cafe in Medellin's trendily dizzying El Poblado district. “Pergamino” is the Spanish word for “parchment”, the outer shell that covers green coffee before dry milling.
As a cafe name it's apt, amounting to a sort of winking titular evidence of Pergamino's remarkable vertical integration and the vision of its owner, Pedro Echaverria, who is himself a coffee exporter, roaster, cafe owner, barista, and in-a-pinch dishwasher (if it gets busy). He's also the son of a Colombian coffee producer, and serves several of his family's coffees as part of Pergamino's carefully considered roasting menu. The cafe itself is gorgeous, an impressive amount of what they're serving is delicious, and there's a sort of “wow” factor to the whole experience; we'd hang out there every day if we could.
A boyish and witty 20-something with a business degree from Tufts University, Pedro Echavarria shares his name with his father, who has for decades owned and operated the Santa Barbara coffee estate. Pedro (the younger) sources several of the coffees served at his cafe; Pedro (the senior) is an affable, smiling, well-dressed and carefully coiffed older gentleman who counts himself as one of Pergamino's regulars. As an exporter for his father's coffee, Mr. Echavarria works largely with Royal New York and Castle & Company, and his coffees have been purchased by North American roasters like Brooklyn Roasting, La Mill, Social Coffee, and Alterra. The Echavarria family have an agronomist on staff, who is currently pursuing his masters degree in fermentation processing technologies at the National University's Medellin branch. Experimenting with different processing methods is a particular focus for these producers, and several of their experimental coffees are available at Pergamino, sold as single origin espresso, brewed coffee, and in 100g or 360g whole bean bags.
Pergamino's interior space a sensory delight: blonde woods, gray-beige leather banquette seating, black & white photos in antique wooden frames, tasteful ceiling-mounted hi-fi speakers, seashell filament lighting, and an open-air corner in the back of the space with a ceiling three times higher than the rest of the cafe, bathed in natural light from the corrugated greenhouse roof above. Wall-mounted planters vine their way upwards towards the sunshine, a vertical garden of orchids and succulents.
We're told that high quality coffee equipment is still something of a retail rarity in Colombia, but that's not the case here. Pergamino serves coffee using industry-standard fine brewing equipment, much of which is also available for retail at slightly above-market prices (thank the Colombian VAT). An Aerobie Aeropress will run you 90,000 pesos – around $45. Customers can similarly equip themselves with Chemex, Hario, and Bodum brewing devices.
Mr. Echavarria's staff pull espresso shots on a La Marzocco Strada MP, served in Pergamino's own branded flatware from Olympia, Washington cafe wares purveyor Espresso Parts. Cold brew coffee is available, but Pergamino's staff also proudly offers coffees brewed in the Japanese iced method. A Japanese iced mason jar of Pergamino's Finca Inza was the standout on our visit there, yielding clean and subtle notes of black tea, lemon, and clove. We also tried a caps lock DELICIOUS cascara preparation, very simply brewed and served iced, tasting like honey and tamarind candy.
Another rarity for Colombian cafes is a global variety of origin offerings, but Pergamino bucks this trend as well, selling an Ethiopia Haru that Mr. Echavarria believes to be the first African coffee ever sold in a Colombian cafe. “Rare” doesn't do this offering justice; Mr. Echavarria is setting precedent with every cup served, and in the process, staking out Pergamino's place in the global coffee enthusiast's imagination.
This article – and others, like this fine write-up from Julie Wolfson at Cool Hunting – should have piqued your interest. Great cafes are a part of specialty coffee's global imagination, and trust us when we say that Pergamino is a worthy entry to the cloud. They're doing the high-end specialty coffee retail experience as well as anyone else in the world right now, and its location in the chic, glamorous, teeming maze of El Poblado makes them a new, unique destination of sterling quality for coffee enthusiasts this world over.