After opening one popular location in the La Roma neighborhood, the owners of Cardinal have expanded to open a second space in the equally hip Condesa, an area full of nightclubs, bars, galleries, theater, restaurants, parks, and cafes. The owners—Alejandro Martinez, Paul Torres, and Mexico AeroPress Championship runner-up Shak Zapata—wanted to welcome all area residents and offer a coffee beverage for every palate.
“We have a quite diverse range of clientele, from neighborhood families and coffee geeks to digital nomads who use the shop as an office,” says Torres. “One of our main goals is to make everyone feel welcome and at home. We try to be ready to make every person who comes in feels like he or she belongs.” Cardinal offers specialty beverages made with coffee and other ingredients with a twist. For example, the affogato isn’t just made with regular vanilla, but with locally sourced ice cream—marzipan, vanilla lavender, pumpkin, spices, and other crazy flavors—that varies according to season, weather, or other factors. The new location also offers coffee cocktails with alcohol that change from week to week.
This little sibling mostly serves the same coffee as the original shop, uses a La Marzocco Linea Classic, and one blend or single origin, which are changed constantly for the espressos. For manual brews, Cardinal has Kalita Wave, Hario V60, Chemex, and AeroPress, while using several different kinds of coffee for these methods. They use Mexican coffee from different regions such as Oaxaca, Guerrero, Nayarit, Veracruz, and Chiapas, which are roasted by locals such as Café Shunuc, Pólvora, and Café Sublime.
“Cardinal stays true to its promise to provide 100 percent Mexican coffee beans and to actively pursue higher quality and fair opportunities for the producers while using creative ways of serving the best coffee available,” says Zapata. These guys are an integral part of the local industry. They’ve supported and encouraged their baristas to participate in several championships such as Brewers Cup, Barista, and AeroPress. For them, competitions are about learning and sharing knowledge, not only on stage but with the customers.
When creating the new location, the owners were looking for an old and abandoned space to save. The structure had humidity issues at first, but they transformed it into a beautiful, cozy, vintage café. Inspired by old Arab coffee houses, Cardinal has a mission that goes beyond just serving good coffee. They wanted to make a neighborhood space where the customers know each other and feel at home, so the service is very welcoming and kind.
“We draw inspiration from a lot of places,” says Torres. “We had this idea that everyone has their ideal cup of coffee. The range of profiles that you can get with processes, regions, brew methods, milk ratios, etc. is so vast, everyone can taste a cup and think ‘this is it.’ So one of the goals is to help people find that cup.”
“I consider us people responsibly in love with coffee,” says Zapata, “which means that we not only want to serve great Mexican coffee, we will continue to push to diversify its taste, create new ways of consuming it, pursue a sustained growth in quality [from seed to cup], and offer outstanding service for those who come to enjoy.” The relaxed atmosphere, good music, and the owners’ love for coffee culture makes the cafe an essential place to visit in Condesa.
Ximena Rubio is a coffee professional based in Mexico City.