A few years ago, finding good coffee in Montevideo was an arduous task—if not an impossible one. Cafes in the Uruguayan capital were serving poor quality, burnt beans. Thankfully, the coffee waves have finally hit the city and a well-made cup is now attainable, whether slow-brewed or pulled from an espresso machine. One of the pioneers in Montevideo’s specialty community is MVD Roasters’ Alvaro Planzo.
Before opening MVD in 2014, Planzo studied with coffee professionals like World Barista Championship judge Juan Mario Carvajal and sought out SCA certifications. “Uruguayans are crazy about coffee,” Planzo said in a recent interview with Sprudge. “But they usually drink it with loads of sugar. This was something curious for me, as we are a country very familiar to bitter flavors, such as our yerba mate—a cultural tradition.”
Planzo is the supplier for a number of cafes and restaurants in Uruguay (such as Garzon, run by the famous chef Francis Mallmann), and also offers training to the professionals who work serving his coffees.
Recently, in partnership with the owners of La Madriguera and Nómade Café, Planzo created a school for local baristas that’s now in the process of acquiring credentials in order to provide students with SCA certifications.
“Our goal is to change the coffee culture in Montevideo,” Planzo says. “And I think we are succeeding, especially since last year, thanks to new professionals and coffee shops that are spreading throughout the city.”
Below are just some of what this burgeoning scene has to offer.
The Lab Coffee Roasters
Run by barista Verónica Leyton, The Lab, as its name suggests, is a place to experience multiple experimental brewing methods. Lab baristas give customers impromptu lessons on a range of topics, from the origin of coffees to why particular brewing or milling methods were used in their preparation. “It’s our way to serve more than a cup of coffee, as we can explain and somehow teach our clients about the coffee culture,” Leyton explains. At The Lab, Layton sources coffee from farmers in countries around the world, including Colombia, Costa Rica, Burundi, Kenya, and Indonesia.
Escaramurza Libros y Café
A mixture of restaurant, bookstore, and coffee shop, this venue is run by the same crew in charge of La Huella, one of the best restaurants in Uruguay. Chef Alejandro Morales loves coffee and uses MVD as his supplier. Here, ristrettos and espressos are prepared with a Faema E61, and well-made cappuccinos pair well with sandwiches, cakes, and alfajores baked in-house. With a good cup of coffee in hand, you have a perfect excuse to peruse this cafe’s collection of rare books.
One of the first coffee shops to open in Montevideo, La Madriguera introduced Uruguayans to then-unprecedented brewing methods such as syphon, cold brew, and cold drip. This is also an MVD-supplied cafe, with the roastery a mere six blocks away. “We work together to sharpen our experience over roasting profiles and maintain a constant feedback to meet our baristas’ tastes and our customers’ needs,” Martin Chamyan, head barista and owner, says.
Nómade is the first mobile coffee business in Uruguay. It usually runs the streets of Montevideo, but during summer finds itself in Punta del Este, the hip and trendy coastal city in the southeast region of the country. Nómade began its life on the back of a Vespa, and now also hawks coffee with a Piaggio Ape tricycle and a bicycle, which is deployed to serve small events. Depending on the vehicle, Nómade serves espresso and brewed coffee, as well as iced coffee and bottled cold brew. Their house—or should we say house-less—espresso blend was recently put together by Nómade owner Nacho Gallo. It consisted of beans from Brazil, Ethiopia, and Sumatra. Gallo adds that although he’s a nomad now, his business will soon have a permanent address.
In an elegant room with a great view of Montevideo, Rooftop Café is located in the Celebra Building, one of the most modern in the city. Expect to find businessmen here, but also good food, like salads and pies, and great coffee. From a Cimbali M27, Rooftop serves mochaccinos, macchiatos, lattes, and cortados. It’s a place to hold meetings or enjoy an espresso while looking to the city’s skyline.
Rafael Tonon is a freelance journalist based in Brazil. Read more Rafael Tonon on Sprudge.