Capturing Buenos Aires’ Captivating Coffee Culture

Buenos Aires' famous cafe culture | © Vicky Martinez/Instagram
Buenos Aires' famous cafe culture | © Vicky Martinez/Instagram |
Photo of Sorcha O'Higgins
10 December 2017

Buenos Aires is famous for its café culture. We caught up with local photographer Vicky Martinez, who is passionate about capturing the city’s unique coffee culture on camera, to see what she had to say about what makes the Argentine capital’s love of coffee and cafés so unique.

What do you usually order in a café?

“If it is a specialty coffee shop, I ask for a flat white, and if it is a traditional café, I will order a double cortado, a typical coffee with espresso and just a small amount of milk. In summer, I drink a lot of iced coffee or coffeetonic.”

An eclectic café in Buenos Aires | © Vicky Martinez/Instagram

What is the future of coffee culture in Buenos Aires?

“In Buenos Aires, similar to what is happening in gastronomy and with the explosion of breweries, every time more premises are opened, people are more willing to explore new flavors, and then they begin to demand quality products. They are educating their palate little by little. Thankfully, despite this, the traditional cafés, bars, and restaurants are far from disappearing, so there are still lots of options to suit all tastes.”

Flat white or cortado, they’re all good | © Vicky Martinez/Instagram

In which café would you while away a few hours if you had to choose one?

“I really like Café Rivas. I think it’s a magical place, and it’s also in my favorite neighborhood, San Telmo, and it’s on a corner! An unbeatable place for a bar.”

Café Rivas, San Telmo | © Vicky Martinez/Instagram

What is the difference between the coffee culture in Buenos Aires to that in Europe, and in the rest of Argentina?

“It is a very typical custom of ours to go to a café or bar and spend hours chatting with a friend or reading a book without anyone bothering us. Our city is full of bars and cafés which are our favorite places to meet people, for pleasure or work. In a café you are never alone. It’s a social event, it goes beyond drinking a shot of coffee at the bar like the Italians, or asking for a takeaway coffee: it’s socializing.”

Enjoying the cafés of Buenos Aires | © Vicky Martinez/Instagram

Where is most of the coffee sourced?

“It comes from Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica and Puerto Rico, and some blends are also imported from Africa or Vietnam. In specialty coffee shops you can get coffee from all over the world.”

A traditional café, or bares notable | © Vicky Martinez/Instagram

How do you think people should take their coffee?

“The most porteño (Bueno Aires native) type of coffee is the cortado (coffee or espresso with an equal amount of milk), but I think everyone should take it the way they like it. But definitely without sugar, please!”

Las Violetas, a famous café in Buenos Aires | © Vicky Martinez/Instagram

What is the coffee culture in Buenos Aires like in general, and what do you think it says about the city itself?

“It speaks of a nostalgic, traditional, and friendly city. Of a society that usually goes to the usual bars and treats them as a kind of social club; they are places with a lot of life, almost like a second home. A refuge to get away from the urban chaos.”

La Poesia, a corner café in San Telmo popular with writers and poets | © Vicky Martinez/Instagram

What is it about the cafés and bares notables that inspires you?

“I love the bares notables for their architecture and history more than for their coffee, which is not always the best. If I want a really good coffee, I go to a specialty coffee shop, but if I want to sit in a café for hours and watch the urban tribe go by, just to entertain myself with the locals and listen to the conversations of the neighboring tables, or feel part of another time, I would choose to sit in a beautiful old café a thousand times over.”

As well as the traditional cafés, there are lots of new speciality coffee shops | © Vicky Martinez/Instagram

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