Cafe Tortoni: A Cup of Argentinian Coffee History
With an astounding 60% of Argentinians having Italian ancestry, it’s no surprise that coffee culture in Buenos Aires is robust and thriving. With small, independent neighbourhood cafes, local chains like The Coffee Store, and even Starbucks, lurking throughout the city, it’s super easy to get your daily dose of required caffeine – something that made this particular coffee addict, very, very happy. 🙂
In a city positively awash with resplendent choices, it’s difficult to focus, but the one cafe I was most excited about visiting was Cafe Tortoni, the oldest and most famous coffee house in all of Argentina. Getting a fix in one of the world’s 10 most beautiful cafes, was an experience I wasn’t willing to miss.
Founded in 1858 by a French immigrant, Tortoni’s caffeinated brews have passed the renowned lips of politicians, thinkers and celebrities, including Albert Einstein, Hillary Clinton, the King of Spain, Robert Duvall and tango great, Carlos Gardel.
The design of the cafe is as spectacular as it’s list of patrons. Decorated in an art nouveau style, the building features intricate mouldings, a $1.4 million Tiffany glass ceiling, stained glass windows and green marble topped tables. Old, black and white photos line the walls, imbuing Tortoni’s with just the right hint of historical gravitas.
Now after all this talk of coffee at Tortoni’s, you’d think I would’ve been right on the cafe con leche, but alas, when the time came, I ended up ordering an Argentinian specialty instead – the Submarino. This cleverly named beverage involves a cup of steamed milk, and a chocolate submarine, which you submerge to create hot chocolate. What could be better than ordering something uniquely Argentinian in a decidedly Argentinian cafe (or so I romantically thought).
Agri took a more traditional route and ordered a cafe con leche and 3 churros con chocolate, which the cafe is famous for.
Truthfully, the submarino, cafe con leche and churros were average at best. The submarino chocolate was waxy, the coffee tasted burnt and the churros were greasy and seemed a day old. Better coffee and churros can definitely be had elsewhere in Buenos Aires, and for a fraction of the price.
Still, in my mind, sitting in a grand old cafe and soaking in 150 years of history, is a pleasure well worth the price of an average cup of coffee…but, just once. 😉
Located at 825 Avenida de Mayo, Tortoni can be reached by taking the A Line Subte (itself a piece of history) to Plaza de Mayo station, and taking a stroll down the Avenida.
Don’t expect great coffee, or great service and don’t be shy about getting a waiter’s attention.
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