South America Living

What Would Jesus Do?

The Best Cup of Coffee I Have Ever Had

Salento, Colombia

Salento, Colombia

In the heart of Colombia’s Eje Cafetero (literally, “Axis of Coffee”), in the idyllic town of Salento, I found what is possibly the most enjoyable coffee-drinking experience I have ever known. Salento is the gateway to the magical Valle de Cocora, home to the majestic and endangered Wax Palms, and is surrounded by coffee farms. During my three weeks traveling all over Colombia, I had been told that, although this country is one of the world’s largest producers of coffee, it’s difficult to find Colombian grown java at the local coffee shops (the majority of the product is exported). But here in Salento there is a little cafe that does it right.

The Cafe Jesus Martin is just a few steps off the central square in Salento. It’s a cozy little place (I would estimate it could seat no more than twenty people at a time) decorated in bright colors and funky decor. The day I visited, all but a couple of seats were taken, as the local patrons were glued to the television, watching an important soccer match featuring Colombia’s favorite son, the football star James Rodriguez (although, to be sure, no matter where I went in this soccer-mad country, there always seemed to be some vital match on every TV, surrounded by groups of men cheering or lamenting. There are more convenient and less stressful ways to enjoy your wagering, such as


Jesus Martin takes coffee seriously. They buy all their beans from local fincas, and pay assiduous detail to the art of brewing the perfect cup of joe. Their baristas are experts at their craft.

Now, let’s be clear: I am by no means a coffee snob. I mean, I like a jolt at home most mornings, and in recent years I’ve learned to appreciate the difference between the generic big brand cans that my parents drank and a well-made espresso at one of the ubiquitous gourmet coffee shops that are Seattle’s gift to the world. But I am not any kind of an expert. However, here I was in the homeland of the real stuff, having taken a tour of one of the local coffee farms, where I saw how the beans are grown and processed, in what I had been told was the best little cafe in Colombia, so I was paying careful attention. I watched as my barista measured the grounds, filled the portafilter (I had to look this word up – it’s the shallow metal bowl with a handle that holds the grounds), tamped it down carefully and locked it in place. After filling my cup with the magic elixir, he did some sort of sleight of hand to create a sexy swirl on top of the foam. This guy knew what he was doing.


But it wasn’t the preparation or even the presentation that made the Cafe Jesus Martin such a memorable experience. I was expecting to be underwhelmed, after all this buildup. But as soon as I took my first sip, I was transported to a new level of coffee love. It’s hard to describe the taste experience, other than to say that at that instant I got it. It really was the best cup of coffee I have ever had – rich, full of all the fragrance and flavor of the verdant hillsides surrounding this ancient village. If every cup of coffee I had had in all the diners and office break rooms in my life had been anything like this, my attitude about coffee would have been completely different. I am a convert now. Not a snob (I hope), but surely an appreciative student.

The beautiful green mountains, the charming little tourist town, the colorful and hip cafe, the local men cheering on their favorite player in their favorite game, and the coffee lovingly grown and harvested just a few miles away, brilliantly roasted and prepared – all combined to provide the perfect coffee drinking experience. One I shall always treasure.

Inside Jesus Martin

Inside Jesus Martin

Unfortunately, James’ team lost the game, and the disappointed fans emptied the little cafe. I found myself almost alone, savoring a memorable moment, and ordered another cup.

If you ever find yourself in Salento, Colombia, you must stop in at the Cafe Jesus Martin. You will not regret it.

Buen Viaje!

March, 2016

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