I had barely walked into Espressarte and I could tell it was different. No music, no fancy lighting or artwork, no distracting decor. Just a barista behind the bar weighing scoops of coffee to the nearest bean while three mesmerized customers studied her every move. They watched as one might watch a street artist etch a name onto a piece of rice, or a sculptor turn a block of marble into a bouquet of roses. She was in charge. The mood-setter. Mastery ensured by expert and calculated moves. Her conversational skills kept her customers relaxed, laughing. This strengthened her rapport. It built trust—the secret energetic ingredient that makes specialty coffee, well, specialty.
Nobody sitting at the bar was in a hurry. Though dressed in fancy suits and looking rather professional, time stopped the attentive men from looking at watches or messing with devices. Spells were being cast. None wanted to miss the moment of alchemy.
I too became captivated. My eyes followed her hypnotic process. When she asked what I wanted, I snapped out of it, realizing I’d moved closer to the three men as if we were all acquainted. Espressarte’s vibe intoxicated. It didn’t just chip away at social boundaries, it eliminated them. I told her I’d like a double espresso. She asked if it was for here. I said yes, but thought hell yes. There was no way I was leaving anytime soon.
More customers came in, adding to the room’s electricity. All regulars, apparently, since the barista welcomed each warmly. Some took seats (there aren’t many) while others leaned on the adjacent bakery’s counter. These days it’s strange to be in a room filled with people not attached to their smartphones. Espressarte hearkened us all back to a simpler time. A time of human connection and selfless awe. Something we, as humans, innately need but have forgotten all about.
After watching her purposely choose a different colored saucer for my cup, she set my double on a table already occupied by a female client. Asked if I minded sitting there. Not at all. I thanked her and she went back to her work. My table mate introduced herself as Olivia, and promptly told me that the woman behind the bar, Abríl Solis, is world famous. When I told Olivia I wanted to photograph my espresso she responded without hesitation, “Claro.” Of course.
The 28 peso pull was alive with personality. It seemed to embody the room’s anticipation for beauty. I admired its qualities: a rich dark brown topped with lighter foam, an aroma that made sound disappear from the busy street, a taste like the feel of fingers down my back—an exhale of relief, a risqué hint and full body chills. This espresso was medicinal.
After a solid half hour rush, I paid for my drink and asked Abríl for some beans. She recommended a grano (beans) from Atoyac de Alvarez in Guerrero. She explained the gentle nuances of the varietal. Hints of black honey and bourbon. She had, in fact, just roasted this batch upstairs on Saturday. Abríl popped the container’s lid and told me to smell the beans. Fresh, aromatic, dream-inducing. The passion in her eyes made me think of family, of something unconditional.
I upped my order to a half pound. I needed to take home as much of Espressarte as possible. Fact is, it’s easy to make room for extra love in my shoulder bag. Fits in like it’s meant to be there.
LOCATION: Avenida Monterrey 151, Colonia Roma Norte