Retail Coffee in El Salvador includes several quality shops. Some of these shops participate in the National and World Barista championships, and serve coffees that place competitively in the Cup of Excellence and other well known forums.
I visited Ben’s coffee today at the Multi-Plaza mall. Ben’s has several other locations you can find on their Facebook page (linked above). This is a synopsis of my experience today.
The staff greeted us in a friendly way, and was patient with our trouble with “non-coffee” Spanish. I ordered a single shot of espresso, and two cappuccinos. The Barista takes your order and makes your drink even though it is table service. He asked us if we wanted 12 or 8oz drinks and we chose 8oz.
One of Ben’s novelties is that they make it a point to make latte art on each drink. When practical they perform the milk pour at the table, and though it is probably a violation of several coffee purist laws, I enjoy the interaction. We enjoyed both a scorpion, and a rabbit pour, which my daughter greatly enjoyed.
The cappuccinos were better than I would expect to get at Starbucks. The milk separated a bit because of the time delay of pouring at the table and the complicated design drawn. I think it is a compromise they make with the emphasis on latte-art, which can be easier with looser milk.
The espresso tasted like the coffee was roasted quite dark, and the most prominent flavor was that of the dark roast. I acknowledge this can be a popular style, and some people prefer a very dark roast. In El Salvador where some uniquely flavorful coffees are grown I prefer a more delicate handling of the coffee. Regardless of that preference I’ll admit the espresso tasted better in milk than on it’s own, and may be designed more to be used in drinks than enjoyed as a drink in and of itself. I love good stand alone espresso, and search for it constantly.
A very positive thing about Ben’s today was that the staff was extremely conversational, and attentive. The staff is ready to talk about the individual coffees they sell, and appear genuinely interested in their craft, and product.
Ben’s does violate some rules coffee purists hold dear, but still serves a better product than the vast majority of independent coffee houses in the U.S, has friendly attentive and educated staff, and a very nice seating area in which to relax.