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Cool Customers: Coffee and Lightning

February 4, 2011

I’m breaking a few of Cool Customers‘ implicit rules because I’m a special person.

I haunted the “Gourmet Ghetto” on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, California, long before demonstrating the superiority of one’s tastes and refinement became a widespread American pastime.

I ate Alice Medrich’s chocolate truffles, sniffed the Cheese Board Collective’s communist cheeses, bought Domaine Tempier’s then still affordable Bandol at Kermit Lynch, and preferred lunch at the upstairs Chez Panisse Café to dinner in the restaurant’s downstairs dining room, long before trend-starved hordes found it clever to do those things and behave that way.

I also always thought that Peet’s “dark roasted” coffee tasted like cigar ashes.

I am particular about coffee. I hate most of it. The most memorable cup I ever had was served to me in a rural Malaysian cafe built from plywood and chicken wire. The placid Malaysian men sitting around me, idly puffing their lovely smelling clove cigarettes, clapped and smiled when I grunted with pleasure after my first sip of the rich chocolate-scented toffee-colored coffee that’d been sweetened with condensed milk.

In other words, I wouldn’t go out of my way to write about a kind of coffee unless it really, truly pleased me. Mexico’s Punta del Cielo does.

I first encountered Punta del Cielo’s cafés several years ago in Puebla and did not, at the time, know that the chain had been launched in 2005 by a young Mexico City native, Pablo González Cid, who’d recognized that Mexico produced world-class organic coffees, but had a deplorably underdeveloped domestic market for a product of which Mexico and Mexicans ought rightfully be proud.

Punta del Cielo now has more than 100 stores worldwide, with franchises operating as far from Mexico City as Madrid and Hong Kong, and you can buy its coffees in just about every major Mexican supermarket. In Merida, a new café has just opened on the main square across from the cathedral, but the most enjoyable, in my opinion, is the café located at City Center where the tables on the vast airy south-facing patio offer spectacular views of the rainy season’s terrifying thunderstorms.

Of Punta del Cielo’s most widely available coffees, my favorite is the Oaxacan, which retains its vaguely licorice-like richness even when iced. Yes. Iced. I may be a snob, but I’m not prissy. And iced coffee is one of the greatest pleasures of life in the tropics.

The important thing is to use fresh, as opposed to stale and cold, coffee. Make a pot as you would usually and, as soon as it’s ready, take it off the heat and allow it to come to room temperature. Cool it further by adding well-chilled unsweetened evaporated milk. Then poor it into a glass filled with with hefty chunks of ice. Brilliant people even go so far as to use ice cubes made from fresh coffee. But only you know if you are, or might choose to be, so brilliant.

Café Punta del Cielo. City Center Mall, San Ramón Norte, Tel. 999-913-9090. Hours: Monday to Sunday, 7:00AM to 11:30PM.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. February 4, 2011 8:52 pm

    I believe there’s also a location in the zocalo now.

  2. February 5, 2011 7:18 pm

    ANYTHING prepared with evaporated, or especially, condensed milk, is superior. Try condensed milk directly out of the can. Use a tablespoon.

  3. eric permalink
    February 20, 2011 9:55 am

    I first encountered coffee made with condensed milk while living in Spain when serving in the USNavy. It was often used for café con leche, as dairy supplies were scanty, and the extreme heat of Al Andaluz often curdled milk quickly (and gringos, too).

    I look forward to visiting this outlet next time we’re in town. Thanks!

    ~eric.

  4. Arturo Rosenbaum permalink
    August 15, 2011 4:51 am

    It is a great franchise, and their coffee and mission are both highly commendable. If only they had a location up here in Texas..

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  1. Cafe Punta del Cielo « EAT MÉRIDA

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