The Sprudge’s Information to Espresso in Albuquerque
A small, self-conscious town, Albuquerque, NM has a huge coffee scene. It would not be possible to try every coffee in a week in the little corners, buildings and streets of the neighborhood.
Known as a constant stop on cross-country road trips (and located on historic Route 66) this is a place people stumble upon and never leave, a place so golden why you should ever leave . Albuquerque soaks up artists and writers and vaqueros while holding tight to its own people. It is a place of ancestral power, amazing food, and buildings of kaleidoscopic color. The seasons are characterized by the chilli harvest, the Balloon Fiesta, the few winter snowfalls and the swaying pink of the Sandia Mountains. The rhythm of life invites you to take long coffee breaks, and there is seating in each neighborhood to spend time together while the sun warms the rocks and the cacti gradually grow, the roots of which connect us.
As the city grows, it becomes more and more important to use locally anchored spaces and support the city’s investments in itself. In fact, Albuquerque has such a strong sense of self that, as an outsider, I can only try to describe it. In order to be true to Albuquerque’s own culture, we’ve only highlighted businesses owned by the people of Albuquerque and the surrounding area.
Sometimes it feels like all the traffic on the quiet streets between downtown and Barelas is being steered towards zendo, people on foot, on bicycles and in cars slowly making their way to coffee in the mornings. Unless owner Pilar Wendell is behind the counter, there will be some very cool and equally cute baristas. The space invites you to sunbathe: crisp white walls with changing pops of local art, house plants worth a villa, rows of skylights, and a back yard shared with the brewery next door. A counter piled high with cups and spices, an inset pastry shop with stacks of the absurdly most beautiful donuts and other delicious filled items, hot breakfast burritos that are served over the counter like blessed offerings.
They serve Odacrem coffee and a rotating gastro-roaster that always belongs to colored people and women. The founding principle of Zendo was to be a community spot to meet friends, get to know neighbors and balance the isolation of the digital world and this is evident in the proliferation of conversation and the energy of leisure infecting the space. “People come and are unsure,” says Wendell, “and then they notice that everyone behind the bar is super friendly and wants to know everything about you, all customers are super friendly and that all-encompassing sense of belonging is what I think everyone in the world really wants now. “
Golden crown panaderia
It is very hard to wait patiently in line, surrounded by the legendary smell of Golden Crown Panaderia: the toasted cinnamon and sugar that melted while baking biscochitos – cookies that cannot be described and which have to be tried. With jute bags with green coffee on the floor and sugar and flour sacks stacked up to the chest in the entrance area, the customer area looks like the anteroom to everything behind the counter: semi-hidden ovens that produce blue corn crust pizza, original New Mexico green chile bread, Fruit empanadas and trays and trays of biscochitos. There are plants in the windows, breads are plump and hot on their grates, the coffee is home-roasted and the biscochitos come in flavors such as chocolate, cappuccino and blue corn. Opened in 1972, Golden Crown Panaderia is a family run business that exudes the tradition, taste and invitation to relax with food and friends that make Albuquerque feel at home. It is possible to stay all day, feed yourself with breakfast, lunch and dinner, and sunbathe outside on the terrace.
As traffic bleeds onto the freeway, into the old town, or into the ranchlands on the outskirts of town, a couple of cars turn towards a low mud house with a large tent outside.
If his shiny turquoise Ford is parked in front of it, you’ll know owner Paul Gallegos is spinning coffee. As a full-time roaster, Gellegos started at Peet’s in 1989 and rode the waves back to his hometown of Albuquerque to open Cutbow in 2018. “One thing about Third Wave that I really appreciated from the start was its transparency and knowledge sharing. “Says Gallegos. The place has the roaster in focus – you have to walk past it to order your coffee – but the focus is generally on the community. “Cutbow held very popular weekly public cuppings in The Time Before,” says Gallegos, wondering what this might look like in the current climate. Gallegos has four blends and six single origins in stock, which he selects for year-round taste consistency. “I’ve been trying for almost 30 years since I roasted. I roasted a New Guinea in 1992 that was perfect and I’m still chasing that mug. “
In October 2020, two friends got together to open Slow Burn. Jesus Zamora – who owns the downtown Sister Bar – runs the stores and Gray Smith runs the coffee side and is the roaster. The hundred-year-old adobe building that houses Slow Burn was originally a general store that Zamora’s mother used to go to when she was a child to buy candy. Inside, pieces of this story can be found in warm wooden floors and pewter ceilings. Textured clay walls collide with color, just like in the desert landscape outside. Blue tiles line the bar and a light mural covers the back wall at the roaster, which is actually not a wall, but a partition between the front and another seating area with low sofas. The room feels cozy and awake at the same time and everything just flows: the ambience, the experienced baristas, the caffeinated people in and out.
On Sunday mornings, travelers aim for the back corner of Sawmill Market, home of Blue Door Patisserie, XO Waffle, and Plata Coffee. When the morning light falls through the wide windows, families bring their coffee to the seating areas in the huge space, whose restaurants and bars are not yet open, or to the sun-soaked picnic tables outside. The aesthetics of Plata Coffee are simple and simple: a modbar, coffee through rotating New Mexican roasters, attentive design down to the last detail. The official story goes that Plata started on a whim – the vision of Rose Kerkman from the nearby town of Magdalena and Aaron Ketner, who moved here to study and is currently an intern at a local company. Noticing that many cafes were bringing in their coffee from other states, the couple wanted to highlight New Mexico’s roasters, both the cherished classics and those that were popping up around town. They spent a year as a downtown coffee counter before starting construction on Sawmill, a wood mill that became a food hall and attracts many out of town visitors who support the local coffee community by buying beans to take back at home.
With the rapidly changing COVID-19 landscape, remember to always check-in at any coffee shop first to ensure it is open during normal hours.
Oona Robertson is a freelance journalist based in Las Vegas. Read more about Oona Robertston for Sprudge.
January 10, 2022