After a few hours in San Juan I’m convinced I need to move to Puerto Rico, and Café Cuatro Sombras is one reason why.
Stephen and I were walking toward the old part of the city on a very hot and humid morning when we passed a chalkboard sign advertising iced coffee. I don’t know anyone who drinks as much coffee as me except for him, so of course we decided to stop.
“Oh look, coffee. Should we stop?”
“I can always drink more coffee.”
“Ok let’s stop quick.”
That conversation happened a dozen times on a recent trip to Nashville and will undoubtedly happen a hundred times more on an upcoming road trip along Route 66. Agreeing to stop in San Juan we opened the door of Cuatro Sombras to find a beautiful cafe with a shaded garden area, a perfect respite from the heat. The cafe, on Recinto Sur Street, is a mix of Brooklyn hipster meets Barcelona cool. Most importantly, the coffee is very good, and it was clear the man-bun sporting barista knew what he was doing.
Cuatro Sombras serves single origin coffee from the mountains of Yauco, Puerto Rico, where the temperature and elevation provide the ideal growth environment. The coffee beans are handpicked and processed in a wet mill the same day, then sun dried and stored until ready to be roasted on-site at the cafe.
A bit of history
In 1846, a man named Domingo Mariani came to Puerto Rico from Corsica. He settled in Yauco and established the Hacienda Santa Clara, where he processed and exported coffee. Mariani is essentially the man who made Puerto Rican coffee famous around the world. Shade grown coffee was big at the time, and at Santa Clara the guaba, guamá, palo de pollo, and guaraguao trees were used for this purpose. These trees became known as the “four shadows,” or “cuatro sombras” of the hacienda. By the mid-1900s, Santa Clara closed its doors, as did many Puerto Rican coffee haciendas. Then, a few years ago Pablo Muñoz, a descendant of Domingo Mariani, began harvesting and roasting coffee from the same area in Yauco. He soon opened Cuatro Sombras “in honor of the Hacienda and its people.”
“Our mission is to present our coffee from Yauco in its purest form, without altering its essence and honoring the Puerto Rican hands that laboriously harvested it,” says Muñoz.
The result is bright, slightly sweet coffee with a hint of spice, served strong. Perfection.
I’m considering moving to Puerto Rico for a few months this winter, and already can’t wait to spend mornings sipping coffee and working from Cuatro Sombras’ beautiful patio. Visitors are welcome anytime.