Visitors to Guatemala can expect every cafe and coffee bar to state, with the utmost authority and conviction, that the coffee they serve or sell by the kilo is the best in all of Guatemala. I take my coffee seriously, so all I’ll usually respond with is, “This is good coffee, for sure.” That is until I discovered Crossroads Cafe in Panajachel, on Lake Atitlan.
Mike Roberts is the owner, operator, bean buyer, coffee roster, and resident coffee connoisseur at Crossroads Cafe. He too swears that his coffee blends are the best in all of Guatemala, but Mike doesn’t sing the praises of his coffee alone. Every expat we bumped into directed us to the Crossroads Cafe when we asked where we could get a great cup of coffee. There has to be something to the recommendations, being as we were in a country awash with mom and pop operated cafes and coffee shops serving their own blends. We had a couple of hours to kill in Panajachel, so we when looking for Crossroads Cafe.
It was not easy to find. We enlisted the services of a tuk-tuk, the small, three wheeled taxis that all charge the same Q5 per person. That is unless the driver thinks the market will bear more, and the passenger doesn’t know any better. The cafe was small and rustic, but full of customers having a cup of coffee and chatting with each other and the man behind the bar. I looked around and was surprised to see a bar top coffee grinder and roaster that probably had a daily output of 5 kilos. Surely his was not the famous Crossroads Cafe that had dedicated customers the world over.
As I assumed, the man behind the counter was Mike. Sue, he and I chatted for a bit before we asked him to tell us about his business on camera. To keep things fresh Sue held the camera and Mike and I wandered into the back room. It was a closet with a toilet attached. A single bookshelf with assorted reading material made up the sole piece of furniture. Mike asked me to pull out a book and the shelf magically opened to become a doorway. As it opened, the smell of roasting coffee beans permeated the air.
[ I had a video of this but it was stored on my camera and laptop, which were stolen in Honduras. There is no substitute for cloud hosting when you travel 🙁 ]
Inside was a room at least twice the size of the cafe, with a massive coffee bean roster sitting in one corner and bag upon bag of coffee beans stacked about. The coffee was sorted by brand, and Mike commenced a tour of brands that seemed to represent coffees from every country in Central and South America.
Mike explained that the cafe was a small part of his business. Over the counter and online sales of roasted beans and ground coffee were actually how the business prospered, and sales were steadily increasing. After a couple of cups of truly excellent coffee, it was time to go. If I’m ever back in Panajachel I’ll be stopping by Crossroads Cafe for a fresh cup of coffee. If I don’t make it back I’ll place an order online. The quality of the coffee will be the same, but I’ll miss the atmosphere of the rustic, homey little cafe.