I’m a coffee addict. I’m not quite at the level of Balzac, the French writer infamous for his almost superhuman caffeine intake. But I like to have at least one decent cup of java every morning to restore my humanity and own a grind and brew coffee machine.
Drip fed, black, white, French press, a barista work of art – I love it all. But in South America where loads of the world’s best coffee is grown I have been pretty shocked at how bad it is. It’s kind of like going to France and being served corked wine or meeting an ocker Australian called Bruce Crocodilekiller who studied classics at Oxford.
Expectation does not meet reality.
Coffee in South America
In Bolivia, coffee and even tea was as rare as hen’s teeth. Coca tea is the drink of choice there and I must say it’s a pretty good substitute. Ecuador is a coffee freeze-dried lover’s paradise, while in Peru whenever I ordered a cafe con leche (coffee with milk) I was given a huge cup of warm milk and a small glass pitcher of dark liquid; concentrated coffee syrup brewed from ground beans.
That sounds like a great idea until you try it.
Ordering it black is even worse.
One of the best things about travelling overseas is trying unfamiliar local foods. And with coffee, I have tried, but I have failed. Give me an Aussie style coffee!
So imagine my delight when we rocked up in Cusco after a hellish overnight bus and found Jack’s Cafe, a place run by an Australian lady who has put the words ‘Flat White’ at the top of the drinks menu.
Drinks at Jack’s Cafe
To an Australian overseas those two words are like a lighthouse on a dark and stormy night.
Flat white is a very Australian way of drinking coffee and believe me, my sunburnt home is filled with the biggest coffee snobs you will ever meet outside of Italy. It’s a double shot of espresso topped with a layer of micro-foam milk and my usual drink of choice. There’s more coffee in the mix than a cappuccino or latte so you get a stronger taste cut with velvety milk.
When the waitress came to take our orders I said the magic words. ‘Make that two,’ Carmen added and smiled with relief. But that was just the beginning of our restoration.
Food at Jack’s Cafe
The rest of the menu is exactly what you would find in a cafe on the North Shore in Sydney or a beach side place in Perth. Bacon and eggs married to grilled veggies, huge toasted cheese sandwiches filled with pesto and oven baked tomatoes, granola and yogurt, smoothies and juices. There were a few Latin twists in there too like huevos rancheros and tortillas. Yum!
I picked the huveos rancheros and a banana smoothie while Carmen went for scrambled eggs with pesto and grilled tomatoes, and a mango juice.
It’s fair to say we annihilated it all.
A few days later we tackled the steep ascents of the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. Aside from my goal to reach the fabled lost citadel, a thought that kept me going was the enormous breakfast I was going to have at Jack’s Cafe afterward to soothe my aching body!
Upon our return I ordered my usual flat white and went for one of the massive grilled cheese sandwiches; chicken, avocado and mushrooms with a side order of bacon. Carmen tried to be good and went for the grilled veggies and hummus sandwich. Both were delicious and a great reward for all the calories we sweated out to get to Machu Picchu.
Atmosphere at Jack’s Cafe.
Jack’s is usually always busy so finding a table can be a matter of luck or waiting in a long line snaking out the door. It gets pretty loud in there too. The coffee machine screams constantly as the barista steams milk and the quick handed chefs out the back bellow and clatter their knifes as full tables clink their cutlery and chatter away. But that’s part of the charm and I found myself getting swept up in it pretty fast.
Service at Jack’s Cafe
We went to Jack’s Cafe three times during our stay in Cusco, twice to eat and once for drinks. All three times the service was prompt and accurate and the staff delivered our food quickly.
We had no complaints about the quality or taste and were pretty impressed with everything. All the staff are very friendly and take the time to have a chat with you about the food. It’s got a good mix of relaxed atmosphere and a super tight work force.
All staff members speak fluent English.
Overall thoughts on Jack’s Cafe
The deeper we get into Latin America the more I find myself wishing Jack’s Cafe did air drops!
What you need to know
Cost: Plates at Jack’s are between US$3 and US$8.
How to get there: Jack’s Cafe is on the corner of Choquechaka, number 509, a five minute walk from Cusco’s main square.
When to go: When you’re hungry! Early is best for breakfast, after that the brunch and lunch rush is on and you may have to wait for a table.