Hit or Miss, more things to drink, all in Providencia

Back by popular demand (okay, one person asked for it), I’ve got a hit or miss for you.

First, a miss, with a qualifier. I was on the fifth comuna of a 5-comuna tour, with meetings and visits and such all over town, so I needed this to be good. I needed it to be really good. And it wasn’t.

I finally went to Big Boba, the bubble tea place in Manuel Montt. I figured out it was here because I saw someone drinking one on the metro, and I did a quick run-through of the places where they make bubble tea, and she was coming from the opposite direction (incidentally, this same sleuthing is how I found out that there was a Starbucks in my neighborhood), so I asked her where she got it.

They have a panoply of flavors and combos. The menu looks like the back of a jelly belly bag where they explain what combination of colors and flavors you need to make for example, a root beer float. So I did not get one of the fancy concoctions with pinepple or coconut, just said black tea, regular tapioca. They also have molecular science-produced popping boba, which I did not get. The tea was several things. One of them was not cold enough, and did not have enough ice. The second (possibly related to the first) is that it was much too milky. The third one is that as I was putting the straw to my lips, the happy cashier (possibly the proprietor) said, “It’s got stevia in it!”

What the what? I don’t want stevia, and I especially don’t want surprise stevia. He said, “you can’t even taste it!” So then I thought, then why did you tell me? And I also thought, then why use it? Also, taste is very suggestible and then I felt like I could taste it. And I was grumpy.

On the other hand, the tapioca balls themselves were perfect, not to hard, not too soft. I would go back to try the popping bubbles because I have no idea what that would be like, so may as well try. But I would not go back for the classic. I’m sticking to good old Chicken Tea for that, my local Taiwanese-owned fried item and bubble tea shop down in República.


Miss, but look how cute. I wish I liked my tea more. Big Boba, Manuel Montt 221. Closest metro, unsurprisingly, Manuel Montt.

And then there’s the flip side.

Biking around one day with a friend, while housesitting for another friend’s dogs and cat, which by the way, did you know that dogs will follow you around incessantly with a look on their face that says, “walk? walk?” even when you have just come in from an hour-long walk? That is pesky.

So anyway, up on Suecia norte, which I normally have no occasion to go to, and popped past Cafe Cultura, which you can smell from far away because they roast their own coffee. Roast their own coffee. Their own single-origin coffee. Have I stressed this enough?

I had a single espresso (which they gave me for free for reasons that are not entirely clear to me, maybe they’re just like that) and it was excellent. Had a nice crema, not too hot, and it was more bitter than chocolatey, which is how I like my coffee. It was Peruvian, but I’m sure if you told them you like it nuttier or whatever, they’d make you that, too. They do siphon and all the fancy prep, too. But I just wanted an espresso.

As it happens, I know the person who does PR for them, and she was there, so we got to talking, which led me to talk to the owner/proprietor/coffee master extraordinaire, Juan Mario Carvajal, a Chilean Colombian who sometimes says “chevere,” which I love, because it reminds me of when I lived in Ecuador in the late 90s. He was excitedly showing me a drip apparatus in which he was going to make cold filter drip coffee, by freezing the water and then keeping it at the right temperature so it would drip through the ground coffee (and filter) over the course of 8 hours. Sorry, had to wipe the drool. That sounds incredible, and incredibly smooth. He loves coffee, and he loves teaching people about it, and he was not unhappy that soon he was going on a trip to an undisclosed Carribbean location (well, yeah, he told me, but I’m not sure if I’m supposed to tell you) to teach coffee whatnot and lounge on the beach, or more likely hop around, since you know, with the coffee and all, he’s a bit inquieto, but not in a bad way.

cafe cultura

This is a photo of the school, not of the café, but the school is in the café. They give classes here. I might take one, who knows! I did not take a photo of the coffee. It looked very much like coffee. Trust me.

Super Ultra Mega Hit: Cafe Cultura, Suecia 0130 (north side of Providencia, towards the river), open m-f 8:30-7:30.
Closest metro: Los Leones.

Raison d’etre: I like food, like reviewing it, eat out a fair amount, photograph my food and drink shamelessly and often opine about what I like and don’t in the culinary ambit. And I sometimes get a little fed up with how much “happy-glad tourism writing” there is out there, so I decided to show both sides of the coin, and not just happy-glad my way around only places that have been hits for me. If you can figure out a way to go to only places that leave you satisfied and gleeful, please don’t share. I get the feeling the misses are going to be the most popular part.

Also, I am a little on the fence about linking to the places. What say ye?


7 thoughts on “Hit or Miss, more things to drink, all in Providencia

  1. I am not likely to ever be in your neck of the woods so I like the links in case I’m curious to see more.

    Even if Big Boba was a miss, it sure looks good. What are the blueberry-looking things at the bottom of the cup?

  2. Ellen, those are the bubbles in the bottom of the bubble tea, the tapioca balls. It’s funny that you think they look like blueberries, because so did I the first time I saw them! I like bubble tea (not every day, every now and then), I just didn’t care for this one, which might be partially because of the surprise stevia, but in general I just didn’t like it! Your fussy eaters would have a nervous breakdown…

  3. Yes, finally someone else found out about Café Cultura. I happened to stumble upon it by accident and indeed, it’s a hit! Hope you tried their cherimoya cake, it’s delicious! I talked to the owner as well, and indeed, he is a friendly chap and I hope it all works out for them (holding tight until the new metro station opens)!

    • I didn’t actually try any of their food, as I’d just come from eating a Sandwich at La Superior and was full to bursting (might have to review that one in short order, now that I’m thinking about it!). Thanks for popping in to leave a comment, and yes, Café Cultura is a big hit. I have to find out more about their classes!

  4. I definitely need to check this place out. It’s even within walking distance for me and sounds potentially life-changing. Thanks for providing the link too. I, for one, appreciate it.

  5. Ok, sitting here now and this is by far the best cup of coffee I have had in a long time… in Santiago or otherwise! The love of coffee here is apparent in the painstaking care they’ve taken in making my (so far) 2 pour-overs. I don’t normally drink 2 cups of coffee but it’s been so long since I’ve had such a good cup that I can’t resist. Excellent find and thank you.

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