The streets outside the Casa Ore Eco Hostel are straight and dusty. The sidewalks are uneven and cracked. There are coloured floor-tiles dotted among the regular paving stones. As I stand facing down the Av. Vanderbilt, I notice the scores of hammock’d power-lines lazily slung between wooden poles and across from one side of the street to the other. The brightly coloured shop signs stand out against the almost pure white sunlight of the morning. It is 8:30 am and I need a coffee.
The hustle of the day has already begun for both the locals and visiting surfers alike: board shops and breakfast bars open and close in time with the tides. The serious business of selling and surfing is inextricably governed by the predictable intervals of the ocean’s ebb and flow. I head towards the inviting Pollos a la Lená, an appropriately coloured yellow and red shack—however, it’s a little early for fire roasted chicken. I move on past the lines of lego-coloured businesses announcing that theirs is the ‘best deal in town’, until I come to the end of the block. Suddenly, there across my path is a black cat. And he smells great.
The doorway to this literary bookstore, a shed with paperbacks on shelves, in the heart of Nicaragua’s surf ‘spot’, San Juan Del Sur, is brightly coloured and inviting. A mishmash of colours with a single bright red double gate in the middle. I go inside, a small bean roaster spits and crackles in the corner of this tin-shack shrine to coffee, books and food. The middle-aged dude behind the bar nods a ‘hey’ in my direction.
The dude serving is also the owner. An American ex-corporate type who is a little customer jaded, I guess; he makes this clear by having signs that read, ‘do not just start reading the books, buy one and then read it’, or ‘this isn’t Starbucks. If you can’t wait, don’t order’. I scan the chalkboard coffee and breakfast menu, and the local fruit pancakes, freshly squeezed juice and a cold-brew coffee sound just right. I pick my seat, a table near the ferocious but fragrant coffee roaster, and wait.
The blender whirs, the icebox chatters, the frying pan sizzles. The minutes pass. The smoke from the roasting beans flavour the air as they churn and cascade over the heat. The birds chirrup outside in the garden. The staff chit-chat through the steam coming from the pans on the old hobs. Customers saunter in, the slap of flip-flops accompany the melody of pancakes being plated and juice and coffee being poured over ice. ‘There you go.’ At last, thirty-seven minutes in the waiting.
Those thirty-seven minutes were significant. I’ve never waited so long for a cup of coffee anywhere else in the world, at least one not served in a stainless-steel tumbler. Were the pancakes good? Very. Was the juice fresh? Refreshingly. How was the coffee — was it worth waiting for? Well, I’m still thinking about it five years later.