Not many Pittsburghers have had the luxury of waking up and enjoying a handcrafted cup of Central American coffee, until now that is! The Strip District neighborhood is now home to a coffee shop that offers exactly that. Cafetano, a coffee shop originally based in Honduras over the last 7 years, has opened a second location right in our city of Pittsburgh!
We met with one of the managers, Lorella, who has been a part of the Cafetano team since its days in Central America, where her father began the business. Lorella walked us through the processes of how each menu item is perfectly crafted to ensure every customer has an incredible experience and enjoys every sip (or bite) of what they order. We are so excited to share some of the behind-the-scenes work with you all! Trust us when we say there is a lot of work that goes into these stunning menu features.
First up, coffee. When you think of coffee, you may think, it’s simple! All you have to do is grind the beans, brew the grounds, and add milk or other flavorings. Well let us be the first to tell you, that could not be further from the truth! When we learned about the process that the head roaster and head barista go through to craft each cup of coffee, we were truly blown away. Andrew, the head roaster and wholesale manager, is SCA certified, which in coffee lingo means he REALLY knows what he’s doing. Cafetano’s head barista joined the team in Pittsburgh from Honduras and goes by the nickname “Chewie.” We are lucky to have him in the Pittsburgh shop, as he has won awards in Honduras for his barista skills. These two gentlemen are there to ensure your coffee experience is exceptional from beginning to end.
Aside from Andrew and Chewie, there is a team behind the scenes that are cuppers. What does that mean? With each new blend of coffee that is created at Cafetano, they need to list out the flavor profile and give the blend a name. This is done at cupping. A roomful of coffee experts sit together in the quiet and taste the blends and write down what they taste. In Honduras, Cafetano offered the service to certify folks as baristas and cuppers. It’s very important to get insights from those experienced in the field of coffee. Additionally, a blind test was done for Cafetano when they came to Pittsburgh to decide on milk. They tasted several almond, oat, and whole milks to find the best of each without being persuaded by labels or pricing. Whatever tasted best was what they went with.
Diving a little bit into the roasting process, there are two processes used by Cafetano, natural and washed. Depending on the process, the flavor of the coffee will change. With a lot of coffee chains, you’ll see the different flavors are created by syrups and other artificial add-ins. At Cafetano, the only type of flavor additions they offer are a select number of Ghirardelli sauces, because believe it or not, a lot of the flavor profiles for each of the drinks come from the actual roasted beans. When we visited, one of the blends they were brewing that day was titled, “Fruity Bomb.” This blend has a flavor profile highlighting pineapple jam and berries. Since our visit earlier this month, this blend has been given its official name, La Guara, as one of the signature blends. La Guara is the name of the National bird of Honduras and is also the beautiful, colorful bird you will find painted on murals around the shop. All of the murals were inspired by the National items of Honduras.
When you first look at the drink menu at this Honduran coffee shop, you may be overwhelmed. Certain names of drinks will likely be unfamiliar, but that is what makes it so exciting! Cafetano’s menu is unique in that it offers a lot of traditional Central American drinks that a lot of Pittsburghers have never tasted. Our recommendation is to take a leap of faith and order one of the menu items with a star icon next to it, signifying it is a signature item. We tried the Cacao Horchata and added a shot of espresso, which was actually two shots and is how it is traditionally done in Honduras. This drink was rice-based. You’re probably thinking, hmmm I’m not sure about this, but TRUST US. After the rice is soaked in preparation, freshly crushed cacao nibs are added to create the most unique flavor. Paired with a shot of espresso, you will feel this cold drink hug your chest as you taste the flavors. Another unique drink is the Hazzy Latte. This latte was given its name from the hazelnut flavor it is given by adding Nutella. Again, Cafetano does not use artificial syrups, only limited sauces to create different varieties for those who want to add a different flavor to their coffee.
While coffee is largely the focus of this shop, there are other drinks to be had as well! Protein-packed smoothies such as the “Something Green” and Cold Fruities are among their other options. Cold Fruities are refreshing, water-based drinks that are sweetened with brown sugar rather than syrups. Two of the flavors are Cucumber Mint and Strawberry Basil. Tea is another non-coffee beverage made available at Cafetano. Their signature tea is the Jazz Tea which combines ginger, honey, and lemon, making it perfect for this time of year.
We’d be remiss not to discuss some of the delicious breakfast items and sweets on the menu as well as all of the fabulous drink options. Between the recipes passed down from Lorella’s great grandmother (La Nonna) and locally-sourced treats like Nancy B’s chocolate chip cookies, you are sure to be impressed! All of the croissants, brioche, and cheese pies used in creating their food items, are delivered daily from local bakers. While their “Hard to Get,” croissant is simply cream cheese and fig jam on a croissant, there’s nothing simple about it. The recipe for the fig jam comes from La Nonna and takes approximately 5 HOURS to make! This croissant was named “Hard to Get,” because when Cafetano opened in Pittsburgh, they quickly noticed that figs are not always in season in Pennsylvania making them very “hard to get.”
Since we are on the topic of original recipes, all of the desserts at Cafetano are originals. Their best seller is their Choco Cheddar Brownie, how crazy! You’ll just have to try one for yourself to understand. The Zucchini Loaf sprinkled throughout with coconut is another hit with customers! Last but not least we have to mention the Cafetano Cake. This cake is met in the middle with dulce de leche and espresso, a true masterpiece.
If you haven’t been able to tell yet, Cafetano truly puts in the effort to make every single item with love and traditional to its Honduran origins. From their wooden food trays made in Honduras, traditional everyday meal items like Baleada, and even their logo, everything speaks to the authenticity of this coffee shop. You’ll notice the word “zotz” sprinkled throughout their menu. Zotz is the God of Fertility and also the icon seen on their logo. Of course, the coffee beans were added for some flair, but the logo itself is even inspired by something held close to Honduran culture.
Enjoy a little slice of Honduras by visiting Cafetano on the corner of Penn Ave and 16th Street or by purchasing some of their jams or coffee blends to go. Get ready to experience this coffee shop unlike any other!This content was provided by a local, independent contributor to Made in PGH, a lifestyle blog.