San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Port City Java: Coffee Break and a Little Extra

When not even the terms latte, cappuccino and espresso are enough, you have to dig deeper into the dictionary of coffee:

“Frappa Cappuccino”, “El Red Eye” and “Slush’n Joe” have invaded Costa Rica. You’ll find them all in the new gourmet café Port City Java in Pozos de Santa Ana, southwest of San José.

Port City Java offers a choice of 60 types of prepared coffee and a good selection of home-baked snacks. The U.S. franchise, originally from North Carolina, was brought to Costa Rica by Leonardo Acuña and Ramón Aguilar, and was strategically placed in the growing area of Pozos de Santa Ana, where businessmen, foreigners and others pay a little extra for their daily cup of joe.Manager Javier Navajas told The Tico Times the café already has a good number of regulars who frequent the place.

Port City Java offers free wireless Internet access to their clients, and both businessmen and students use this service during their lunch break.

The owners are planning on expanding with two more restaurants within the next year, first in the western suburb of Escazú and then on the eastern side of San José.

“First of all, we have to see how this one goes,” said Navajas, who thinks that the gourmet café concept is gaining popularity in Costa Rica – people like to have more choices than regular coffee and traditional cakes.

What makes Port City Java unique is its wide selection of coffee and the way it’s prepared.

“Our coffees are stronger and better because we double the amount of espresso shots, so instead of getting two ounces of espresso in your latte, you get four,” Navajas explained.

What catches your eye when you enter the café is the tempting selection of sweets lined up behind the counter: several kinds of muffins, shiny chocolate cakes and big, crunchy cookies, among others. Together with a Mocha Shake filled with chocolate sauce and whipped cream, they create a sweet tooth’s delight.

Healthier clients can choose from among several light dishes, such as salads, wraps and panini. The Sicilian wrap with chicken, sweet pepper and pesto is a tasty, nutritious lunch, especially together with a fresh fruit smoothy.

Prices including tax range from about ¢1,200-2,000 ($2.30-3.80) for hot or frozen coffee drinks; ¢1,900-2,300 ($3.70-4.40) for smoothies; ¢2,600-3,750 ($5-7.20) for salads; and ¢3,100-3,300 ($6-6.30) for wraps, including a side dish. Desserts cost about ¢1,000 ($1.90).

Port City Java is also the only café in Costa Rica offering coffee from abroad, more specifically Indonesia, Tanzania, Colombia, Guatemala, El Salvador and Peru, according to Navajas. Gourmet coffee is sold in halfpound (about ¢3,500/$6.70) and one-pound (¢5,000-6,000/$9.60-11.50) bags.

The café looks modern and has a delicate interior with plants on the floor and art on the wall. The armchairs and sofas invite long chats with friends or a relaxing moment by yourself reading the newspaper. You can also sit outside – but avoid rush hour if you don’t like the sound and smell of cars passing by just a few meters away. People in a hurry can “grab and go”; call half an hour in advance and pick up your order at the counter.

Even if any Port City Java in the United States is pretty much equal to its new little sister in Santa Ana, there is one thing that differs: the art on the walls. In the Costa Rican Port City Java, you find pieces painted by Costa Rican artists, who borrow the restaurant’s walls for their exhibitions.

“Our costumers can buy the pieces, but Port City Java doesn’t earn a single penny on the sale; we want to give local unknown artists a chance to exhibit their art,” Navajas said, adding that the exhibitions will change approximately every two months.

Port City Java is in Boulevard Lindora commercial center in Santa Ana. Hours are Monday to Saturday, 7 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. For information, call 203-8211.

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