James Beard Publication of the Year 2017

Becoming a Local Usually Involves Finding Good Coffee

Becoming a Local Usually Involves Finding Good Coffee

Chai and Palta Sandwiches in La Paz

The first time I went to Typica, I almost walked right past it. From the outside, it looks like an eccentric, tiny house from the 1960s. But the smell of fresh coffee and the sound of classic rock made me give it a second glance.

Typica is a coffee shop tucked away in the Avenida Montenegro in La Paz, Bolivia. With teal walls, hanging plants, vibrant pottery, and fresh-ground Bolivian coffee, this joint a quick walk from my apartment became my breakfast haven during my year in La Paz.

The city is a strangely wonderful place. At roughly 12,000 feet above sea level, you get winded brushing your teeth at times.

Typica is a place for locals and visitors alike. It serves typical Bolivian sandwiches such as queso humach or charque (meat jerky), but it also has innovative dessert empanadas and delicious gelato. If you’re lucky, you can even catch live music, poetry, or a documentary in the evenings under the twinkling patio lights.

“¿Un té de chai?”

The barista, Fabio, remembering my order feels like my greatest accomplishment, on this particular Saturday morning at least.

Maybe it’s because I am one of the only people who orders tea at a coffee shop known for its freshly ground beans. Or, as I would rather believe, maybe it’s because I am part of the Typica community—the group of locals and expats who congregate there for good Bolivian food and coffee that isn’t Nescafé, which everyone jokes no es café.

I also order a sandwich de palta (avocado) to round out my breakfast. It’s not breakfast in Bolivia if it doesn’t include bread. And not just any bread—-marraqueta. This bread is known for being crunchy on the outside and perfectly doughy on the inside. My Bolivian friends have a habit I find quite endearing: they pull out the doughy inside, insisting that’s where all the calories are, and eat only the crust.

After placing my order, a woman next to me strikes up conversation.

“You come to Typica and don’t drink coffee?”

It’s a fair point. After some small talk, she tells me she has lived in 30 different countries. As someone struggling to adapt to a new environment, I have to ask: “How do you cope with all the change?”

“I find a Typica everywhere I go.”

She turns back to her book, and I feel a surge of pride to be a part of this little coffee community that made La Paz a home to so many. As I pack my things and thank Fabio, a group of sweaty backpackers ooh and ahh over Typica’s coziness. They need help understanding certain words on the menu, so why not help? I am more of a local here than anywhere else in La Paz.

Typica
Calle Enrique Peñaranda Bloque L-35 San Miguel
Ciudad La Paz, La Paz, Bolivia
Hours: 7:30 a.m to 10:30 p.m Monday – Saturday
8:30 a.m – 8:00 p.m Sundays

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