Ever wonder why Porteños don’t starve whilst waiting all afternoon for their 10 PM dinner? Meriendas are the answer!
If you are unfamiliar with what these are, meriendas are better known in the anglosphere as ‘afternoon tea’. Buenos Aires has an amazingly rich cafe culture, and this is one of the things I love most about life here, since moving from England some months ago. Maybe being British, the idea just inherently resonates with me, but I think it’s great that people are still able to slow down and appreciate time spent together, at the table, with good food and drinks.
Usually taking place at around 5pm or 6pm in the afternoon, meeting with friends to ‘merendar’ is an essential part of the social lives of porteños in Buenos Aires. An unhurried affair where the city really flaunts its European flair, its inhabitants for sure understand how a coffee is best enjoyed.
It is the perfect environment to talk business, catch up with friends, meet for a date, or simply people watch as metropolitan life passes by. In contrast with the non-stop, fast paced lifestyle of the big city, here you will find people conversing whilst somehow able to nurse a single coffee for an hour or even longer.
First starting to become popular in Argentina during the 19th century, it is said that British immigrants to the country then brought along with them the tradition of afternoon tea. In the melting pot of Buenos Aires, and with strong Italian and Spanish influences, this soon morphed into the very Argentine custom of Merienda which we know better today.
Also read about Argentine desserts: https://vamospanish.com/argentine-desserts-postre-vigilante-y-pasta-frola/
Black tea with milk and sugar has been replaced with coffee and mate. Instead of scones you will find a selection of medialunas and facturas. Tostados are prefered over cucumber or tomato sandwiches. And not forgetting of course, the addition of dulce de leche to anything and all things possible!
As a personal recommendation, the next time you go to merendar with your amigos, order what the porteños call a Submarino! A fun regional twist on the hot chocolate, it is very typical to Argentina and a great option for those who are more cafe aversive.
Where to Merendar?
Walking around the streets of Buenos Aires, you will soon realise that there are a tonne of options for good cafes to take a merienda. As such, it is pretty much impossible to give you a definitive list of the best places to go, but here are some good suggestions to get you started.
- B-Blue. Deli & Natural Bar (Armenia 1692, Palermo)
Located very close to Plaza Armenia in Palermo Viejo, B-Blue puts the focus more on fresh and healthy eating, which could be necessary after many sugary facturas! It is also home to some great tasty smoothies and fruit juices.
- Café Crespin (Vera 699, Villa Crespo)
Having a colourful ambient and casual atmosphere, it is one of those go-to neighbourhood cafes, with the luring smells of fresh bakery, that make you want to frequent the place on a daily basis.
- Alvear Palace Hotel (Av. Alvear 1891, Recoleta)
Only a 5 minute walk from Centro Cultural Recoleta, this grand palatial hotel offers a quintessentially traditional and luxurious cafe experience, which takes you back in time to the roots of merienda culture.
For more information about where to have tea time in Buenos Aires contact Vamos Spanish Academy located at Av. Cnel. Díaz 1736, C1425 CABA, Argentina +54 11 5984-2201 https://g.page/VamosSpanish