Guatemala, a country where coffee is the number three export after bananas and raw sugar, where coffee plantations are crowded by volcano ranges, and where thousands of people subsist by growing coffee, happens to consume some of the worst coffee in the world. All of their flavorful coffee beans are exported and average Guatemalan drinks imported instant coffee made from second-rate coffee beans. We toured a coffee plantation by Lake Atitlan, we smelled the leaves and tasted raw coffee beans and saw how coffee is picked and cleaned and dried, and all we drank until that moment in Guatemala was instant coffee that tasted like slightly flavored water. All that changed in Antigua.
As we were walking through the colorful town of Antigua, we were struck by a sprawling colonial-style building with a very familiar red sign.
“Well that must be one of the largest McDonald's I’ve ever seen,” I told Julia as we headed inside, to take pictures and have a well-deserved restroom break.
Inside, we found one large room with a familiar counter and food menu, a smaller room, McCafe, with a coffee and dessert menu, a beautiful veranda in the back with a lot of outdoor seating, facing a fountain, and a gorgeous view of a volcano. The customers were mostly well-dressed families or young couples on dates. There was an air of upscale establishment, only slightly tempered by McDonald's logos on cardboard burger containers.
We were both thinking the same thing, “This would be a nice place to actually sit down.” So, we grabbed two coffees and a cookie to split and sat on the veranda, enjoying the volcano view. And this is when the most unexpected thing happened. This McDonald's was the first restaurant in Guatemala to actually serve authentic local coffee, a product usually restricted to only truly upscale establishments in that country.
To this day, McDonald's in Antigua remains my favorite of all McDonald's around the world and the best place we had coffee in Guatemala.