A couple of days ago, Melanie and I went to the beach in Chile. Valparaiso and Vina del Mar are beautiful and amazing and everyone should go visit them immediately (especially you Chicagoans who are currently suffering yet another polar vortex).
One afternoon, while wandering the cute, cozy streets of Vina, we decided to take a break at Aroma Resto&Cafe – a little coffee shop that called to us with the seductive offerings of a patio and free wifi. After making ourselves at home at Aroma, we ordered – orange fanta (is there anything more child-like and beach-like?) and a cappuccino with a cup of ice on the side. Because, you see, South America hasn’t jumped on the iced coffee train. It just doesn’t exist, except for maybe at Starbucks, and if you’re an American in South America getting coffee at Starbucks, then I’m probably a little bit judging you.
So, no iced coffee. Except it’s hot. Like, very hot. Sunburns and squinty eyes and sweating hot. So the prospect of hot coffee isn’t all that appealing.
Melanie, being the creative ingenue that she is, had taken to ordering a cup of ice with her coffee and combining the two. But because we were fond of Aroma (and because we had spent a good long time benefitting from their internet connection), we decided to take things a step further. It was pro-bono consulting time. First, we called over our waiter – a sweet kid who practiced English with us and was the son of the owner’s wife’s friend (we were at this place for a while…we got the full life story). We suggested that the restaurant should add iced coffee to the menu. Sweet waiter left, and said he would tell the owner our idea.
A few minutes go by, and all of a sudden the owner, Santiago, comes to our table. “How do I use it?” he asked (talking about iced coffee). “Use it?” we responded, “You just drink it.” Eventually we figured out that he was asking for instructions on how to make iced coffee – and we happily obliged, explaining the various options ranging from coffee over ice to frappacinos with fancy flavors.
Content with our response, Santiago left us to our books.
Until another 10 minutes went by, and he approached our table again, this time with a laptop. He had googled “How to make iced coffee” and was showing us various results, asking which one was right. Again, we explained that there are many options – all different, and all delicious. We suggested vanilla or cinnamon. And told him he should definitely add something to the menu.
Another ten minutes went by.
At this point, we were spying on Santiago through the window. We watched him pull out a blender. Confer with his wife. Explain various ingredients to his waiter. We watched as he attempted to make frappucinos based on two random American girls’ suggestion.
And then we watched as he brought us out two cups to sample.
Sweet Santiago with his googled recipes and creativity had whipped up some DELICIOUS drinks (thank you, sweetened condensed milk). They were awesome. But what was more awesome was the big smile on his face seeing that we liked his recipe. And the promise that he would figure out some other drinks to add for future guests.
By this point, Melanie and I were cracking up. We (obviously) took a selfie, then proceeded to post it on social media. Santiago came back over again to let us know that he is on Instagram! And Facebook! And FourSquare! (He is very socially-network savvy, apparently). He regrammed our photo as the fourth picture (ever) on their feed.
These are the moments, you guys. The moments that this trip was made for. The ones where traveler-life and real life combine. Santiago is a gem, and if you ever find yourself in Vina del Mar, Chile, please go to Aroma Resto&Cafe and order an iced coffee…I’m pretty sure it will be on the menu.