Getting a coffee at Mag by El Magnifico is not a straightforward affair. For a start, it’s only open to the public 3 days a week: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It’s hidden in one of those mystical streets typical of El Born: in plain view and impossible to find.
Once there, I bump into Claudia Sans, the angel-faced heiress to the El Magnifico family business.
“Finally! I’ve been trying to come here for ages but I never manage to be in the area on the weekend!”
“Yes, we are open on the weekends only.”
“Would you say Mag is like your headquarters?” I ask her.
“Your workshop? Your flagship?” I rattle off suggestions. “How would you categorize this space?”
“We do what we can with the space that we have available to us. During the week, we use this space to meet with our (wholesale) clients, for cuppings, for roasting.”
Claudia may look young and fresh-faced but with each new encounter, she impresses me with her measured, calm demeanor.
“You will have to excuse me, I have a cupping now.” She busies herself, grinding single servings of beans before disappearing downstairs. I catch glimpses of her in the Mag basement through the small glass panels scattered around the concrete floor.
Her father, Salvador Sans comes in shortly after. He bends over to greet me “Que tal el Cafe?” he asks glancing at my cup.
Coffee has been in this family for 3 generations. When Salvador Sans took over, he decided to concentrate on specialty coffee. Single estate beans bought green and roasted in Barcelona. A 2-minute conversation with him is enough to communicate his avid love of the subject. He loved it before it made sense to love it. Before Barcelona was even close to ready to change their relationship with coffee from generic sweetened beige Torrefacto roast to the varied prism that specialty coffee can be. Now that Barcelona has caught wind of artisan coffee, small roasters are popping up and specialty coffee is starting to work its way up from the small independent shops up.
El Magnifico is there continuing to do what they have always done with the quiet certitude that they will be found. As much as I love their coffee, I love that more. They roast coffee because they are bewitched by it, they enjoy it, inherently and without further cause. If you want to partake in their pleasure, they will welcome you. But they are not out to convert anyone, to sell anything. Idiosyncratic as that may sound.
Having a coffee at Mag feels a little like being allowed in to see someone’s private art collection. It is detailed and beautiful. From the stained glass window sections, the ancient rough walls, the gold signage on the windows. A behemoth roasting machine toils away behind glass windows, emitting out industrial grunts and sighs. Jazz plays. The sizzle of the milk steaming wand accents the space intermittently.
Mag could be opened 7 days a week. They could get more staff to run it. They could open another one in Eixample. But they won’t. If you want to have a coffee here, you will have to remember to go on one of the 3 days it’s opened.
Some things are worth waiting and planning for.
Mag Coffee by El Magnifico
Carrer de Grunyí, 10
08003 El Born La Ribera
Read about the original El Magnifico roasters.