Posted by: Sarah | September 9, 2009

Se producen el mejor cafe del mundo, but tinto’s not where it’s at…

A coffee connoisseur at heart, I was disappointed to find that the coffee I drank on a daily basis in Colombia was…subpar, to say the least.  The small dixie cup sized glasses of tinto that we drank at the university needed several spoonfuls of sugar, we made instant coffee at home, and although our cappuccinos at the Dulcerna seemed heavenly by comparison, they weren’t really all that well prepared.

We traveled to Chinchina, at the heart of the eje cafetero, walked through the coffee fields, saw workers picking beans, cleaning them, packing them up, only to learn that all of this wonderfully rich coffee would be exported to the US and Europe rather than roasted for us to taste right there in the heart of one of the top coffee producing countries in the world.

It is for this reason that I laughed this morning as I read the news, only to find that BBC Mundo agreed completely with me.

“Decir que los colombianos, que se precian de producir el café más suave del mundo, no saben preparar esa bebida, puede sonar ofensivo y poco creíble a primera vista.  No obstante la buena fama del grano colombiano y que éste se ha convertido en un símbolo de Colombia, muchos extranjeros que llegan al país andino se encuentran en dificultades cuando quieren tomarse un buen café en la calle, en los hoteles o incluso en una casa de familia.”

“To say that Colombians, who pride themselves on producing the smoothest coffee in the world, do not know how to prepare this drink, may sound offensive and slightly credible at first.  Despite the fame of the Colombian coffee bean, which has become a symbol of Colombia, many foreigners who arrive to the country, find it difficult when they want to drink a good cup of coffee in the street, in hotels, or even in a family’s home”.

The article contributed this partially to economic reasons for which the best coffee beans have traditionally been exported and the lesser quality coffee is sold domestically.  In addition to this, the reporter discussed how the focus has never been on the roasting and brewing part of the coffee process; it is only within the past decade that Colombian consumers have really begun to learn the preparation side of coffee, rather than just growing and selling.

Juan Valdez cafes are starting to pop up in major cities around the country, but even in 2007 when I was still living in Barranquilla, this 4th largest city in the country, did not have one [a couple were there by the time I went back to visit in 2008].  The article noted that there are some, although not many, other cafes who use Italian espresso machines to prepare their coffee to its full potential.

It’s kind of like what most Americans think of when they think of bad office coffee that has been sitting in a large pot and reheated throughout the day…and yet, the Colombian coffee beans that I buy here in the US, grind and brew in my kitchen are exquisite.

Interesting read on one of my most favorite beverages 🙂




  1. I would think that living in New York would afford you countless amazing coffee shops to visit.

    Whenever I travel outside the United States I always try to find great coffee and I like it strong. I must say that the coffee I had in Greece was the strongest coffee EVER and even I could not add enough sugar to make it drinkable.

    Have a great day!

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