Ellen and I have spent five weeks in coffee country, so it’s time we told you a little about the coffee here. Verdict: it’s good.

The hills surrounding Pereira and Santa Rosa are dotted with coffee trees, which are mostly kept less than 6 feet (2 meters) tall, so they’re manageable and so they can grow in the shade of banana trees. The trees on our cousin’s land were tiny (being only a year or two old) but their branches drooped with green coffee berries. When the berries turn red, they’re picked and fermented – our cousin’s husband does this in a bathtub-sized concrete basin under the cabin. Once the beans have fermented, they are placed on huge metal trays to dry in the sun. The coffee can be sold after it has dried, when it’s known as green coffee. Our cousin likes to keep a supply of green coffee to roast over an open fire just before you make it – she swears by it! We didn’t actually try any coffee made like that, though – the coffee we have had here has been pretty familiar tasting.

Green coffee beans on a tree at my cousin's place

Green coffee beans on a tree at my cousin’s place

One excellent way to drink coffee is to get it from one of the many mobile vendors in Colombian towns. Wandering coffee vendors cruise city streets with urns and flasks of coffee. This is usually ridiculously sweet, as they make the coffee with agua panela – boiled sugarcane juice. A typical Colombian housewife makes coffee the same way – using sugarcane juice as the liquid in the coffee. She’ll get up at the crack of dawn to get a pot of agua panela boiling, and that’s used as the base for all kinds of drinks for the rest of the day. For a few cents, though, you get a hot cup of sweet coffee, if you can catch the vendor as he passes by.

Stopping for a quick drink - refreshing!

Stopping for a quick drink – refreshing!

For a better quality drink of coffee, the coffee jeeps are the way to go. Many of them roast their own coffee beans on-site, and they’re still an inexpensive way to get your caffeine fix. Found at the edges of plazas and parks, coffee jeeps make espresso-based coffee drinks, with names that tourists can understand. You can get your americano, cappuccino, and cafe con leche here, as well as a few other variations on espresso. Tinto is a cross between espresso and americano, and pintado is a latte with slightly higher coffee content. Each coffee jeep seems to have its own variation on coffee with a shot of alcohol in it, as well.

If you want a place to sit down, away from the crowds and with more ambiance, coffee shops and cafes abound in Colombia. You may not see a Starbucks, but you won’t have to go without your fix no matter where you look. Coffee shops are on every street corner, and they’re not the only place to buy a cup. You’ll find espresso drinks in bars, bakeries, and many restaurants as well. Even at the fanciest places, you’re not likely to pay more than three dollars for a hot cappuccino. Don’t expect American sizes, though – at most of the places we’ve seen, coffee comes in one size, and it’s about 175ml (6 fluid ounces).

Coffee in Santa Rosa

Coffee in Santa Rosa

As Ellen and I were preparing to leave Santa Rosa, we decided to enjoy all our favourite Colombian drinks one last time. We stopped at a coffee shop, where I tried a drink called “Perfecto Amor”, which turned out to be a cappuccino with some kind of flavour shot in it, which we couldn’t identify. Ellen had a cafe con leche, much cheaper and equally good. Next we went to our favourite tango bar, where we drank a local beer and enjoyed the music. The second song they played, sandwiched between two tango hits, was an Ace of Bass pop song. Ellen commented that she’d sing along, but “I don’t want to encourage this kind of music.” Finally, we headed over to our favourite Kumis stand in the market, where we sipped our fermented yogurt drink and watched a little old man sitting next to us enjoying his milk and cookies. That’s what I love about Colombia – a macho farmer from the market can drink a beer, or an espresso, or sit himself down for milk and cookies without embarrassment.

A big ol' glass of Kumis

A big ol’ glass of Kumis

Drinking a couple of microbrews in Pereira

Drinking a couple of microbrews in Pereira

Colombia. It’s a good place to be.

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