Landing in Colombia is often followed by explosive applause, excitement radiating in the airplane as passengers impatiently wait to see loved ones – multiple people waiting per passenger. The energy follows you through immigration in the newly remodeled El Dorado airport, which previously funneled passengers through corridors and left one waiting in several long lines. I made sure to rush through and meet my family who waited with coffee, or tinto, in hand. The first tiny cup of the dozens consumed over the past three days.
The importance of coffee to Colombia is understood internationally – the image of Juan Valdez being representative of the national drink. Though a big cliche, tinto is the traditional way of drinking coffee in most homes, offices, streets; a small cup of the dark liquid mixed with sugar for a nice caffeine/sugar high. Though I think it tastes better without sugar, its inevitable to curb the caffeine here: it’s the first drink when waking up, there is a tinto lady in most offices, there are tinto breaks, and tinto with visits. Normally, it’s not offered as a choice, but as a sign of hospitality. Coffee is an accompaniment for stories, a cathartic process for the bogged mind, and a way of connecting with others.
I hope you too will come to Colombia, enjoy the tinto, and wrap yourself in the fascinating interaction that it brings.