A Traveler's Guide to Coffee in Colombia

Photo by Julian Andres Carmona Serrato on Unsplash

Coffee and Colombia are nearly synonymous. Colombia has a reputation for great tasting, well-balanced coffee that has practically defined what the coffee flavor is. So, it’s only natural that when traveling there you should try the coffee. Before I continue, it’s worth noting that coffee culture in Colombia is quite different than in the US. First, coffee dominates their economy and can be found everywhere. They don’t emphasize the caffeine, so they’ll enjoy it any time of day. Only recently has the specialty coffee craze hit Colombia. Despite having some of the world’s best beans, the high standards for export have typically left the failing beans behind for local consumption. That said, here’s a quick list of the ways which Colombianos typically enjoy their coffee. Enjoy!

  1. Tinto: Ask for a café tinto and you’ll receive a small glass or cup of black coffee. The cup is very small – una tacita pequeña. For an American traveler it could be unnerving to receive such a tiny cup of coffee, but it is by far the most popular way to drink coffee in Colombia. It’s often served along side a glass of water, and if you’re being served a tinto in someone’s home, don’t be surprised if they add sugar for you. Any brewing method will suffice, whether it’s drip or in a pot on the stove.
  2. Perico: A café perico is simply a café tinto, but about half of the tiny cup is milk. Perico also means parrot in Spanish, and it is also a slang word for cocaine. So, if you ask for a perico, consider the setting you’re in.
  3. Café con leche: A café con leche is pretty much a perico, but bigger. It’s usually served in a regular size cup, with a lot of milk.
  4. Carajillo: This is a café mixed with your choice of liquor, usually rum or aguardiente. The name derives from Spanish soldiers drinking this for coraje, or courage.