Tinto Nation

Ours is a surprisingly diverse country, in many ways. We’ve got strong regional identities that are easily identifiable even by the first time visitor. The industrious and proud Paisas, for example, live mostly in and around the country’s second largest city of Medellín and the Coffee Region provinces of Risaralda, Caldas, and Quindío. From the Caribbean Coast are the always up for a party Costeños, and living in the highland agricultural region near Bogotá are the reserved Boyacenses – just to name a just a few.

While the county’s people are quite different in their appearances, demeanor, dialects, and customs, luckily there is one thing that unites us all: the ubiquitous and unassuming tinto.

Tinto is the quintessential presentation of Colombian coffee. Similar to the familiar Americano, it’s a small, black coffee. Tinto detractors (of which there are many) would say, however, that it’s little more than brown, sugary water.

Today a revolution of sorts is taking place here in Colombia as far as coffee is concerned. More and more Colombians are discovering the pleasures of a cup of 100% Colombian coffee prepared well, and they are demanding a better brew. That’s undoubtedly good for Colombian coffee growers, café owners and coffee companies.

IMG_4667But, despite this change in homegrown coffee culture, the tinto still retains its fans. Roaming vendors sell it to their regular customers – for under $500 pesos or 25 U.S. cents – out of thermoses into plastic white or green cups, on practically every street block in any town or city. Some even wander the streets with massive tinto urns adeptly strapped to their backs. In Colombian offices, “tinto ladies” constantly circulate from morning until late afternoon giving workers a near constant caffeine buzz. And, it is expected that, when you visit someone’s home, you’ll be offered a fresh tinto, made almost universally in an old-style aluminum stove top espresso maker. If we don’t make you a fresh cup or – worse – if we don’t offer you any tinto whatsoever, that’s a bad sign. But, not to worry, here in hospitable Colombia, we always do.

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