Colombian Coffee: Tinto vs Coffee

You can drink Colombian coffee around the world, however the drink Colombians prefer are “coffee-flavoured drinks.” There’s a distinct difference between “coffee” and “coffee-flavoured drinks.”  Coffee is a work of art. Coffee is your best friend in the morning. Coffee smells fantastic. Coffee is a beautiful thing to be cherished. “Coffee-flavoured drinks,” however, are none of these things.

The “beans” they make tinto out of.

Let me explain. In Colombia the people have been trained to drink what the rest of the world doesn’t want. The best coffee of Colombia is exported. The beans that don’t make the “export quality” stamp are then roasted into oblivion, ground, brewed, saturated with sugar and sold as “tinto” across the country.  “Tinto” which literally translates to “ink” is a concoction that was devised to monetize what the rest of the world doesn’t want. It’s become so popular that you can not walk further than 50m on a busy street without finding a vendor willing to sell you this drink for a few hundred pesos. It’s so popular, that in certain years Colombia imports the rejected coffee of Ecuador to make into Tinto.

What you want to be drinking.

Another variation of this “coffee-flavoured drink” is cafe con leche, or coffee with milk. A better way to describe this would be milk with coffee. Or, an even better description would be: warm milk with watered-down-coffee-bean-rejects-saturated-with-sugar.  I guess “leche tibio con agua, cafe malo, y demasiado azucar” was too much of a mouthful, so they went with “cafe con leche”.

The coffee cherries where both Colombian coffee and tinto come from.

The fortunate thing in Colombia is that you can find real coffee. It’s getting more and more popular by the year. There are cafes opening up to cater to the tastes of people with taste. You can also find good coffee in the supermarkets, which isn’t the case in every coffee producing country (Brazil.) However, if you want to get a good cup of coffee at a cafe on your way to work, good luck. Most of the cafes that have nice coffee don’t open until later in the day. It’s a cruel reality that Colombians love their Tinto, and there is not enough of a morning demand to have quality cafes open in the mornings.

The good stuff ready for export.


I search out coffee wherever I am. I usually have a favourite cafe, and a bag at home to keep me caffeinated. It was a challenge to find my cafe when I first arrived in Colombia, but I now have a few places that are willing to serve me their finest Colombian coffee, not tinto.  Drink up, and remember “no quiero tu tinto”.


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