A Fanatic’s Guide to Colombian Coffee

May 15, 2011 was one of the luckiest days of my life.

It started out as any other Sunday. My partner and I were strolling around Usaquen, a cute neighborhood in Bogotá’s north, to check out the weekly handicraft fair. After a couple hours of strolling through the attractive barrio and taking photos, we headed down one of the neighborhood’s narrow streets to look for a café and stumbled on a FREE COFFEE FESTIVAL.

That’s right. A celebration of coffee. Completely free. Lots of free coffee. Free Colombian coffee.

coffee plants

the magical plant

As a noted coffee addict, I was less like a kid in a candy store and more like a crack addict in an unarmed cocaine lab. I greedily passed from stand to stand, slurping up all the free samples I could get my hands on – about six in an hour.

After I came down from my caffeine high and accompanying elation, I was able to make this list of the top Colombian coffee brands from best to worst, according to the opinion of my taste buds.

The Winner: Lukafe

Lukafe Colombia

and the caffeinated journey begins!

While definitely a respectable-looking brand at the supermarket, I never thought that this unassuming provider would win the contest. I sampled Lukafe’s Intenso. Not too strong, not too weak – just a perfectly balanced cup of Colombian coffee.

A Close Second: OMA

OMA Colombia

silver medal

OMA is like the Gloria Jean’s of Colombia. It’s not sickeningly franchise-y like Starbucks, but you can still find it everywhere. A normal stop at OMA will find me forking over 4000 pesos for a café mocha topped with lots of whipped cream goodness. At the coffee fair, I had a straight up tinto, which was also tasty.

The In-Betweeners

Illy cafe

a special appearance

Illy: Even though Illy isn’t made in Colombia, it is sold here, so they were offered a slot at the fair. I’ve been a fan of this Italian powerhouse since my café-stalking days in Melbourne, Australia. The espresso is a little strong for my taste, but the americano is delizioso.

Devotion Café: Billed the finest coffee in the world of Colombian origin, this brand offers different lines of coffee, like Veneto and Café Rausch. I tried the Emberas Choco, part of their native selection variety. The presentation was nice, but I found the coffee tasted a little planty.

Juan Valdez: Colombia’s most popular brand is always a good choice, though I prefer supporting the little guys.

Café Buendia: An instant coffee that tasted pretty gross after so many high quality selections.

Worst Coffee Ever: Nescafé

Nescafe

my nemesis

I was shocked and dismayed to see my arch enemy, Nescafé, make a showing. No, I’m not being dramatic folks – the offensive powder is so prevalent throughout every corner of the globe that it makes me want to switch to tea. I suffer from a mild myocardial infarction every time I enter a café that has the nerve to serve customers “coffee” from a gigantic Nescafé machine. God, please put me out of my misery.

Special shout out to Carulla, the Colombian supermarket giant that hosted the event. If you ever have a free coffee fair again, please get in touch. I promise I’ll try to pace myself next time.

What’s your favorite brand of coffee? Do you think Nescafé is evil too? Share your thoughts here.

  • magda

    thanks for sharing this– enjoyed it a lot!

  • Skottandshawna

    Hey Jasmine – we are also coffee lovers, and this looks incredible. We are starting our own rtw journey in just a few weeks, and one of the things we thought would be so incredible would be the mind-blowing coffees from all over the world. Upon further research however, you are correct…Nescafe, those repulsive bastards appear to be everywhere….extremely disappointing….

    Any other hotspots for coffee?

  • Wellington, New Zealand and Melbourne, Australia are excellent places to soak up the cafe culture.

    Let me know if I can help you guys out with any of your trip details if you head to Latin America :)

  • Casey

    Have you had the opportunity to visit/tour a coffee estate/plantation? I’m a coffee lover as well, and while here in SA I’d love to visit some estates in Brazil, Peru, or Colombia.

  • Hey Casey, I went to the Hacienda Guayabal which was really cool. Definitely worth a visit. I wrote about it here: http://dev.jasminewanders.com/2010/09/a-coffee-tour-for-a-coffee-addict/

  • I like the way you think, Jasmine. I would have thought it was the
    luckiest day of my life as well to be let loose in a free coffee
    festival as well :) Too bad I didn’t get to have a coffee with you in Melbourne.

  • Next time I’m in Melbourne! If you’re there now, have a visit to my favorite cafe Crying Tiger on Greville Street in Prahran and tell me how you liked it.

  • Oh, I left 4 days ago. I haven’t been to Greville St for years, so I will have to check it out next time.

  • Bruce

    Hi Jasmine,
    Its great to come across your blog. Its great! Couldn’t have come at a better time.  My partner and I are coffee addicts ourselves both hailing from San Francisco, California where we have a few pretty good boutique roasters as well.  We’re on assignment in Madrid at the moment but next week we are coming to South America for 3 months beginning in Bogota. Be great to meet up, maybe even collaborate while were there.  Our main focus is food but we love coffee as well!  check out  
    our blog.  We are actually posting a video of the coffee short we did about Melbourne’s cafe culture very soon. 
    http://www.organichobo.com
    Sincerely, 
    Bruce Aguirre

  • Hey Bruce,

    I hope my coffee guide helps you once you arrive in Colombia! I won’t be in Colombia until next year though. If you love food, I suggest you try an arepa – though note that there are several different kinds and not all are created equally :) I’ll look out for your article on Melbourne.

  • Bruce

    ill head to crying tiger! we just found our favorite cafe in Madrid, Spain.  check it out when u go there.  http://organichobo.com/toma-cafe-madrids-best-coffee
    Darn, its too bad you wont be in columbia this month.  We have 3 weeks to explore!

  • Azafran2010

    Everytime I have visitors from Colombia they HAVE to bring Lukafe. Best coffee I have ever had! After trying Brasilian and Puerto Rican coffee (Second best coffee ever) I have to stick with Lukafe.

  • Haha yes!!