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.
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
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 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.
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
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.