Let’s discuss Tinto in Colombia.
When in Colombia, the word Tinto gets thrown around a lot. But when a Colombian says “un Tinto”, they are not referring to a glass of wine.
Rather, a cup of ground coffee beans brewed in a way only Colombians like to drink their coffee. But what is this coffee?
No matter where you go in Colombia, whether that be in the north or the south, the east or the west, you’ll likely see or at least smell, Tinto.
Tinto in Colombia
In this article we are going to look at the Tinto coffee, what it is, why it’s so special, and how to order one (and hopefully) then, finally drink one.
After doing an educational coffee farm tour in Colombia and learning more and more about coffee, I decided to dedicate this page to Tinto!
What is Tinto in Colombia?
Tinto in Colombian Spanish means coffee and it is the name for the most common preparation of coffee that you can find.
By in large, Tinto is a black coffee.
It is not a version of an Americano – it’s just a long black coffee.
For example, on many coffee menus in Colombia, you’ll see coffee made with a base of espresso. This is where you’ll see Americano etc. but on almost every coffee menu you’ll also see Tinto somewhere.
For the most authentic versions of Colombian Tinto, you will easily find yourself a cup on the streets, in local cafés, and of course, at home.
How is Tinto prepared?
Tinto is prepared by cooking coffee grounds in a pan filled with boiling water. The coffee used is of a low quality rendering it very strong.
The device that the woman is using above is an old-fashioned steam-powered coffee and espresso maker that is prevalent all over Colombia.
In some cases, Tinto is pre-prepared at home. Once the coffee is made, it is stored inside a thermos and sold on the streets, in shops, and any other place where passersby are likely to need a pick me up.
Some popular known Tinto coffee brands in Colombia:
- Aguila Roja
- Sello Rojo
- La Bastilla
- LUK Coffee
A Tinto (or Tintico if you’re Paisa) you’ll find sells from 200COP up to 500COP and the price will vary on the location and the vendor.
Amongst many other things, Colombia is famous for its coffee carts, which along with the vendors, are one creation that is pure genius. It’s probably for the simple fact that these carts are entirely self-contained.
The coffee entrepreneur above, seen in Santa Marta with his batch of coffee, is also armed with cups, coffee stirrers, sugar, and coffee creamer all self-contained within his mobile cart.
I didn’t try his Tinto coffee on that particular occasion, but he definitely gets top marks for his resourcefulness.
How to order Tinto in Colombia?
Throughout my travels, and after sampling a whole host of Colombian coffee beans I identified a rule for terminologies when ordering coffee.
Order a Tinto: If you want a black coffee (usually with sugar added).
Order a Café: If you want a coffee with milk/cream.
Differentiating those two terms alone will help you avoid any confusion when ordering a coffee in most coffee shops.
This rule does not apply to specialty coffee shops, in general.
Coffee Carts in Colombia
Each vendor, no matter the size, has its own set of tools to make or serve the exact coffee locals want.
Some of the more advanced coffee vendors in Colombia will have everything they need. Including snacks and other provisions.
Some of these self-contained coffee carts include:
- Coffee bean roaster
- Coffee bean grinder.
- Steam powered coffee makers.
- Milk-steaming wand.
Let’s not forget a large number of these vendors are mobile, so they can change their location at any time.
However, what you’ll find is that the larger vendors have their own established spots in parks (exactly like the Willys Jeep I saw when Visiting Carmen de Viboral in Antioquia) and on main high streets.
Tinto in Colombia
So, there you have it! When in Colombia, a Tinto is like drinking water.
Tinto can be bought and sold at any time of the day and it is a true testament to Colombia’s coffee culture.
No matter where you go you’ll find someone, somewhere selling Tinto. It is not for the rich and it’s not for the poor, it’s for everyone.
If you’re traveling to the land of coffee soon, check out this guide to Colombia’s coffee region where you’ll learn even more about coffee.
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