I slurp the brown joy, savoring how the dark roast intertwines with the delicate milk in a cohesive fusion. The foam mixes with the liquid and I exhale contentedly as I raise my mug.
Colombia is deservedly renowned for excellent coffee, though locals here often sip tinto, made from beans too low-grade to export. Despite attempts from university pressures and living in a coffee mecca, I have successfully staved off an addiction to the brew. Though I don’t require a daily infusion, I relish a weekend coffee date spent working on papers, reading, writing, and chatting. My coffee consumption, the pure joy of sipping a warm beverage while engaging in someone else’s presence, is an homage to my sister.
She loves coffee, not in a morning-cranky way, but in a joyful patronage. This winter, we spent an incredible month exploring Colombia and searching for its most delectable drink. From Cartagena to Bucaramanga to Medellín to Bogotá, we embraced coffee in all its forms. She honed her sixth sense for finding the perfect coffee shop while spending two years living in Seattle, that rainy-day bastion of coffee glory. Her skills came into use time and time again as we traveled in search of a warm source of contentment, from the coast to tierra calienteto the Andes.
The Bogotá dreariness that descends during the rainy season often reminds me of Seattle. On these days, I want nothing more than to tuck into a cozy cafe and let the steam of a beverage envelop my glasses. As I sip my latte and munch my croissant, I am transported to all the times I have shared this joy with my sister across from me.
A few weeks ago, a friend asked me what I eat when I feel homesick. “Nothing in particular,” I answered, brushing it off. A few hours later, as I ensconced myself at one of my favorite Bogotá coffee shops, I realized that I was correct in saying I don’t eat anything when I feel homesick: but I do drink it. I drink coffee to honor my sister, to share her love, to taste that sweet sip of happiness that she exudes.
Coffee inextricably links me to my sister. It is high on the agenda each time we are together, something usually paramount to her daily agenda and second-thought on mine. But when I take that sacred sip from the shared sisterhood of the bean, I see my sister’s smile and remember that it’s not so much about the drink itself, but the time I spend with those I love.
A few of my favorite Bogotá cafes, in no particular order.
Libertario Coffee: Incredible brews and the best brownies in Bogotá! They have lots of nifty experimental drinks, but my classic latte serves me well every time
La Castaña: Comforting atmosphere, good coffee, and the best empanadas I have ever had!
Amor Perfecto: A Bogotá standard and excellent cup every time.
La Cesta: More of a restaurant than a coffee shop, but both the food and coffee are impeccable. To date, my favorite cup of coffee in Colombia (and possibly ever). Of course, I was with my sister.
Juan Valdez: Though some may deride this chain, it is a perennial favorite and jump-started much of Colombia’s domestic coffee culture.