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The Juan Valdez shops, on 57th Street in New York and in front of the White House in Washington, are more than a brand in strategic zones. They are the image of Colombia, represented by a cup of the mildest and most delicious coffee in the world on two of the world’s most famous avenues.
The coffee of Colombia grows on the mountains of the Coffee Region, on the Andes Mountain Ranges, but its flavor and aroma are everywhere, traveling in the seductive steam of a freshly brewed cup of coffee.
A tinto is the presentation par excellence of a cup of black coffee as well as its antonomastic name in Colombia, where references to it are synonymous with affection and hospitality. A tinto may cost up to four pounds on a London street, yet in Colombia it may be obtained for free. Practically anyone is willing to prepare and offer it and begin a dialogue surrounded by the aroma of coffee. This was the reason behind the creation a few years back of the flagship phrase for a successful publicity campaign: “Tomémonos un tinto, seamos amigos”, which could be translated as “Let’s have a tinto, let’s be friends.”
The initiation of friendship actually begins with the mule driver’s sensible work on the mountains to make the earth bring forth its best fruits. And those of us who are honored by drinking such a delicious beverage can only thank this sensible work, because it is thanks to coffee that we get to know the good news of each day.
It is customary in Colombia to begin the day with a cup of coffee that gives us energy and optimism. Just about anywhere. In coffee landscapes, beaches, exotic settings, and big cities, there will always be someone to offer a tinto.
The many travelers who have visited Colombia, the association of the country with coffee, the promotional efforts of Juan Valdez and his mule Conchita, and the creativity of the Colombians have all contributed to present coffee to the world in various guises and to create a culture and a way to make Colombia known.
That is why the coffee farms of the Coffee Region - a region made up of the departments of Quindío, Caldas and Risaralda - and their traditional architecture provide lodging and an environment for visitors to learn what there is to know about the planting, harvesting, and processing of coffee beans.
On coffee farms, which can be counted by the hundreds, coffee has been the fundamental driving force in economic development and a strong reason for travelers to go deep into the mountain scenery to become acquainted with the tourist possibilities that make the best of the coffee landscape. Along this line of thinking, to arrive in this area of the country is to get to know a thick panorama of coffee bushes surrounded by good people, rivers, forests, picturesque towns, and appropriate settings for engaging in adventure sports such as zip-lining and horseback riding.
In the Café Triangle, at every corner, at all times, homage is paid to this fruit.
One of the examples could be the Parque Nacional del Café, or National Coffee Park, an ingenious work of architecture and mechanical attractions that shows the reasons why coffee means so much to Colombians. A physical, natural, and historical summary of coffee culture is given at the park, bolstering an interest in going out and seeking the mountain villages and the attractions that surround them, among them, the villages of Salento and Filandia.
The Panaca Park is also located in the same region of the department of Quindío. In this theme park, the main actors are animals, and everyday life in the coffee mountains, the principal attraction.
At at a par with the colors and gentility of coffee towns like Chinchiná and Salamina, the department of Caldas exhibits the harmonious architecture of the city of Manizales, its cathedral and historical center, as well as internationally important events such as the Theater Festival and the Manizales Fair. Not far, rises the Ruiz Snow Peak, the most important and easily reachable summit of Los Nevados National Natural Park.
This is the third department that makes up the Café Triangle. In Risaralda, the abundance of coffee is complemented by urban development and the diversity of the zoo in Pereira, the benefits of the hot springs at Santa Rosa de Cabal, the colonial architecture of Marsella, and the bountiful fauna and flora in the natural reserves of Ucumarí and Otún Lake.
Aside from the Coffee Triangle, excellent coffee is cultivated in other parts of the country: the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, the mountains of the municipalities of Gigante and San Agustín in the department of Huila, and even on the Llanos Orientales, or Eastern Plains.
There are plenty of arguments, and undoubtedly there will be more, for stating that coffee is one of the objectives of traveling to Colombia. The ingenuity of Colombians knows no limits: soon our national bicycle racers, the much-celebrated “beetles”, will roll the world’s roads bearing on their chest and back a very simple sign: Café de Colombia.
*"Unesco declares as World Heritage the Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia that includes the regions of Quindio, Risaralda, Caldas and Valle del Cauca"