What I don’t like about Colombia can be summed up in three words:
Not Enough Coffee
In a nutshell, traveling to Colombia means BYOB or Bring Your Own Brew. As far as I can tell, they’re rationing the stuff. They serve it in these tiny little cups (no lie). Here’s a photo comparison.
Next time I go, I’m going to demand a ration card as I process through Colombian immigration. Or, appeal to the president himself for unfettered wanton coffee largess. I wonder if the U.S. State Department could help process a caffeine asylum application?
This coffee shortage is of international import, requiring cogent careful analysis. Could it be a production problem? According to this chart, Colombia is the third largest coffee producer on the planet preceded only by Brasil and Vietnam. Of the total yield -usually expressed as the quantity of 60 kilo bags- Colombia produces 12,400,000 of which 11,108,119 are exported. This leaves only 1,291,881 bags retained for domestic consumption. Considering there are 44,379,598 people living in Colombia, that only leaves .029 bags per person or 3.49 pounds of coffee per person. That is not nearly enough. Now, in the U.S., average coffee consumption is 4.2 kilos or over 8 pounds of coffee per person which is really striking since only half of us drink the stuff. Do you see the problem? Ever competitive, the Brasilians are slamming the stuff down edging out U.S. residents by drinking 4.7 kg each. The Finns put everyone to shame with 11.4 kg per capita; at that rate, they must be pouring it into babies bottles. I think that’s a case of overcompensating for diminished daylight hours, nay? Here’s an illustration (courtesy)
As you can see, Colombia’s consumption -in spite of being the world’s third largest producer- doesn’t even merit a shade other than grey, on par with most of Africa and Asia.
Or maybe it’s a domestic supply problem? Say, infrastructure and consumption delivery processes? Maybe Colombia could take a lesson from this dispensing unit from my local Circle K. They don’t seem to have any difficulty finding the means to dish it out. Take a trough, any trough, you’ve got seven stalls to choose from, each with a back up waiting in reserve.
Or maybe it’s an issue of perceived demand? Yes, we, the coffee drinkers of the United States know there are some in our midst who think Java should constitute the equivalent of a brown crayon stirred in hot -if not tepid- water but we don’t let them leave the country. Nope we don’t. Heh.
Maybe they could launch a new coffee marketing program designed to encourage consumption. They already serve “American” breakfast, why not “American” coffee, specifically designed for the guzzler on the go?
Seriously, coffee is served “Cuban” style; they do serve up tiny cups of coffee with at most three ounces from the average street side vendor. Kiosks at the airport (and restaurants) are relatively generous and will give you a 6-8 oz cup. They will ask if you want milk. The correct response is no even if you take it that way. When they give you the cup (shy two ounces of Java), then ask them to top it off with a bit of milk (I’ve only seen 2%, no half and half). Sure they may be annoyed (doubtful, being so good-natured) but if you say yes to milk, they will fill the cup more than half way up with hot milk and then add a dollop of coffee. That said, it is very inexpensive. The cost of “large” coffee in Colombia is 1,000 pesos (75¢) and that’s at an expensive place like an airport kiosk. For purists, the coffee is not flavored and is fairly stout. If you like flavors or flavored creamers, those are unknown.