They say that if the coffee is good, you can drink it black. This testament to black coffee is tested daily at coffee farms, where tinto is the coffee of choice. It’s meant to be done with the cheaper low quality beans, but coming from farmers who take pride in every bean, their lowest quality bean is not too bad. The grounded beans are heated in a pot with water and later filtered through a piece of cloth. As simple as that. Sometimes, cinnamon and cloves can be added to the pan for an extra kick and panela (sugar cane concentrate) is added once served for sweetness.
Tinto originates from the Latin tinctus meaning dyed or stained. The term is often confusing as two drinks share the name. Vino tinto means red wine and cafe tinto means dark coffee brew. The tinto overlap happens as both drinks are dark and can easily stain. According to an urban legend, red wine and coffee share the tinto title for a more comic reason. Colombians during the colonial era could not afford the elegant red wines that Spaniards would drink, so they started referring to their cheap locally grown coffee as tinto. Imagine if we all agreed to call milk Champagne just for kicks and generations down the road end up ordering milk at restaurants as Champagne as the custom is established.
Tinto is sold in street corners as hot dogs and bagels are sold across large American cities. It is sold for cheap. Something between $0.10 cents and $0.20 cents if you look foreign or desperate for coffee. Sellers would make large pots of coffee and carry them in their backs, and walk the streets offering a cup of tinto. They would even ride public buses and set their business there. That’s a sales strategy no American coffee business has dared to try, but for Colombians, having someone approach you during your morning commute ready to serve you a cup of tinto is habitual. Nonetheless, tinto is more often drunk after lunch. Everywhere from corporate offices to rural farms, tinto is a post-lunch ritual meant to cause a pause in the day.
Tinto speaks highly of the farmers who enjoy it daily. It is simple and yet characteristic of their lifestyle, work, and local traditions. You most likely already have all the ingredients at home, so are you ready to give it a try? Start with a pan with ground coffee, water, cinnamon, and cloves to taste at medium flame. Filter it and enjoy it plain or with a bit of brown sugar. Enjoy your coffee farm tinto! Coffee as its growers and farmers like it.