400 años de solidaridad, 100 años de soledad

No se dice Día de la Lengua

Por más que sea sinónimo con idioma

Y que parezca obvio su relación con lenguaje

Para no dar excusa de celebrar con besos al azar a algún idiota.

Desde España a Colombia

Llevan los diversos hispanohablantes

400 años de solidaridad

Desde la muerte del gran escritor Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra

100 años de soledad

Y apenas un año con la ausencia del gran escritor Gabriel García Márquez.

Ojalá que

Nunca se nos quite la mancha de las locuras de Don Quijote de la Mancha

Siempre nos sumerjamos en la magia de nuestra realidad.

¡Qué viva la palabra!

¡Feliz Día del Idioma!

Dateless love: coffee, mother, earth

Love doesn’t fluctuate with the calendar. Toddlers don’t feel indifference for their mommy on May 7th, and then surge to an emotional high of love on May 8th just for Mother’s Day.

(hint, hint: it’s two weeks away)

So why do we talk about how we care about the environment only on Earth Day, instead of showing our love for Mother Earth every day of the year?

Today the city of Medellín has restricted private car and motorcycle use for just half a day, in honor of (Half?) Earth Day. The sky is blue again, the smog is gone, so everyone is complaining that there’s no reason to continue to limit vehicular circulation. This short-term mentality is our planet’s downfall, and with it, our own.

We begrudgingly make drastic measures only when faced with a health emergency. As long as water still flows from the faucet, we doubt that there are actually water shortages. Sure I’ll make the symbolic effort of posting a “Love the Earth” image on Instagram today (sustainability is trending), but tomorrow it’s back to the usual.

All that love is gone in 24 hours. It’s as if the intense fling-and-forgotten of two-week summer camps was in fast motion, compressed into a 7-second Vine time elapse of crush-elation-dumped-ex. On April 22 we love the Earth. On April 23rd…meh. It’s Saturday. Let’s go to the mall!

As of 2009, the official United Nations name is International Mother Earth Day. Most of us still call it Earth Day, maybe because “Mother” is too personal. Too intimate. Too real…realistic?

Our love for coffee doesn’t fade and fluctuate on certain dates. It’s an every-day-of-the-year love affair! We wake up every morning and head straight to the kitchen, embrace the coffee cup, and take loving sips (or eager gulps).

I challenge you to take that same level of daily loving for your mother not just on May 8 and your earth mother not just on April 22.

Mom I love you more than coffee

And to prove it.

Coffee lesson from Cartago # 3: Drinking local coffee, from donkeys to horses

1.) Don’t be mule-headed about bad coffee, when you can drink good coffee straight from a mule’s side

At the far end of the linear park I saw a pack of people in a disorderly line, eagerly waiting their turn. Among them I managed to make out the shiny back and pointed ears of a horse, and I thought we had arrived at a children’s carousel. Strangely, the kids were sitting around bored, while the adults waited next to the attraction, jingling their coins. I took out a $500 coin, engraved with the same samán tree that shade the park, and upon paying just $300 more I was able to enjoy the attraction.

The show is roasting, grinding, and dispensing coffee, all in one spot. The work is done by the same beasts of burden that carry bags of coffee up and down the mountainsides where Colombian coffee is grown. This mule, made of fiberglass and steel base, bears a coffee roasting machine on its back. The coffee grinder and machine for preparing the drink is mounted on one of its sides. The coffee is not only good and cheap, but it comes with a nifty package.

Francisco and Marta with their mule. Photo by Carrie Cifuentes.

Francisco, the creative mind behind the design, and Marta Cecilia Ortega Pérez, pour some 3,000 cups out of their mule every night. The beans come from El Cairo, a nearby area known for producing high quality coffee. When they started 15 years ago, the locals weren’t accustomed to drinking black coffee (or at least, not the quality stuff), but by offering fresh coffee with an innovative presentation the couple has managed to change the city’s habits, little by little, cup by cup, with their Café a Lomo de Mula.

2.) Locally bought vs. Locally grown

During breakfast at my hotel I asked the waiter where the coffee was from, if it was local coffee. With all of the cordiality and impeccable service that characterize Colombian wait staff, he smiled and answered, “The coffee is Sello Rojo, ma’am.” My expression must have revealed my disappointment, because he quickly added, “But it is purchased locally, from right here in town.” Oh, okay, so is that what makes it local?

Sello Rojo is the leading brand of poor-quality coffee in a country known for the best mild coffee in the world. It was transported to the town from a far-off factory, already roasted and ground, ready to be scooped by the spoonful, only roughly measured, without any appreciation, without any enjoyment. Meanwhile, a few blocks away, a young barista was savoring the results of an experiment preparing coffee harvested only a few months ago and just minutes away.

3.) The craft of good taste

The rear of the store still functions as a leather workshop, following the family tradition, but at night the aroma of coffee seeps into the streets, seeking to create new habits. “The older folks are used to second-grade coffee,” reflects Cesar Ramiréz, owner of the café/saddlery Nebraska. “They drink coffee, but of poor quality.”

As at Café a Lomo de Mula, in Nebraska they use the local and good coffee from El Cairo. Cartago is a distribution center for coffee from El Cairo, along with the entire coffee-growing region of Norte del Valle, Risaralda, and Caldas, so there are many coffee threshers and warehouses in the town. Yet, the tightwads and diehards continue to sip black coffee by Sello Rojo, left over from the previous day and sold from a thermos.

Tintos in thermoses in Parque Bolívar. Photo by Carrie Cifuentes.

Among the town’s youth, however, the specialty coffee movement has gained ground. Only four months after opening, there is so much demand that Nebraska is already planning to expand to the second floor of the equestrian store. The owner is young himself, and in tune with the hipster trends. He is expecting a child, and our hope is that the next generation will grow up with a well-cultivated taste for high-quality coffee: locally grown coffee.

*Translation by Carrie Cifuentes of “Lección de Cartago #3- Tomar café local, desde burros a caballos“.

Lección de café de Cartago #3: Tomar café local, desde burros a caballos

1.) No seas burro al tomar café malo. Toma café bueno de un burro.

A un extremo del parque lineal vi un montón de gente haciendo una fila no exactamente ordenada,  ansiosos por su turno.  Entre ellos logré distinguir el lomo brillante y orejas apuntadas de un caballo, y pensé que habíamos llegado a un carrusel infantil. Extrañamente, los niños estaban sentados aburridos, mientras los adultos esperaban al lado de la atracción con monedas en la mano. Sacando una moneda de $500, estampada con un samán dorado—los mismos árboles que dan sombra al parque, y apenas con $300 más pude gozar de la atracción.

El show es tostar, moler y dispensar café en el mismo sitio. El trabajo está a cargo de la misma bestia que carga los sacos del grano cuesta arriba y abajo en las montañas colombianas donde se cultiva el café. A lomo de mula, hecha con fibra de vidrio y a base de acero, está montado el tostador. Sale de un costado el molino y la maquina para preparar la bebida. Café bueno y barato—no un oxímoron—además con un show bonito.

Francisco y Marta con la Mula. Foto de Carrie Cifuentes.

Francisco, la mente creativa tras el diseño, y Marta Cecilia Ortega Pérez, sacan unas 3.000 tazas por noche de su mula. El café es de El Cairo, una zona cafetera muy cercana con fama de producir café de alta calidad. Cuando empezaron hace 15 años, los Cartagueños no tenían la tradición de consumir tinto (o por lo menos, no de calidad), pero al ofrecer café fresco y con una presentación novedosa la pareja ha logrado cambiar los hábitos, poco a poco, vaso a vaso, con su Café a Lomo de Mula.

2.) Comprar local vs. Producir local 

Le pregunté al mesero durante el desayuno en mi hotel de donde era el café, si era café local. Con toda la cordialidad y atención impecable que caracterizan los meseros colombianos, me sonrió y respondió, “El café es Sello Rojo, señora.” Me imagino que mi cara reveló mi decepción, así que él se apresuró a agregar, “Pero es comprado local, de acá mismo en el pueblo.” Ah, bueno, ¿entonces eso lo hace local?

Sello Rojo es la marca líder en café de mala calidad de un país conocido por el mejor café suave del mundo. Fue transportado al pueblo desde una fábrica lejos, ya tostado y molido, listo para echar a cucharadas, casi sin medida, sin aprecio, sin gozo. Mientras tanto, a pocas cuadras de allí, una barista joven saboreó los resultados de su experimento con una preparación de café cosechado hace pocos meses y a unos cuantos minutos de allí.

3.) Ensillando y enseñando el buen gusto

La parte de atrás todavía funciona como una talabartería, siguiendo la tradición familiar, pero de noche el aroma de café sale a la calle, buscando crear nuevas costumbres.  “Los viejos ya están acostumbrados a las pasillas,” refleja Cesar Ramiréz, el dueño del café/talabartería Nebraska. “Toman café, pero de mala calidad.”

A igual que Café a Lomo de Mula, en Nebraska usan café local y bueno de El Cairo. Cartago es un acopio de café de El Cairo, y de toda la zona cafetera de Norte del Valle, Risaralda y Caldas, y hay muchas trilladoras y bodegas de café en el pueblo. No obstante, la gente de bolsillo apretado y costumbres arraigadas está enseñada a tomar tinto de un termo de marcas como Sello Rojo, hecho de un día para otro.

Tintos en termos en Parque Bolívar. Foto de Carrie Cifuentes.

Entre los jóvenes, sin embargo, el movimiento de cafés especiales ha pegado. Después de cuatro meses, hay tanta clientela tintera en Nebraska que ya están planeando expandir al segundo piso de la tienda ecuestre. El mismo dueño es joven y al día con las tendencias hipster. Está esperando un hijo, y esperamos que la siguiente generación crezca con un gusto bien cultivado por el café de alta calidad: el café local.