When people suffer, we want to help. Even a small act makes a difference to a person in need. Maybe the only thing we can give is a hug, a few words of encouragement, or perhaps a smile. Those tiny acts can seem like very little, but they can change a lonely child’s world, comfort an elderly person, or convince a single mother that she can make it through another tough day.
How far can one idea take you? Where will the casual comment of another person lead you?
I learned a lesson on the power of ideas about a year and a half ago. I was in Mexico City for the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. It’s the top food awards event for the region, when spectacular chefs gather together to celebrate their past achievements and their future goals. The whole week, not just the night of the awards, is a thrilling experience; as a food writer I get to attend numerous dinners and parties in glittering settings and try the best food in the city.
In the mid-1990s, Luis Fernando Vélez was busy selling flowers.
In Colombia that wasn’t uncommon, since the fertile land near Medellin is flower-growing country. In fact, the country is one of the largest producers of flowers in the world. So the next time you receive or send flowers, those gorgeous blossoms might be from Colombia.
You could imagine that those flowers would be from Luis Fernando Vélez’s flower export company. But they won’t be.
You see, Vélez didn’t get that far with selling flowers. The problem was the coffee.
So you’ve taken a tour of specialty coffee shops in Bogota. You were impressed with the skill of the baristas and the excellent brews you tried. Perhaps you bought several bags of Colombian coffee, and you are anxious to impress your friends with your new coffee brewing knowledge.
Now you’re asking yourself: “How can I brew specialty coffee in my kitchen?”
Every year the coffee industry in Colombia has a coffee fair that gathers together everyone involved in the coffee industry – coffee growers, exporters and distributors, coffee shop owners and baristas. From around the world coffee importers come looking for the next specialty coffee to take back home with them.
The most exciting moment of the fair is the national barista championships, where the top baristas around the country compete to see who will be the king for the following year.
I grew up in a house with no coffee. There was no coffee pot on the stove, no coffee maker on the counter. There was no smell of coffee to wake us in the morning and no reason to sit around the kitchen table mid-afternoon. We ate our cookies with milk. And we considered ourselves normal.
If you love coffee and are in Bogota this weekend, don’t miss Carulla es cafe, a fair dedicated to Colombian coffee. The Carulla supermarket chain will host this event at the Unicentro Shopping Mall from August 19-21.
Did you know you can export coffee from Colombia? Yes, you don’t have to be a well-established company to export coffee. Starting in April 2016, any person can export Colombian coffee in small quantities through international transport or postal companies (like DHL, Fedex, Servientrega).
The judges stood in a line, facing him. Diffuse sunlight filtered through the window behind them, and in the background stood brick buildings with that orange tint so typical of Bogota.
No one was interested in the view.
I met Karen Silva at a Juan Valdez coffee shop. She’s in her twenties. Serious. Shy. In a society that places quite a bit of emphasis on women’s physical appearance, there was no bling about her, no lipstick or flashy earrings. Her hair was caught back in a fine black net, a fashion that every other Juan Valdez employee was sporting. There wasn’t much about her that impressed me.
Until she made that coffee for us.