Coffee Brewing In Latin America: A Journey From Tinto To Pasado

Vietnamese Coffee Exporter
Coffee Brewing in Latin America

Coffee Brewing in Latin America: In Latin America, drinking coffee is far more than a quick caffeine fix. It’s a cherished ritual that is deeply ingrained in our cultural identity. We pass down family recipes to our children, who will then teach them to their own children. Over generations, these practices have evolved into unique local customs. Colombia has its tinto, Costa Rica its café chorreado, Mexico its café de olla, Peru its café pasado, and Brazil its cafezinho.

While many of these traditional methods don’t adhere to Specialty Coffee Association guidelines or utilize the latest brewing equipment, they offer just as much, if not more, satisfaction as a specialty pour-over from a third-wave café. These coffees symbolize the joy of family and friends coming together to enjoy a rich, traditional brew, often accompanied by Grandma’s stories and the latest family news.

Allow me to introduce you to some of Latin America’s traditional coffee brews and explain why they continue to be beloved.

Coffee Brewing in Latin America: Kickstart Your Sunday Mornings with Café Pasado

Colombia is a land of diverse flavors, vibrant colors, and rich experiences. Its snow-capped mountains, dense jungles, and winding rivers are home to some of the world’s greatest biodiversity. But it’s the people who truly stand out, as warm and inviting as their iconic traditional coffee – tinto.

Tinto is a staple in Colombian homes, enjoyed during visits to grandma’s house, family gatherings, or traditional farms. The ritual begins with lighting the fire and bringing water to a boil, then adding four tablespoons of ground coffee. In a separate pot, agua de panela is made by dissolving unrefined sugarcane in boiling water. After a few minutes, the coffee is removed from the heat and mixed with the sweet agua de panela.

Betulia Rivera lives in Guática, a quaint Colombian town. Whenever I visit her with her son, Manolo, she welcomes us with steaming cups of sweet, black tinto. At five in the afternoon, she’s ready for her twelfth cup of the day.

“Coffee has given me everything,” she says, handing us our drinks. “I even bought my wedding underwear with the money from the harvest.” She smiles and winks.

Tinto is more than just a coffee. Each cup is filled with love, shared during special moments with friends and family. It’s brimming with energy from the blend of sugarcane and caffeine. And it embodies hard work, ambition, and the desire to support a family.

Family Moments Over a Café Chorreado

In Costa Rica, traditional drinks like hot chocolate, chicha (fermented grains or fruits), and coffee are integral to the tica culture, blending seamlessly with other aspects of Costa Rican life.

The essence of tica coffee culture begins on the farm, with meticulous planting, harvesting, and processing. The journey continues with the coffee being transported on vividly painted carretas or oxcarts, and culminates in its preparation and enjoyment as café chorreado.

Fabian Campos, from the serene town of Guácimo in eastern Costa Rica, learned to make café chorreado from his grandmother, Teresa. Some of his earliest memories involve watching her brew coffee using a chorreador, a wooden stand that holds a cotton filter.

Teresa shared three secrets for the perfect brew with Fabian: never wash the filter with soap, as it alters the coffee’s flavor; always remove the water from the stove before it boils; and fill the filter completely with hot water, refilling if necessary, and paying close attention to the slow dripping process to ensure it’s just right.

Costa Ricans believe that café chorreado offers a richer flavor and aroma compared to regular drip coffee. This traditional method is cherished and passed down through generations, valued for the time and care it requires. For Teresa’s family, the process of making café chorreado brings them together, uniting them in a tradition that has grown alongside their community and dreams.

Kickstart Your Sunday Mornings with Café Pasado

Peruvian culture is ancient, distinctive, and diverse. With Amazonian villages, coastal colonial cities, desert ruins, and remnants of ancient mountaintop cities, Peru is rich in heritage. Its coffee, too, benefits from the fertile jungle soil and high altitudes, developing unique flavors. Notably, Peru is the world’s largest exporter of organic coffee, according to the FAO.

Mercedes Parreño, a resident of Lima, shares that every Sunday morning, she prepares traditional café pasado for her family, accompanied by a breakfast of pork rinds and sweet potato. Café pasado is a unique variation of drip coffee, made using a two-chambered coffee brewer with a filter in the middle. Ground coffee and hot water are added to the top chamber, and the brewed coffee extract is collected in the bottom chamber. This extract can be mixed with hot milk if desired.

Mercedes learned this tradition from her grandmother. “My grandma used to make a whole jar of café pasado for me,” she recalls. “When I came home, I could smell the coffee brewing in the kitchen just for me. That’s love.”

Now, Mercedes prepares café pasado for her little niece, Alba, passing the tradition down. Soon, Alba will learn to make it herself, ready to pass it on to the next generation.

These traditional coffee recipes are more than just about the beverage. They encompass daily life, identity, family, and love. When my friends share their recipes, they focus not on the precise measurements but on whom they are making the coffee for and what it signifies to them.

Tinto, chorreado, pasado: these brews bind the communities that enjoy them. Their value lies not just in the recipes but in what they represent. Whether you’re savoring Costa Rican or Ethiopian beans, a naturally processed Bourbon or a washed Caturra-Catuai blend, a V60 at a local third-wave coffee shop, or a traditional brew at home, one thing remains constant: coffee is about the experience and the people we share it with.