When it’s a tea. But seriously, let’s talk about coffee because coffee is my answer to everything. Business proposal? Great, let’s have coffee. Romantic liaison? Coffee. New to Bogotá and want blonde girl advice? Coffee. Friend with gossip? Coffee. Friend in trouble? Coffee. When I’m alone in my house and the walls look as white as the piece of paper in front of me? Coffee.
And because I am a creature of habit, Juan Valdez is my weakness. I regularly frequent at least five city branches and I probably have more Juan Valdez “Amiga” points than anyone in the country. I know which Juan Valdez is the “Gay Mecca”, which one has the best balcony, which one has the best garden, which one is most sociable, which one is most secluded and, nowadays, which one is most likely to contain the last idiot I went out with (I’ll have to avoid that one for a bit, which is shame – it was really good for people watching)
Last week a Juan Valdez barista greeted me by name and knew my Colombian ID number. I rest my case.
But when is a coffee not a coffee? Yesterday a friend emailed me to tell me he was going on a “date” with some guy and would I rescue him if he was struggling? The following day I asked how the “date” went. “Well, it was just coffee,” he said, cautiously. “That’s why I put the word “date” into speech marks.”
Another friend was struggling with a personal issue recently. “I think I have accidentally led a friend into believing I am romantically interested in him when I am not,” she groaned. What did she do? She went out with him a lot for coffee.
I have made that mistake both ways. I have been out with guys for coffee and mistakenly assumed it was a date when it clearly wasn’t. I have also been out for coffee with new acquaintances before and afterwards thought: “Oh shit, actually, was that a date?”
And because Juan Valdez is my answer to everything, I have sometimes booked entire afternoons of appointments – one at 2pm, one at 3pm, one at 4pm – but, of course, they all run late or early and then run into each other and I am left all embarrassed. Sometimes I wonder if the staff think I am working it – like some sort of mad, blonde Geisha girl who writes the odd story and brightens up the ritual of coffee instead of green tea.
But considering my level of expertise when it comes to the Juan Valdez/Bogotá coffee drinking culture (I do go to other places as well, but only on special occasions) I really have no idea when a coffee is a ooh, dress up and wear perfume coffee or when it is just plain old jeans, jumper and battered laptop coffee.
My friends started a heated debate about this recently (we were in Juan Valdez drinking coffee with no interest in, er, coffee) and, of course, I had to give the expert’s view.
“It’s really simple,” I insisted loftily.
“If they like you, then it’s coffee. If they don’t, then it’s just coffee.”
“But how is anyone supposed to know the difference?” my friend replied in a huff.
“It’s Bogotá and it’s dating,” I shrugged.
“The whole point here is that you never really know.”
Like this? You’ll love Colombia a comedy of errors.