JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Hispanic Heritage Month is being celebrated across the nation, including across the Tri-Cities. One of the ways Hispanic Heritage is being celebrated is through a simple cup of coffee, where you can get a taste of Colombia in Johnson City at a spot down Market Street.
“Colombian coffee is probably the best coffee in the world,” James Blevins-Garcia, who co-owns the coffee shop with his husband said. “There’s some very good coffees in Costa Rica; there’s some very good coffees in Vietnam — some very good coffees in Brazil — but Colombia is the gold standard for coffee.”
James and his husband’s first story began on the streets of Medellin, Columbia, where James met German Garcia. Then, a little more than three years later, the two were married, living and working together in America.
“German was in a construction job; he was painting, and he was like I want my own business,” explains James. “And I was like, ‘What kind of business do you want?’ And he said, ‘Well, I am from the coffee region of Colombia; can we start a coffee shop?'”
Then in November of 2019, the two opened the doors of the Colombian Coffee Exchange, which brings a unique experience to the average cup of joe.
While German speaks very little English, his enthusiasm for the coffee bean can be traced back to his own roots.
Maria Trundle runs a food truck version of the coffee shop with her husband and translated for German.
“He says, ‘It was really fun growing up in an area where they grow the coffee bean so he was able to see the land and how it works,'” she said.
However, they don’t just serve coffee. The Colombian Coffee Exchange also provides guests with hot food, iced coffee (featuring ice cubes made of coffee so the coffee won’t get watered down) and even smoothies.
“It’s not only coffee that we offer,” explains Trundle. “We also have smoothies made of tropical fruit flavors, with over 30 combinations that you can come up with.”
And it’s the coffee that keeps brining people back.
“It’s the perfect storm for coffee,” James said. “Where this coffee comes from is the perfect altitude, the perfect soil mixture and the perfect latitude in Colombia…It’s all organic. It’s all grown on a small farm. It’s fair trade. Everybody that works on the farm makes a living wage and it’s absolutely delicious.”
“Colombian soil is very fertile and it helps grow anything you want to grow and it be really delicious and good,” Maria translated for German.
What makes the coffee extra special, though, is an ingredient that is specifically from the country where your coffee is coming from.
“Panela is a Colombia sugar cane,” James said. “It grows in Colombia in the Amazon region, and they pull it down; they boil it down like molasses, and then it comes in a hard brown block, and then we put it in our cream and it makes it just a little bit sweet.”
While you’re there, be sure to ask about the country where your coffee is coming from.
“He’s surprised that a lot of people don’t know exactly where Colombia is, so he’s happy that if someone around the Tri-Cities wants to learn a little bit of Colombia that they can come here and he can teach them, and they can learn about his culture and try the coffee and learn a little bit more about Colombia,” Maria translated for German.
That’s because it takes more than just a cup of coffee to get a community buzzing with change.
“We live in a global village; we’re all one global community,” said James. “You got Colombia, Peru, Mexico — all these cultures come together, and we can learn from each other and when we learn from each other, then we can get along with each other, and that’s very important these days. “
And some physical changes are also coming to the Colombian Coffee Exchange as they prepare to move into a new building by the end of the year.
The new location, which will feature a drive thru, will be at 1703 West Market St. in Johnson City, which is right next to Amigos.