SHERIDAN — A Colombian at heart, Andres Vega knows no strangers. To him, now a self-proclaimed Sheridanite, his new form of transportation is simply a vehicle to make new friends through a shared love of culture and coffee.
Vega moved to America years ago and worked at Green House Living for Sheridan for years before leaving his job there to pursue something less sorrowful.
“This job made me really, really humble and made me appreciate life and people in general and family and everybody,” Vega said. “The coffee business was an idea for many, many years.”
In August, Vega officially opened his new mobile business, The Colombian Guy Coffee Van, or tcgcoffeevan on Instagram and hashtags. Since then, he's traveled around to different businesses and events to share his new craft with old elements of his personality making it shine.
Through everything, Vega strives to share his rich Colombian culture with everyone he meets while simultaneously learning about other cultures. Coffee easily bridges that gap for Americans with a cup of Vega’s signature panela lattes.
“I don’t just want to sell coffee, I want to show people my custom, show people my culture,” Vega said. “The way I treat people, I want them to be kind, I want to be kind to them.”
The makeup includes panela — evaporated sugar cane — turmeric, cloves and cinnamon, and while he creates the perfect cup, he asks customers about their day. U.S. Americans and South Americans differ in pace of life, exemplified by how each culture consumes coffee. Before Vega passed out cups of joe, he recognized the speed of U.S. society.
In typical Colombian culture, citizens start their days with a light roast cup of coffee. Mid-afternoon, though, friends will come together and have several cups of coffee, because the length of conversation warrants more than one.
“On a Saturday when we don’t have to work, we’ll sit down and drink a cup of coffee and talk for hours,” Vega said. “We’ll get high on coffee because we drink so many cups of coffee and we’ll be like, ‘Oh my gosh, it’s been four hours’ and we drank like, I don’t know, seven cups of coffee.”
Despite the quick few cups on the way to work for U.S. citizens, Vega attempts to slow people down just a bit, partially to craft a perfect cup and partially out of his genuine interest in people’s lives.
“I want to meet everybody and I want to talk with everybody and learn about everything,” Vega said.
Even in Colombia, poor and rich alike come together over the main ingredient in Vega’s lattes.
“Panela is a drink even the poorest people in Colombia drink, that’s their food,” Vega said. “They boil down the panela and eat it with a piece of bread, that’s their food because they don’t have anything else to eat. The rich people drink it, too. It’s such a Colombian cultural item.”
Vega bops around Sheridan in his standout van that also screams Colombia as a decorative red, blue and yellow stripe graces the white siding of the coffee machine. Vega’s twin brother helped create the design and local graphic artist Melanie Araas brought the idea to life.
“This was a super fun project to work on,” Araas said on Facebook. “Andres is a great dude and wishing him all the success!”
Some could say the art is in the atmosphere of the coffee house, or maybe how you make a cup of coffee. Yes, Vega said, who attended the Seattle Barista Academy and uses Colombian excelso coffee beans, but it’s more than a table and chairs, perfect beans or expensive ingredients. It’s about the people with which you share a cup.