José Luis Garcia is a coffee lover and entrepreneur trying to make his mark in Medellin, the birthplace of Colombia’s modern coffee industry.
Since launching his startup Lightning Koffee in October, Garcia has two goals in mind: making a decent cup of coffee and spreading the word about Bitcoin (BTC).
His coffee beans — which he calls “bitcoin coffee” — are locally sourced and processed and are known for their sweet finish.
García believes his Colombian coffee can serve as a bridge to his fellow Paisas (Medellin natives), reducing their reliance on the unpredictable Colombian peso and favoring Bitcoin adoption.
“We have the best coffee in the world and I want my coffee brand to spread the word about bitcoin so other businesses can start accepting bitcoin,” Garcia told Cointelegraph.
He added that this would “help drive the bitcoin circular economy” – where only bitcoin can be exchanged for goods and services.
— Jose ⚡️☕️ (@josebitcoiner) October 30, 2022
Lightning Koffee currently does not accept fiat currency, but accepts other cryptocurrencies besides Bitcoin. However, Garcia said he considers himself a big shot and would immediately convert other tokens to Bitcoin.
“If someone is going to pay me in crapcoin, I’ll take it because at the end of the day, it’s money. Then I immediately convert it to Bitcoin, which I’m interested in.”
Garcia said he will soon begin accepting fiat payments through methods such as MasterCard and Visa, at which point he plans to stop accepting cryptocurrencies other than bitcoin.
Lightning Koffee joins other businesses in Medellin that bring together cryptocurrencies and consumer goods. In June 2022, Mind Cafe (or “Crypto Cafe”) will become one of the first crypto-focused restaurants in El Poblado, Medellin’s tourist district.
In addition to accepting Bitcoin and Lightning payments, the café also offers customers the chance to immerse themselves in a virtual universe-themed environment, where they can build their avatar and pay for coffee or some traditional Colombian food with Bitcoin.
You walk in and they have a BTC machine for buying and selling #BTC
They also have some merchandise, shoes, t-shirts, hoodies etc.
Yes, it might not be great for OPSEC, but we are too early.
We got there and were basically the only table. 3/9 pic.twitter.com/IboBfVQMwv
— Camila Campton (@camilacampton) July 16, 2022
Garcia is part of a local community of bitcoin enthusiasts who have come together to help promote bitcoin’s circular economy in the city — with more newcomers popping up every month.
“The sneaky thing we’re doing is meeting other bitcoin enthusiasts and people in the city of Medellin,” García said.
— Luke Mikic⚡️ 9-5 Escape Artist (@LukeMikic21) April 26, 2023
Bram Kumuly, an independent Lightning network developer who used to live in Medellin, told Cointelegraph that he felt a “new energy” in the Bitcoin community during his last visit to the city, which made him optimistic that Bitcoin will remain there for a long time.
However, Kumuly acknowledged that there is a broader cryptocurrency, non-fungible token (NFT) and blockchain culture in Medellin whose values do not necessarily align with those of traditional Bitcoin holders.
Some Colombians haven’t seen the orange glow yet
Unfortunately for Bitcoin supporters in Medellin, it has been a hard time convincing everyone of Bitcoin’s merits.
Cumuli primarily attributes this to Colombians not understanding how money works, how the Colombian peso has failed them, and how Bitcoin offers an alternative solution.
“Most people out there still think bitcoin is about transactions and getting rich quick,” Cumuli said, adding that many people don’t realize that bitcoin can be a financial tool that can be used to get money from people that many Colombians don’t trust. Power and control are taken away from the hands of politicians.
Kumuly said this knowledge gap is reflected in Medellin’s bitcoin circular economy, which is still limited to bitcoin holders and has not expanded “very strongly or significantly.”
“There may be more places that accept bitcoin, but right now, there are only half a dozen places that accept bitcoin marked on the BTC map, and it’s been that way for a long time with no growth.”
According to BTC Map, Colombia currently has 106 stores accepting bitcoin payments, trailing behind the most bitcoin-friendly country in the El Salvador region (451 stores in the El Salvador region).
Kumulli said the lion’s share of bitcoin spending comes from digital nomads and foreigners who have little to no sustained local presence. Meanwhile, on the merchant side, Kumulli said businesses are still reluctant to accept bitcoin due to price volatility.
related: $3 Bitcoin Miners Won’t Make Money, But That’s Not the Point: Inventor
According to Kumuly, there are signs of life in Medellin’s Bitcoin and Lightning Network development technology, which could increase Bitcoin spending in the region.
I asked some rappers in medellin #bitcoin. Here’s the thing…
yes i tipped them
Lightning ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/2rS5Ocozzb
— Marcus Plan ⚡️☣️ (@plan_marcus) April 6, 2023
Bitcoin enthusiasts in Medellin need to drive momentum by building a Bitcoin culture to potentially win customers and merchants, he said.
What he thinks Medellin needs next is “a local pure bitcoin technology company that builds bitcoin products for the people and merchants of Medellin/Colombia and is up to date on the technical level.”
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