Once upon a time, Colombia, although known internationally for producing some of the best coffee in the world, did not actually consume much of its own coffee due to it being too expensive for locals. They exported the vast majority of their coffee so the rest of the world could enjoy it, but they themselves did not enjoy the literal fruits of their own land. In recent times, this has changed quite a bit, with farmers being financially incentivized to trade in their heroine and cocaine crops instead for coffee beans, and Colombians embracing their own products. With this came many fun and new coffee shops popping up all over major cities domestically like Bogota and Medellin, with coffee tasting offerings representing the different coffee bean regions of the country (six major ones exist), coffee latte and cappuccino art (you can ask for your foam to be in the design of an elephant, a butterfly, or even the Taj Mahal!), and the ability to customize what method your chosen coffee type is brewed in (French press? Chemex? Japanese pour-over? Yama glass, anyone?).
On our first day in Bogota on Thursday, we happened upon this artsy, quaint coffee shop in La Candelaria called Arte y Pasion Cafe. Given that it looked pretty cozy and seemed to have a vast selection of coffee beans, we decided to pop in to have a taste. We decided upon a tasting of coffee representing four different regions. Like with wine, our server arranged them from lightest in flavor to strongest. He quickly told us the regions (he said it so quickly that the only one I caught was Santander). The server then presented the cups with filters propped up, allowed us to smell the freshly ground beans of each, then very neatly poured each coffee type into the filter. He followed this up by gracefully pouring hot water from a kettle into each filter from high up, allowing each to slowly drip and steep the grinds to produce the coffee liquid below it. When he was done, he took a quick taste of each with a spoon to ensure that each was of quality and represented what he thought they should taste like, smiled, then took away the filters and kettle and left us to ourselves to enjoy.
These may easily have been the deepest and most complex coffees I’d ever tasted in my life. The first two of the lighter varieties were delicious and fruity, while the second two were extremely layered, deep, borderline chocolatey with one even being a bit smokey. These were quite generous pours, too; we essentially had four full cups of coffee for the equivalent of about $7 USD.
I’m not a big coffee drinker; I’m an avid tea drinker who strongly prefers loose leaf over bags (bags are really just for the office out of convenience). But because I grew up with my dad drinking and enjoying good, strong coffee, I’ve always enjoyed the smell and taste of coffee and can recognize the good stuff from the crap. But this experience was really special and memorable. And we followed this up by going to two more coffee shops on our last day today, first Bourbon Coffee Roasters, where Chris had the filtered coffee of the day and I enjoyed what was likely the best latte of my life; then, we finished our mini coffee shop tour with an end at Cafe Cultor, where they had beautiful graffiti-like art work decorating their front wall, a brew bar and comfortable seating area inside, an outdoor garden area with ample seating, plus their own roastery in the back. Cafe Cultor is a bit quirky because they originally opened up in a recycled shipping container. They’re also very involved in their local community, as they help farmers in high risk and conflict areas and also work directly with local indigenous communities who produce the coffee they sell.
At Cafe Cultor, the server at the front knew some English, so she explained to us the different bags of beans and told us that they recently had won some major coffee awards. We ended up buying three different bags, plus some local chocolate bars to take back with us. I couldn’t stop smelling the coffee beans. They just smelled so fragrant and delicious.
We have definitely had a very delicious and spoiled food and drink experience while in Colombia. I left today feeling very grateful for not only our culinary adventures and the beautiful sights we saw, but also for all of the kind and welcoming people we met everywhere along the way.