Now that I’ve done a coffee farm tour just outside of Bogota, and have been on a coffee shop tour in the centre of Bogota, I thought I’d let you know what my favourite coffee shops are in Bogota, according to my recently acquired knowledge on the subject of specialty coffee!
Specialty coffee is the finest quality of coffee, cultivated, roasted and prepared by experts to produce the best cup of coffee you’ve ever tasted! I’ve always been more of a tea-drinker (tip: never admit that out loud in Colombia!) and never really understood what the difference was between a standard cup of coffee from Starbucks and a coffee made by the experts – but I do now!
Here are some of my favourite places, plus a piece of advice: ditch the milk and the sugar, so you can appreciate all the natural flavours and aromas of a real cup of coffee!
I learned that Amor Perfecto was among the first coffee shops to start offering specialty coffee in Bogota back in the 1990s. At the time, the idea of keeping the finest quality coffee in Colombia was revolutionary, and most people hadn’t even heard of the term ‘specialty coffee’. My favourite Amor Perfecto is a cosy local café in the peaceful Chapinero Alto neighbourhood, popular with expats. It has a coffee lab where they roast their own coffee and shelves full of bags of coffee cultivated in the different coffee-producing regions of Colombia. Each bag of coffee has a table on the front with the name of the region where the coffee was grown, and a description of the flavours, body, aroma, fragrance, acidity and sweetness of that particular coffee. Some of the staff speak English and can advise you which coffee to try and which preparation method would be best. This is a great place to go if you want to get out of the house, have a coffee and get some work done. They have a good Wi-Fi connection and power-points by each table.
Arte y Pasión café: Escuela de Baristas
There’s an Arte y pasión café in Chapinero with seating on a small outside patio, and the ‘Escuela de Baristas’ in the Candelaria, which trains baristas to become experts at making coffee. The one in the Candelaria is often frequented by students from the local universities, so if it’s full, walk a few blocks to Cafe REC on the corner of calle 6 and cra 6.
One of Azahar’s cafés is based inside an old shipping container that was previously used for exporting the best coffee outside of Colombia. The cool thing about Azahar is that each bag of coffee on display at their shops has a QR code; scan this with your phone and you can watch a video clip that shows the region where that coffee was produced. There are currently two Azahar coffee shops in Bogota. One is in the affluent Parque de la 93, a lovely green space perfect for lounging on the grass when the weather’s nice. There’s loads of restaurants in this area, so you can get something to eat before heading over to Azahar for a coffee. The other Azahar recently opened in the art district of San Felipe on Calle 74 with Carrera 22. Check out the KB gallery and SGR gallery that are on the same block, and grab a coffee at the same time.
Casa Café Cultor
What I like about Café Cultor is that they are playing a part in the peace process in Colombia by working with local and indigenous farmers in conflict regions and offering them financial incentives to grow coffee instead of coca (the cocaine derivative). Café Cultor’s first shop is a container located in Chapinero Alto on Calle 69, just above cra. 7. Recently, they opened the larger shop in the cute neighbourhood of Quinta Camacho, which also has a variety of restaurants, boutiques and streets lined with charming, traditional houses. The Casa Café Cultor has its own coffee lab, and the expert baristas will help you to choose the perfect blend of coffee suited to your taste; whether it’s a floral Sierra, a chocolatey Tolima or an acidic Huila. This shop also has a patio, so you can sit outside if it’s a nice day, and there’s a cosy atmosphere inside if it’s not.
If you’re up in Usaquén for the Sunday flea market (which is a must if you’re in Bogota), Catación Pública is just a block or two north of the main market. The baristas will invite you to open the coffee jars on the counter and breathe in each one. Normally the one that smells best in the jar will be the one that tastes best in the cup. You can either try one coffee prepared with two different methods, or two different coffees prepared using the same method. Each serving is enough for two cups. Whatever you do, you MUST try the caramelized coffee cherries! Catación Pública is the only coffee shop in Bogota to offer this and the flavours that the coffee fruits bring out in the coffee are just exquisite. The owner, Jaime Duque, is often around and will be more than happy to wax lyrical in English or Spanish about anything to do with coffee! He will also show you the coffee lab if you ask, and if you want to learn more about specialty coffee you can book a one-hour coffee-tasting session with them (though in my opinion, doing the coffee shop tour with Karen Attman is better value for money!).
Café REC is in the Candelaria, a block away from the presidential palace. It has a selection of coffees from all over Colombia, and offers three different methods of preparation: the Aeropress method, for a stronger cup of coffee, bringing out both the sweet and bitter flavours in the coffee, with a hint of fruitiness; the Chemex method, where coffee is filtered into a glass flask to produce a lighter cup of coffee where the natural sweetness of the coffee dominates; and the Dripper method (my personal favourite) where the water is poured over the fresh coffee grinds using a metal pot with a narrow spout, producing a moderately strong cup of coffee with a balanced fruity acidity. All of this is explained in Spanish on their menu, with diagrams to illustrate, but I thought I’d explain here in English too in case you’re still perfecting your Spanish! They have a delicious selection of cakes on display too, and I can personally vouch for the chocolate and banana cake!
In downtown Bogota, Las Aguas is a water feature which stretches several blocks from the Parque de los Periodistas (with a statue of The Liberator, Simón Bolívar) all the way up the hill to the University of the Andes. To the left of the university as you’re walking up the hill, just past a little market, you’ll find Varietale, arguably the best specialty coffee shop in the neighbourhood. As it’s next to the university it has quite a student atmosphere, with lots of people at tables working away at their laptops. It’s very spacious inside and has an airy patio at the back (with a roof to protect against the rain). Usually they serve one type of coffee each week, and you can choose your preferred preparation method. My last cup of coffee there was a Tolima blend prepared using the Dripper method. The acidic, sweet after-taste literally left my mouth watering, as did their torta de amapola (poppy seed cake). There’s also a Variele in Chapinero, though I wasn’t so impressed with their customer service… my fault for ordering tea in a specialty coffee shop!
If you want to learn more about specialty coffee (like, everything you’d ever want to know!) I recommend Karen Attman’s book Permission to Slurp. Have a read before you visit one of the places above. It will leave you feeling inspired (and craving a cup of coffee!).