Karen Attman, journalist and creator of the Flavors of Bogota foodie website, has a new love: Colombian coffee. I shouldn’t say the fascination is new, per se, because she’s lived in Colombia for many years.
Nonetheless, it was Karen’s deep appreciation of Colombian beans and a curiosity as to what made them unique which resulted in the Flavors of Bogotá Coffee Shop Tour, an experience that should be added to the list of tourists and locals alike.
This past week my friend Tiffany and I had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours with Karen and learning about Colombian coffee from the ground up. Over the course of the morning, we visited three different craft coffee houses in Bogotá’s chic restaurant district, trying a different variety of bean and method of brewing at each.
In between tastings—in addition to letting our caffeine buzz wear off slightly—we heard about the history of Colombian coffee, the specific conditions which make it the best in the world, and why craft houses like the ones we’re visiting are only just now becoming popular.
Keep reading for a few cool moments from the tour.
I had no idea, but Bogotá is home to some serious barista royalty, which we had the lucky chance of meeting during our tour.
At our first stop we met Diego, the World Barista Champion for Colombia in 2015 (and ranked 14th in the world). As he prepared our beans for the dripper (in case you’re curious, it was arabica grown in Tolima), he shared with us that 300g of water and 21g of coffee would yield the perfect cup. Of course, that ratio was only for this particular variety. This was some serious stuff!
Like wine, chocolate, and craft beer, there is a whole process to extracting the best flavors from ingredients and special lexicon that goes along with describing what you’re slurping. So, as you’re presented with each cup you’ll pick up what makes that particular variety exclusive, how to maximize the taste experience and all the terminology to go along with what is happening in your mouth.
At stop number two we met Karen, who a year or two ago was crowned the top barista of the Juan Valdez brand in Colombia (just for context, there are over 300 stores in the country). Serious barista-ing is a male dominated affair, and Karen (the barista, not the tour guide!) told us how as she fell in love with coffee she worked up the courage to show her boss that she should be allowed to brew in the store. You read that right, allowed. Usually, the fancy espresso machines are handled by gents only. The year she won first place barista, she was one of three women competing.
Before our second tasting—brewed through a method involving fire and looking like a cool science experiment—we were treated to a cupping. I had never heard of such a thing and please forgive me for oversimplifying the process, but cupping is basically a special type of evaluation. For instance, when craft coffee houses receive a new shipment they’ll do a cupping to ensure that the beans meet their quality requirements as well as the idea of what a consumer expects from that particular region and variety of bean.
Our tastings were all by different methods which best suited the bean. Cupping, however, is always done the same way: water and grounds are poured into a cup, left to steep, and after the grounds removed are slurped up with a spoon. And while this may sound simple, there is an exact science which dictates the cup, water, grounds, and timing, in addition to the way the movements are preformed. For our experience, it was a lovely opportunity to try something new as well as compare how different brewing methods can drastically impact the flavor and body of a particular coffee.
I mentioned before that this is a perfect outing for visitors and residents alike. I’ve been to Colombia’s coffee region and found that this tour incredibly informative as well as a cool way to see the consumption side of coffee production. For your guests, it’s a great opportunity to gain some first-hand experience about something that is for most of us a part of everyday life. Colombia is just now beginning to appreciate this amazing resource and to see coffee get this kind of attention in it’s ‘home’ is exciting.
The Flavors of Bogotá coffee tour currently runs each Wednesday morning and you can find more info here. And of course, if you have any thoughts or favorite shops from around Bogotá, please share them in the comments!