Flavors of Bogotá Coffee Shop Tour

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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.

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What not to wear in Bogota

what to wear in Bogota Colombia
Don’t. Just don’t.

When planning a trip anywhere new, I inevitably do some googling about what to wear. While I know there’s no way to completely avoid looking like a tourist, my goal is always to land somewhere in the middle of the spectrum between the locals and those wearing fanny packs and American flag t-shirts.

Recently I’ve gotten a couple of reader questions about what to wear while visiting Bogotá, which makes me think that you all think I know what I’m talking about…at least a little bit. Part of that is true: after about two years in this city I can pick out tourists in a snap and know how to dress based on an invite’s time and location.

When you think of Colombia, Bogotá is kind of in a category of its own. For one thing, it’s location at about 8,500 feet above sea level means that it’s much cooler than the rest of the country. Temperatures don’t vary greatly and for the most part, hover around the low fifties. That said, there are afternoons when the sun can bring the temps to the low seventies, and chilly evenings where it can sink as low as the forties. December and January are the warm, dry months and  April/May and October/November are quite wet. Another way that Bogotá differs is that as the capital and center of business, dressing seems more formal and sophisticated than the rest of the country.

Keep reading for a few of my ideas of what to bring—or leave behind—on a trip to Colombia’s capital city.

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Sweet escape: The José Celestino Mutis Botanical Garden

José Celestino Mutis Botanical Garden - Front entrance

Between the quiet and the warm, dry smell of earth and pine trees in the sunshine, I didn’t feel like I was in Bogotá. I haven’t lived in Oregon for years, but smelling the evergreen trees growing in the José Celestino Mutis Botanical Garden, I was taken back to summers walking in Portland’s Laurelhurst Park with my dad.

Because of the skyscrapers and cloud cover, Bogotá can be a pretty gray place. Multiple people have recommended I visit and I’d been meaning to go for months, but if you know anything about traffic in this city, then you know how your excitement to venture out can be quickly tempered by the time of day and direction of your destination. Thankfully, Bogotá empties the week after Christmas and the visiting in-laws and I were able to make an easy afternoon visit.

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Recommended Read: Living in Bogotá

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Living in Bogotá: A Practical Guide by Expats and Locals for Expats

When we moved to Bogotá, I relied heavily on Tripadvisor and a guidebook about Colombia for advice on the must-sees and must-eats of my new city. However, when you find yourself actually living in a new city—especially in a foreign country—you quickly realize travel guides are made for travelers and will only take you so far.  Living in Bogotá: A Practical Guide by Expats and Locals for Expats picks up where TripAdvisor and LonelyPlanet drop off: with all of the day-to-day info you need to settle in.

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Don’t miss in December: Expoartesanías and Día de las Velitas

The holidays can be a bittersweet time for expats. On the one hand, it’s hard to celebrate away from family and your normal traditions; on the other, it’s an amazing opportunity to adopt some new ones! This being our second holiday season in Bogotá, I’m feeling a little like sophomore year—you know, you’re still relatively inexperienced but have lost a bit of that deer-in-headlights look of total bewilderment. Now that I have my holiday sea-legs, I was readily anticipating two December happenings, both of which are unique to Colombia: a visit to Expoartesanías and lighting candles with my fellow Bogatanos on Día de las Velitas.

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Expat resources—for Bogotá and beyond

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Last month No Longer Native was featured on two different websites, which is a huge deal for a lil blog like mine! Making the experience even better was the fact that both were incredibly helpful to me in my first months in Bogotá. So, I’d like to give them a shoutout and make sure that all you Bogotanos know where to get the good details.

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Sembrando Confianza: Organic eats with a social impact

sembrando confianza

I come from California, the birthplace of fancy—but unregulated and therefore technically meaningless—food buzzwords like local and natural.   That said, my first reaction at these kinds of terms is a little bit of an eye roll.  Moving to Bogotá, I wasn’t too concerned with finding an organic or local label. I find little buggies in my broccoli every week, which says to me that what I’m eating is probably more on the natural side.  However, if I can directly support small operators who really are doing their best to organically and sustainably farm, all the better!

This past week I learned about a really cool non-profit organization who is using a CSA-type program in order to make a big social impact here in Bogotá.  Sembrando Confianza, which translates to Seeds of Confidence, is a non-profit which seeks to help Bogotanos in two specific ways. Firstly, they provide education on healthier food habits and help neighborhoods in Bogotá install self-sustained, organic gardens. Secondly, they support already operating urban farmers by connecting them with a market.

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Adventures in eating, the Colombia edition

A few weeks ago we were ordering appetizers with some friends at Bruto, a lovely tapas restaurant, when they said they were a bit surprised at our choices—we voted for the morcilla and octopus, which a couple of years ago I would have completely brushed over in search of sliders.  It got me thinking how I’ve really changed at the dinner table since we’ve moved here: I would never have considered myself a picky eater in the past, but then I remember how often I’d refuse to try new things because I always wanted to go for the option I already knew I liked.

Eating out in Bogotá—or any country where you’re not a native speaker—is a bit like culinary Russian roulette.  I quickly got used to thinking I ordered one thing but having something completely different appear in front of me and I can’t count the number of  times I’ve eaten something with unknown ingredients because I didn’t understand what I was ordering (see my blurb below about mondongo…).  Sometimes I’ve eaten things I wasn’t so sure of because I didn’t want to offend a host.  

Learning to just enjoy the moment and whatever comes is a lesson I’ve learned again and again since leaving my native country, but doing it in a food-y way has probably been the most fun. Keep scrolling to see my most pleasant surprises.

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An ode to micro-empresas

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Each morning and afternoon as I walk our dog I see them, dotting the walkways along the park or on the corners of the busier streets: small wooden carts, sometimes pushed or with a bicycle seat, generally with an umbrella, each offering neat rows of snacks, sweets and cigarettes.  The fancier ones have glass cases perched at one end, where cups of fruit wait or empanadas steam up the glass.  No matter where you are in Bogotá, you aren’t far from a bag of peanuts or a cough drop.  To my eyes fresh from the U.S., these little carts and stands dotting the sidewalks in Bogotá initially seemed disorganized, unattractive and cluttering the already crowded streets.  Now, I see them as a charming part of the city’s backdrop and something I’ll miss once we leave.

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Cristal Artesanal – Handblown glass in Bogotá

small glassware shelf

Don’t let the simple façade fool you, there are treasures inside Cristal Artesanal’s  warehouse in La Candelaria.  As soon as we stepped inside, I immediately regretted bringing a purse…firstly because I wanted to buy everything in sight and secondly because I quite literally felt like a bull in a china shop and was terrified I’d knock something over.  This past week I spent an hour happily (and carefully!) browsing through the seemingly endless shelves of glassware, adding things to my “spot” at the checkout counter.

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