Bogota’s Coffee Scene
Nicole spent a few days in Bogota on her way to the Cauca Region and found the coffee scene to be gaining momentum in leaps and bounds.
Bogota’s specialty coffee scene is definitely worth checking out if you visit Colombia - it’s a progressive and growing scene and a great chance to try fresh crop Colombian coffees in country. Bogota is a sprawling city and sitting at 2,640 metres above sea level leaves you short of breath walking on the flat!
The great thing about being in the coffee industry is you can find a coffee connection pretty much anywhere. I was lucky enough to be introduced to Luis Velez, the founder of Amor Perfecto and one of the progressive leaders in speciality coffee in Bogota and Colombia as a whole. He founded their first coffee shop in 1997 wishing for people to go from expecting good coffee to great coffee. With that his wholesale business began and now Amor Perfecto is served in 600 locations across Colombia and they were the first Colombian specialty coffee roaster as authorized by the Colombian Federation of Cafetero.
The day I visited Amor Perfecto it was a public holiday so the shop was closed to the public, but I had the chance to meet Diego and Nicolas – the last two Colombian Barista Champions. I was completely and unnecessarily star struck but managed to pull it together as they dialled in their espressos for me to try: Diego’s had a lemon peel and chocolate zest, Nicolas’ had a lively acidity and notes of caramel. These of course were coffees they were using and practicing with for the upcoming Colombia Barista Champs (which begin on the 15th October).
Amor Perfecto roasts about 15 tonne per week, exclusively Colombian coffees that they have sourced especially. One of the secrets to their success is that they haven’t gone into farming coffee despite the temptation to; it’s a whole different business and requires specialist skills that they are not in the position to replicate. They are in the position to receive the freshest coffees all year around and probably first priority at that. There are many similarities between roasting and brewing styles to the UK – but one key difference is their coffees are roasted pretty much as soon as they have been harvested. Where we all eagerly await pre-shipment samples, they have already roasted and shipped their fresh coffees. One market that has opened up as a result of this is the canister market - their roasted coffee is so fresh and ‘green’ that in this method it is transportable all over the world and whilst he knows this is not perfect it is still a way to export fresh coffee.
It was interesting talking to Luis, in Bogota whilst it is definitely progressing they seem to have similar challenges facing them in changing consumer perceptions. For that reason Amor Perfecto have made the move into the pod market to tap into the high-end market that would not spend time learning how to make espresso or cleaning a machine. It’s a bridge towards changing perceptions in coffee quality. Amor Perfecto have plans in the pipeline for a new coffee shop and ice cream parlour in Usaquen – a small market town that has been swallowed up by Bogota. Again this comes with challenges – the rent is expensive so they have had to diversify, creating a spectacle for customers to watch people make ice cream in the window.
Other coffee companies are also entering the specialty market and changing attitudes of customers means the big players like Juan Valdez, a coffee chain similar to Starbucks in Colombia, have opened a bespoke store called ‘Origin’ which is specialising in single estates and various brew methods. It looked like a nice enough coffee shop but the hair nets the café assistants and baristas wore lost some of the experience. After ordering a V60, Javier, one of the baristas introduced himself and walked me through the process of a V60 – how to do it and how this method would showcase the coffee.
The future of specialty coffee in Bogota and Colombia as a whole is bright. There are new coffee shops and specialty roasters popping up (check out Sprudge’s article 5 places to drink great coffee in Bogota) and with Bogota’s huge cycling scene the concept of a cycle café is bound to happen sooner or later. Elsewhere in Colombia we had some incredibly fresh and delicious Geishas from Granja La Esperanza at Café Jesus Martin in Salento. Changes are afoot, not just at café/roastery level, but in education. Luis is also developing a coffee diploma in connection with a local university which will encourage people from all over the world to experience an education in a producing country.
Sprudge knows what’s up - click here