All posts by Karen Attman

In Colombia, Hope Smells of Coffee Beans

When people suffer, we want to help. Even a small act makes a difference to a person in need. Maybe the only thing we can give is a hug, a few words of encouragement, or perhaps a smile. Those tiny acts can seem like very little, but they can change a lonely child’s world, comfort an elderly person, or convince a single mother that she can make it through another tough day.

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Two of our Favorite Things: Chocolate and Coffee in Colombia

Two items in my kitchen cupboard are not essential but certainly seem to be: coffee and chocolate. Yes, I could live without them – though not too happily.

I’ve also noticed that combining them produces double the happiness. It’s something I did recently by teaming up with Suzie Hoban from the Colombian Chocolate Club for an interview with Richard McColl on Colombia Calling, the top English-language radio show in Colombia.

We did the chocolate-coffee themed podcast at the headquarters of the Colombian Chocolate Club. That’s where Suzie, a university lecturer on the subject of cacao, brings her chocolate knowledge to the public with tastings that feature 100% Colombian products.

So yes, the Coffee Lady got together with the Chocolate Lady to talk about two of our passions.

With the emblematic sound of Bogota in the background (rain pouring down) as well as the more cheerful sound of breaking chocolate among friends, we spoke about the closely related subjects of cacao and coffee.

The interview took us around the country to little-known regions and even into the future as we discussed what these two products mean to Colombia.

We talked about chocolate in Colombia…

  • What’s new in the high-quality Colombian cacao scene?
  • What similarities are there between cacao and coffee?
  • What is a traditional cacao farm?
  • Why is Colombian cacao still an ‘invisible’ product?
  • How do Colombians show their generosity in the world of chocolate – and why aren’t they afraid to share their secrets?

And we talked about coffee in Colombia…

  • What makes specialty coffee special?
  • Who is attracted to our coffee experiences?
  • Why did a foreigner set up a coffee shop tour in Colombia?
  • What are ‘exotic’ varieties of coffee and why should you try them?
  • Why is taking a coffee tour or chocolate tasting enormously different from doing it on your own?
  • How can you help specialty coffee and chocolate producers?

If you’re looking for gifts to take back home with you or tips on what to do with friends and family that visit you in Bogota, don’t miss this episode.

Also, find out why Suzie considers Permission to Slurp to be the perfect book to help you prepare for your visit to Colombia.

Listen to the podcast on iTunes, Soundcloud and Stitcher.

Want to learn more about chocolate or coffee in Colombia?

Get the details about the Flavors of Bogota Coffee Experiences.

Learn more about Colombian chocolate with the Colombian Chocolate Club.

Shhhh! Speakeasy, please

We arrived at the door and stared blankly at it.

“Is this the place?” Peter asked, doubt and worry in his voice. He stepped up to the darkened windows and tried to peer in.

I fidgeted on the doorstep. Was this the address? Were we on the wrong street? It’s an easy mistake to make when you depend on Bogota’s notoriously bizarre street numbering system.

I looked for a doorbell but there wasn’t one, and the door was firmly shut against the world.

Just then the door swung open and a thin-faced man with serious eyes and heavy stubble looked at us. He didn’t say a word.

What was I supposed to do? What should I say? Was there a password we should recite, or would he simply recognize my name?

He swung the door open wide. “Come on in.”

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The Hidden Secrets of a Food Market in Colombia

The taxi driver had warned us.

But we didn’t listen. I mean, who really follows the advice of a Colombian taxi driver?

On the way there we passed by a swamp where pelicans floated and white herons circled overhead. Cars, motorcycles, and buses lurched down the road alongside our taxi, clouds of exhaust swirling around in the dense heat.

Vendors on the sidewalk yelled out at the top of their lungs, deafening shouts that let us know there was yucca for sale. Avocados were placed in huge piles on the next table. Fresh-eyed fish laid out in rows on wood planks let us know we were close.

The taxi stopped. “We’re here,” the driver muttered gloomily.

My heart was beating hard.

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The First Step of a Coffee Book Journey

How far can one idea take you? Where will the casual comment of another person lead you?

I learned a lesson on the power of ideas about a year and a half ago. I was in Mexico City for the Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. It’s the top food awards event for the region, when spectacular chefs gather together to celebrate their past achievements and their future goals. The whole week, not just the night of the awards, is a thrilling experience; as a food writer I get to attend numerous dinners and parties in glittering settings and try the best food in the city.

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La Grande: Peruvian Cuisine in Quinta Camacho

Do you have a favorite street? One that you love to walk down, where you take time sit on a bench and look at the trees and admire the gardens and the ivy-covered houses? It can create a peaceful moment that takes you away from the big-city traffic.

I have a street like that. I can always find a good excuse to walk down it. When I’m nearby checking out new coffee shops or restaurants I’ll go out of my way to head down that street and get the feeling I’ve escaped to a small town outside Bogota.

So when a restaurant opens up on my favorite street, I pay attention.

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What Makes a Specialty Coffee Shop Unforgettable?

When you visit Bogota, at some point you may find yourself on a chilly street wondering where to warm up with a good coffee. Now, if what you mean by a good coffee is that you need to find a specialty coffee shop, you and I have something in common.

When I began writing travel articles for international publications, I always had to include coffee shops. After all, this is Colombia, the largest exporter of fine Arabica coffee in the world.

It was only after spending large amounts of time with enthusiastic coffee shop owners, talented and generous baristas, and many cups of coffee that I realized I’d found something amazing.

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Restaurants in Bogota: Prudencia

La Candelaria is one of Bogota’s most fascinating neighborhoods, both bohemian and historic. It’s uncomfortably crowded down by the main plaza but takes on an eerie calm up by Chorro de Quevedo, the fountain and plaza where they say Bogota got its start.

I can feel the history as I walk on the quiet streets past buildings whose foundations were laid in the early 1600s.  The cobblestone streets are crowded with red tile roofed houses painted in vibrant colonial colors. Occasional splashes of street art invoke the past and present, modern and historic, European and indigenous.

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What a Superstar Chef Brings to Fine Dining

He’s got a sweet baby face, like that guy in school you had a secret crush on (and never told anyone about). I wasn’t expecting to find that kind of superstar magnetism in a chef. I knew that his restaurant is among the top in fine dining in Bogota. I’d seen enough of his Instagram account to know that this chef tapped into a truly hip  vibe. But I wasn’t expecting the openness, bright smile, and intense gaze of a man thoroughly comfortable with himself and his world.

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Coffee Fair in Bogota

Every year the coffee industry in Colombia has a coffee fair that gathers together everyone involved in the coffee industry – coffee growers, exporters and distributors, coffee shop owners and baristas. From around the world coffee importers come looking for the next specialty coffee to take back home with them.

The most exciting moment of the fair is the national barista championships, where the top baristas around the country compete to see who will be the king for the following year.

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