Food & Drinks

Food and drinks in Bogota is something you will find in restaurants but in every street and streetcorner as well. Find info here foodwise about Bogota. Typical food and drinks in Bogota has like everything in Colombia both hispanic & pre hispanic origins, and besides that African roots. Also Mediterranean tastes were added. Bogota is a modern mix of many flavors. It ranges from authentic food to hamburgers and food from all over the world. Many flavors have origins difficult to find with makes Bogota’s traditions  so magical and mythical.

What did the Muiscas have on their menu?

 

It is not clear what Muiscas ate in the Bogota region. But probably they didn’t eat much meat & fish. From early Spanish writings it is presumed that Muiscas didn’t domesticate animals. But maybe cuys were domesticated. But from Spanish accounts it seems that many deer and rabbits habitated the area that also could have been on the menu. In the gardens of the dwellings the Muiscas grew beans, corn and potatoes.  Corn was the base of the Muisca menu.

Corn was prepared in buns,  arepas and in Chicha the alcoholic drink that was popular in all South America. It is also thought that the Muiscas ate soups like Ajiaco that are typical for the Sierra regions of the Andes. But it was served without chicken. Because although chickens existed on the continent they were not domesticated , and different from the chickens that were brought from Europe. It is thought that before the arrival of the Spanish chicken was not on the Muisca menu. Potato without doubt is a main ingredient of Ajiaco. When the Spanish arrived on the Cundiboyacan altiplano it was their first encounter with the potato. There is still a great variety of eatible root and tubers such as Cubio, sweet potato, ibias and rubas  Andean tubercles that were already domesticated around 8,000 BC

Ajiaco

Ajiaco is a name given to various soups consisting of meat, potatoes and other vegetables in Latin America (Peru, Chile, Colombia, Cuba). Bogotan Ajiaco is a soup made from Chicken Onion, Coriander, Garlic, young mais, three types of potatoes of which the most important one is the Criolla potatoe and the guasca herb a herb that originates from the Andean region and spread out around the world after the spanish conquest and is known as potatoe weed and sometimes gallant soldier  in the UK/US its official name is Galinsoga parviflora. The soup is served with milk cream and advacado and rice at the side.

Although many people think the Muiscas already ate soups like this, this is not sure. First accounts of the soup from travelers in Colombia originate from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Vegetarian Food?

Many people think that the Muiscas didn’t always have meat on their menu, so they are thought to have been at least partly vegetarian. Nowadays in Bogota there are a lot of vegetarian restaurants. In the Candelaria but also in other neighborhoods like around the National University in Teusaquillo district.

Typical Bogota Food

Buñuelos

Buñuelos have their origin in the mediteranian but exist in many countries. In France they are called beignets. They are made by putting dough (wet flour) in oil in which sometimes fruit or other ingedrients (like meat or beans) are added.

The typical Bogotan Buñuelos are made with cheese and are sold in many bakeries and are best eaten warm. It is also tradition to eat these buñuelos with christmas with custard (natilla). The christmas buñuelos are smaller and made with panela.

Obleas.

Obleas are thin waffles sold on the street with arequipe in between. Although Obleas have an european origin the combination with Arequipe (milk Caramel) is typical Colombian but also poular in neighbouring countries. They are served with toppings of marmelade or candy. When Mick Jagger tried an Oblea at a stand near Plaza Bolivar he made the vendor famous.

Fritanga.

Fritanga is a mix fried food that consists of sausages, pieces of pork meat, beef chicken, and potatoes, sweet banana often served a corncob.Mostly sold on the street or in small dark taverns, but there are spacious restaurants just outside of Bogota where people go with their friends or families as well. This food is considered the food of the people and people from the countryside.  While the centre of Bogota is more and more gentrifying with values to eat healthy the fried and greasy meat and potatoes are less popular. Resulting in the disappearing of many of these shops that were once a normal part of every neighbourhood. But they can still be encountered in Bogota, if you miss them on the street check the local market. If the food is served also ask for the aji (spicy sauce) and guacamole.

Cocido Boyacencse.

This is a typical plate from Bogota and the Boyaca region. It is a stew that can warm people up on the alti plano and has its origins in a Spanish dish (Olla Podrida) . Beef, pork and chicken, potatoes and a variety of vegetables are the main ingredients with vegetables mosly Mazorca (corncob)  and beans like the haba and more potatoes and many other rootplants (tubers) that also were on the menu of the pre hispanic Andes people such as cubios and chuguas.

Arepas.

It is sure that Arepas breads made out of mais were already eaten by pre hispanic Cultures not only in Colombia but in Venezuela and Panama as well., and there are also varieties known in Mexico and other central american countries. The breads are made out of ground maize dough.

Hamburgers.

Ofcourse hamburgers are not typical Bogotan. But the quality of local hamburgers has made it very diffcult for big international chains to get a foot on the ground in Colombia. There are many big Colombian chains that offer a variety of quality hamburgers, and also Hamburgers resaturants in town.

Fruit

Food and drinks in Bogota almost always contain fruit as sidedish as a minimum. If you come to Bogota you will be amazed by all the fruit in the groceries or markets. There are so many fruits that it is impossible to name them all. Many fruit grows in Colombia but was brought here in the past: Banana, Mango & citrusfruits were brought to the new world from Asia, Europe & Africa.  Feijoa is now also is grown in higher lying areas in Colombia by farmers that traditionally grew potatoes and corn but originaly comes from the southern part of South America.

Guanabana is a fruit of Colombian origin that grows in the lower tropical regions and Guayaba, Papaya that is native to the lower lying tropical regions in south and Latin America as well.

Examples of native “Bogatan” fruits are: Lulu, Curuba, Advacado and Chirimoya that are native to the higher regions or cold region (Tierra Fria) of the Andes.

Bogota Drinks

Chocolate Santafereño

Although the cacao tree grows in the tropical zones of South America and the inside of the bean was known for its sweetness in South America. The habit of drinking chocolate originates from meso america. The Maya and later Azects knew the delicious taste of the juice made from the mix of water, crushed cocoa beans,harina de maíz, and water. The drink was seen as drink of the gods. The drink was bitter before spanish arrival. The sweet and warm drink as we know now originated with the arrival of  the Spanish and Portuguese that took sugarcanes with them, and decided to sweeten and heaten the drink. Sugarcane was grown from the 15th century onward on large plantations in coastal areas of Brazil, Mexico, Colombia & Cuba until the nineteenth centrury mostly using enslaved Afro-descendients in the production.   Warm chocolate was at first a drink for the lucky few: it began to be more and more a public drink besides thee and later coffee in the 19th century.

In the beginning of the 19th century the first cafes for chocolate were opened in Santa Fe (as Bogota was called) that wasnt much bigger than the Candalaria back then.

What is chocolate santafereño? It is a typical Bogotan warm chocolate combo. It is chocolate made with water (not milk) served with white young cheese and almojábana (bread made of corrnmeal and white cheese) or yuca-bread with with butter. It is custom to put the white cheese in the chocolate.

Where to taste it? In the Puerta Falsa. This tavern already exists on the same adres since 1816 and has always been run by one family. It is said that the best chocolate santafereño is servered here. adres: Calle 11 #6-50

Chicha

Chicha is a pre-hispanic drink popular in the andes and Central-America. Mostly made out of mais that was in pre hispanic days had a ceremonial use. It is made fermentizing cornmeal. Later it was more commonly used by both indigineous people, Criollos as Spaniards, in a way like beer was used until the 19th century in Europe, and seen as more healthy and hygienic than water. Untill the nineteenth century this drink was connected to dark places where indians came together to drink Chicha, and until the forties there were attempts to ban Chicha without succes. In an attempt to evade the low morals associated with it, bad hygiene and clandestine production.

Untill the forties of the last century Chicha was still a very popular drink, and there were many Chicherias where Chicha was being prepaired and drunk. Gradualy beer took the place over off Chicha as most popular alcohol drink. While Chicherias got more and more associated with the lower class and Chicherias were confined to the poor neighbourhoods. Near the Candelaria lies the low income neighbourhood La Perseverancia where the tradition to make Chicha and Chicharias have been perserved from generation to generation, often from mother to daughter.

La Perserverancia neigbourhood has a strong community and is socialy complex and it is not avised to enter except on the anual Festival of Chicha in february. In the Candelaria are also many places that serve chicha for tourists to taste.

Beer

When talking about food and drinks in Bogota it is almost impossible not to mention beer. Bogota has a lot more tradition with Beer than with wine. The first Bogotan small beer breweries sarted in the first half of the 19th century. The first big factory in Bogota was a beer brewery : Bavaria for a long time Bavaria was the biggest company of Bogota. It was started in 1889 by a German : Leo Kopp. Many factory workers that worked there lived in the Perservancia where there were many Cicharias. On the heigt of migration to Bogota, beer companies started a promotion of Beer and tried to ban chicha. Beer is very popular in Bogota and in recent years many local small breweries opened.

Coffee

Many people associate food and drinks in Bogota with Coffee, a place with many cafés and delicious coffee. This is certainly true. But this has not always been the case. The coffee plant was introduced in Colombia in the first half of the 18th century, and slowly began to be planted big haciendas and later on was also grown by smaller farmers around Bogota in the Cundinamarca province.

Coffee changed the economy of Colombia, that was much more based on Chocolate and Tobacco.

A traveller in Bogota in the first half of the ninenteenth century wouldn’t have encountered a place to drink coffee, but many places serving warm chocolate with cheese.

Coffee export from Colombia started from the 1850’s. Colombia produced 14,2 millones de sacos de 60 kilos entre enero y diciembre de 2016.

The first café opened its doors in Bogota in 1866. Especially since the first decade of the last century the amount of cafés grew explosively especially around the 7 the and Jimenez that attracted poets, lawyers, politicians, artists,  students that were all part of the new bourgeois. Drinking coffee meant much more  coming together discuss current affairs than drinking chocolate.

After 1948 because of Bogotazo and military rule many legendary Bogotan cafes closed it doors, and after that cafes came and went. But there are also traditional cafés that survived the times.

Traditional cafés in Bogota that still exist until this day opened their doors for the first time in the thirties. Traditionals that are still open are Café Pasaje and coffee bakery Florida, both founded in 1936; The café Saint Moritz (1937), and bakery elalcázar (1942), and La Fontana (1955),

Besides this there also many new Colombian coffee chains like Tostao, Juan Valdez, Oma that make it difficult for big international coffee companies establish itself in the capital. Because there is so many variety in Colombia.

Fruit Juice

Bogota is a paradise for fruit juice lovers. When you ask what fruitjuices are offered mostly there follows a long list. Most common are : manadarin, ananas, papaya, guave, maracuya, lula and strawberry.

Agua de Panela

Agua de panela is a juice that is made of cooking panela in water. Panela itself comes from the juice from the sugarcane. Mostly Panela comes from small factories on the countryside that work in a traditional way. Agua de panela is used in coffee as sweetener and in deserts, and it is also thought to have curative properties. On hotter days lemonjuice is added to make it more refreshing.

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