With levels of hipness and creative acumen that rival New York City or Paris, Bogota also happens to be the capital of the third largest coffee producing nation in the world. What that means is that cafe culture is both in the ground and in the cup in Colombia’s metropolis of over 10 million inhabitants. Add the often-rainy gray Seattle-style climate of Bogota and you get the perfect mix of conditions for a world-class coffee city.
Visitors will be surprised at the sophistication and the seriousness of coffee culture here, a stark contrast to many other coffee producing nations that simply ship out the raw commodity to Northern climes. In fact, Colombia has recently invented its own Café de Origen movement, which links urban cafes and coffee consumers with small sustainable family farms in prime coffee regions of the country. This creates jobs for campesino farmers, some of which have recently switched from growing coca to coffee, and ensures the highest quality cup of Joe for you and me.
Step inside the vibrant cafe scene of Bogota, and you will find a strong connection between the people and the earth that is unmatched in any large city. In fact, for a real coffee connoisseur, this just might be the most dynamic destination in the world.
Ocean Malandra is a journalist and travel writer that divides his time between Northern California and South America. He has been working out of cafes for over a decade and is always on the hunt for the next great office with strong coffee.
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1. Café Cultor
Made out of a recycled shipping container that actually was used to export coffee beans at one point, Café Cultor is considered one of the top Café de Origen outfits in the city and offers "slow bar" single cup pours of six different Colombian beans and roasts on a daily basis. Located in the bustling Zona G (for Gastronomic) of Bogota's Chapinero Alto neighborhood, Café Cultor has won several national barista and roasting awards and is now going after international acclaim.
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2. Arte y Pasion
Located down a quiet pedestrian street just off Bogota's Plaza Bolivar lies Arte y Pasion, a coffee lovers dream come true that also offers barista training classes of varying lengths. Arte y Pasion serves a dozen different Café de Origen beans from across what is the most diverse country on earth per square inch. And all of those beans pair quite nicely with the house baked sweet pastries.
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3. Magola Buendía
Specializing in the high quality coffee that is produced in the Department of Huila, mostly by indigenous and small family farmers, Magola Buendía is a popular gathering place in the bohemian La Candelaria area of town. Besides offering housemade soups and sandwiches and a sunny back patio to enjoy between cloud breaks, Magola Buendía also rents bicycles by the hour for dirt cheap, allowing you to use your caffeine buzz to pedal through the area's crooked historic streets.
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4. El Atillo
El Atillo has been a social landmark of the chic historic Usaquen area—once its own small town that was swallowed up by Bogota at some point—for decades, making it a trendsetter in a city that is now coffee fueled at all levels. Garden seating and great people-watching are the perfect match for their famous house cappuccinos, variety of coffee cakes and selection of savory empanadas.
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Sleek and no nonsense, Azahar vies with Café Cultor for the most meticulously prepared cup of coffee in the city according to most real Colombian coffee nuts. Located in the chic Parque 93 area, just a block off the verdant park itself, Azahar does a variety of single cup pours from prime Café de Origen regions. All come with helpfully descriptive tasting notes like green apple, caramel and sugar cane, and the cafe slings a small but tight selection of housemade croissants and other coffee pairing pastries, too.
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6. Contraste Coffee LAB
A hole-in-the-wall right on one of the most hostel-packed little cobblestone streets in the La Candelaria District, Contraste Coffee LAB brings the fine art of single cup pours right to the center of the tourist circuit. Buying their beans directly from independent small farms and roasting them on-site, Contraste also serves a variety of lunch items in their small back sitting room.
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7. Café Origami
Known as the international neighborhood, the Macarena district of Bogota is home to restaurants from around the world, offering everything from Lebanese grilled wraps to Peruvian ceviche. It's no surprise then that the area's main coffee shop also has a global flavor, in this case Japanese. At Café Origami you can sip a fresh brewed cup of Joe in the second story lounge while working out various origami creations from the provided books and scrap paper.
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8. Salvo Patria
Those dedicated enough to actually pair their cup of coffee with a meal are the regulars here at
Salvo Patria, located in a historic brick house in the swanky Alto Chapinero neighborhood. All of their Café de Origen cups come from single lots of a production on small farms and can be prepared for you a variety of different ways—from aero press to hand drip. Creative menu items that fuse Asian and Mediterranean flavors with fresh Colombian ingredients are designed to match.
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9. Amor Perfecto
When Amor Perfecto opened its doors back in 1997, the cafe helped create the trendy Zona G dining district, and it still holds it down when it comes to perfect espresso pours and coffee infused cocktails. Known for their dark roast process, Amor Perfecto also holds a variety of tasting events that are open to the public and are designed to give newbies a complete overview of the Colombian coffee industry.
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10. San Café
Filling the air around Usaquen's leafy central park with the aroma of just roasted Colombian coffee every Friday through Sunday, San Café is a full service coffee bar run out of a VW van. Grab a single pour of Café de Origen and enjoy the live bands, comedic storytellers and the well-heeled parade of shoppers that this charming village within a city affords.