All that teaching is making me thirsty

In case you were dying of curiosity regarding Colombian beverages, here’s some perspective.

Liquid Delights for all ages

Jugo. Despite our recent history’s global diffusion and cultural integration between North and South America as a result of migration, conquests, Communism hunts and tourism, we gringos are missing out on something huge: juice. Maybe we can blame our seasonal climate and bland imported fruit, but our juices suck. Here, juice is fresh fruit, sugar and water or milk in a blender. So easy and so good! Mora (blackberry) is my usual but there are a ton of flavors and combinations: mango, pineapple, passion fruit, guanabana, guava, lulo, orange, tree tomato, papaya, coco, lime, peach, strawberry and oh so many more I don’t even know about yet.

Gaseosa. Colombia and Latin American countries at large: I love you dearly. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. I will never, however, drink soda like you drink soda. I do drink it more here than I ever do in the U.S. because it’s often the only choice, and it’s so much better without corn syrup – but after a hike, or exercising? I don’t want soda. With lunch or dinner? I rarely want soda. On a hot afternoon? Not soda. I want WATER, Colombia. I know, those crazy foreigners are always swigging the H2O, always asking for it at restaurants and filling our glasses at home when there’s a perfectly good bottle of Colombina or Coca Cola available. While I love me some Quattro, water consumption will be my last U.S. habit to go.Pony Malta is a filthy brown soda that Colombians adore. All thirty-six of us in WorldTeach tried it and all thirty-six of us thought it was vile. I can’t accurately describe the taste because I only got as far as a sniff, but it smelled kind of like syrupy, rotting fig newtons. Colombia, I WILL NEVER EVER EVER LIKE PONY MALTA.
 (Pony Malta serves one purpose: some of my students splashed their shoes in it before playing soccer so they wouldn’t slip on the floor.)

Café. When you hear “Colombia,” your first thought is probably either cocaine or coffee. Let’s talk about the latter. Ironically, we drink the best Colombian coffee in the U.S. because of the high volume of exports (go ahead, jump to conclusions about the cocaine reference too.) Here, coffee is either tinto (black coffee) or café con leche (coffee with milk) that both range from instant to espresso. Hot chocolate and various forms of tea are also widely available and widely delicious.

Agua de Panela. Agua de panela is a hot or cold drink made from cane sugar extract of some sort. I think it’s disgusting in all forms, and always try to establish my revulsion ASAP so I won’t have to drink it to be polite.

21 Plus*

*The suggested legal drinking age in Colombia is 18, though I’ve gotten the impression that a lot of parents let it slide after 15 or 16. They do check IDs at popular bars.

Cervezas. No IPAs here unless it’s a specialty restaurant or brewery. Poker and Aguila are the most common beers in Bogotá, and they get the job done without being anything special. Club Colombia and Redd’s are on the classier end. The chain brewery Bogotá Beer Company has some good brews but I miss American beers.

Aguardiente. I love the word aguardiente, I hate the beverage itself. Different from Ecuadorian liquor by the same name, it’s unforgivably flavored with anise. Unfortunately it’s often the cheapest and most popular alcohol available. People are very likely to buy a bottle (or box) and pass it around a group setting, but I try to avoid it at all costs.

About the boxes – the U.S. really needs to get into liquor sales in cardboard cartons instead of bottles. Boxes don’t shatter when you drop them, they’re easy to store, lightweight, easy to dispose of and you can’t stab someone with a box. For safety’s sake alone, Uncle Sam!

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