Cocktails and Coca at a Bogota Church

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When you think of Colombia, you think of cocaine, right?  Or rather, coca – the plant that makes the drug.  That seems to be monkey on most Colombians’ backs.  So far the only coca that I’ve seen was in a tourist plaza near a church.

Towering over Bogota is Moneserrate, a beautiful white church dedicated to El Señor Caido (the fallen Christ).  A cable car takes you to the top for a spectacular view and, of course, shopping.  It’s here, in the shadow of the church, amidst stalls of trinkets and t-shirts, that I saw more coca products than I could have ever imagined: coca tea, coca leaves, coca salve, coca rum, coca wine, coca soda and more.  Many of the indigenous people still chew coca leaves as it gives them energy.  But, after a little conversation, the saleswoman told me that most Colombians in Bogota don’t consume or use coca.

La Mujer de Coca
La Mujer de Coca
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Coca Tea

Coca Wine
Coca Wine

A little further down from the coca stall were three vendors selling sausages, morcilla, plantains filled with cheese and guayaba, and other goodies.

Sausages, Potatoes and Morcilla
Sausages, Potatoes and Morcilla
Plantains with Cheese and Guayaba
Plantains with Cheese and Guayaba

The trip to Monserrate finished with a glass of Canelazo, a hot drink made from sugar cane alcohol (aguardiente), sugar and cinnamon water.  It’s a drink consumed in the Andean regions.  It had a slight anise flavor and it definitely warmed me up.  Okay, not exactly a cocktail, but you get the idea.

Aguardiente
Aguardiente
Canelazo
Canelazo