The historic La Candelaria barrio of Bogata is justly popular with both locals and travelers. Less well-known by visitors, though not Bogotanos, are the vibrant blocks of Carrera 2 between Calle 11 and Calle 12d. This section is home to street vendors selling locally fermented chicha and numerous chicharias.
The area is so synonymous with this lightly boozy beverage that it has its own museum: The Blessed Chichería. Chicha is often described as a kind of corn beer, but this diminishes its deep history, cultural distinction, and unique flavor. Like the corn it’s made with, Chica is native to Latin America and has been a key component in religious and political life there for thousands of years. Its importance is so dominant that rather than thinking of chicha as corn beer we could instead think of beer as a kind of barley chicha. In flavor and mouth-feel, the chichas in La Candelaria are more similar to low-alcohol tropical cocktails than to beer.
They are rich, almost creamy, and finely balanced between sweet and sour. The chicha served here is chicha de jora, meaning it is made from malted corn; the same process as barley-based beer. It is not chicha de muko, which is chicha made from corn which is prepared for fermenting by being chewed. The sweetness comes from the unfermented sugars in the drink and the sour, in part, from the type of yeast used. While you can drink chicha plain, most locals enjoy it flavored with fruit juices such as pineapple, passion fruit, blackberry, strawberry, and the citrusy lulo.
Know Before You Go
This section of Carrera 2 is packed with vendors, buskers, storytellers, and chicha drinkers, especially at night. Watch out for pickpockets.