Avocados are typically part of an everyday diet in Colombia, but until recently, they haven’t dominated the cuisine as they have in the hipster cafes of the United States. Colombia produces Hass avocados to export to foreign markets ― and increasingly so, with production rising by more than 150 percent from 2010 to 2015 ― but hasn’t seen much of an avocado consumption trend.
Over the past couple of years, however, millennial-friendly avocado-themed restaurants have begun popping up in Colombia’s capital, Bogota, serving dishes like avocado toast, lattes in avocado skins and avocado pancakes.
Lisa Ramírez is a customer at Azahar Coffee, a shop situated in Parque 93, a wealthy neighborhood to the north of the city, and she says she was shocked when she first saw Azahar’s menu.
“When I first saw the avocado toast with eggs, it was really weird. I saw an American eating [the dish] and I was like, ‘What the fuck?’” the 27-year-old told HuffPost.
“We usually use the avocado for lunch and we eat it only with salt. Maybe sometimes we can put it in ajiaco soup ― it’s a traditional dish in Colombia. But that’s all. For me, it’s really strange that people now are starting to eat it like in this way with toast,” she said.
Despite the initial shock, Ramírez said she recognized the trend was a good thing for Colombia and commented on how quickly it had spread.
“Just a few years ago, the avocado was just another normal food. Now, lots of [Colombian] people are posting pictures of avocado on Instagram.”
Just a few years ago, the avocado was just another normal food. Now, lots of [Colombian] people are posting pictures of avocado on Instagram. Lisa Ramírez
In Bogota’s more traditional south, people on the street had a mixed reaction to the trend. Andrea, a school teacher, said: “I would like to try it, but I think it’s a place where I would go just once. Avocado is good, but not for eating every day.”
Another passerby, who didn’t want to be named, commented: “It’s weird because avocado is a really normal food for us. It’s really common. So to see foreigners want to go to a dedicated place only for avocado ... I’m not sure I understand the point.”
Another popular new avocado bar is Lavocaderia, which opened three months ago in the city of Medellin. It still has a line, consistently around 20 people long, to get in. The customers are mostly young, trendy Colombians, the majority of whom are clutching smartphones, plus some foreigners from Germany and the United States.
Lavocaderia is in the El Poblado district of the city, known for being the “gringo” part of town. One of Medellin’s wealthiest neighborhoods, it’s rife with yoga centers and healthy food chains. The district boomed in the ’90s, when the elite fled the violence of the city center, which had been ransacked by drug lords such as Pablo Escobar.
For Lavocaderia’s owner Ximena Hoyos, 23, it was the perfect place to open the country’s first avocado bar.
“Our basic idea was, Colombia is the third-biggest world producer of avocado and we didn’t have an avocadería. The big countries where they are not avocado producers have avocaderías, so it was very important to have it here in Colombia,” Hoyos told HuffPost.
Lavocaderia was inspired by the similarly named Avocaderia in Brooklyn, New York. But according to Hoyos, her avocado bar isn’t just about serving up North American culture.
“What we wanted was to adapt [the bar] to the Colombian trend and take into account Colombian cuisine. Our dishes are rare here, because, for example, there are some plates that have waffles with guacamole. It’s obviously different from the typical gastronomy of Colombia,” Hoyos said.
The menu at Lavocaderia features foods like ice cream, smoothies, cocktails, pancakes and burgers, all made with avocados.
“People here appreciate that you take the time to bring a different concept to the city because obviously, they get tired of the usual food,” Hoyos added.
When I was younger, I couldn’t get an American candy bar in the supermarket. Whether it was because of taxes or the conflict or both, it just wasn’t a thing. So now you have all the American brands and influences coming in, and I think people are still obsessed with that. Lisa Ramírez
Elsy Ramírez, 25, watched a waitress pour a latte into the skin of an avocado. “I don’t live in Medellin, but I think [Lavocaderia] is a place for locals and tourists,” she said to HuffPost.
“I knew you could make avocado ice cream, but I had never tried it. The other types of food I really hadn’t thought of, some of them are very strange. I think the concept is definitely international food ― not Colombian, but I think because of innovation like this, more people are visiting,” she continued.
Hoyos, Elsy Ramírez and Lisa Ramírez all spoke about the influence of foreign culture on the “hipster” avocado trend in Colombia. Lisa Ramírez said she thought the influx of tourism and the end of the country’s civil war had instigated this cultural opening.
“Imagine, when I was younger, I couldn’t get an American candy bar in the supermarket,” she said. “It just didn’t exist. Whether it was because of taxes or the conflict or both, it just wasn’t a thing. So now you have all the American brands and influences coming in, and I think people are still obsessed with that, because we know what it’s like not to have that.”
Both Lavocaderia and Azahar are situated in wealthy neighborhoods and are popular with young people. Lisa Ramírez said this was because the trend only existed in middle-class communities.
“All of the places I have seen this style of avocado have been in certain richer areas. It would be very hard to establish this in places without any foreigners,” she said. “It’s obviously more a place for tourists, because more traditional people or people from poorer areas would not pay the $13,000 [$4.60] or the $20,000 Colombian pesos [$7.10] for this dish. Avocado is cheaper to buy on the street.”
Sounds like avocado toast’s reputation for being an expensive millennial food has gone global.