Colombia has a rich culinary tradition that has a lot of unique items that represent a very deep tradition that’s quite enjoyable to explore.
From the breakfast staples to the late-night chow, the country has a smorgasbord of tasty treats to sample. You can munch them down as you explore the other wonderful things to investigate in your day-to-day.
On top of the delicious culinary items to eat, the country also has a strong culture of local beers and spirits. One of these is the legendary chicha drink.
What follows is a summary of chicha, including some background and places to procure it in Medellin!
What Is Chica?
Chicha refers to a very broad set of fermented beverages that are derived from a variety of different substances.
The most common form of Chicha is made from corn, however, there are varieties made from quinoa, rice, potato, and other grains.
The process of making Chicha is unique, and perhaps not for the faint of heart. It involves chewing maiz (or whatever else you’re making the chicha from), and spitting it back into a container.
This is so that the enzymes in one’s saliva ferment the substance!
What is referred to as Chicha can morph from region to region, and there are dozens of regional variations of this drink.
One consistent thing is the drink’s signature viscosity – it oftentimes sort of feels syrupy as it goes down the throat.
In some ways, this might make it not quite to everyone’s taste. But it’s still worth a sample if you’re in the region if only to get a taste of one of the regional specialties!
The Origins of Chicha
Chicha has been a piece of South American culture for many hundreds of years. There are documented instances of the drink being used for ceremonial purposes in the Incan empire, for example.
The specific origins of chicha can be a bit difficult to pin down exactly. This is the case with many foodstuffs that have become integral pieces of the cultures that they are a part of,
When doing some research online, I found this resource. It conjectures that the origins of chicha could be found in an indigenous group that is called the Kuna.
These people live along the border of Panama and Colombia and have been documented using chicha for hundreds of years.
Many Colors, Many Flavors
One of the most distinctive things about Chicha is the flashy rainbow of colors that the drink can appear in.
If you head to a bar that specializes in serving chicha, you’ll likely find several large jars of various colors and viscosities waiting. You’ll see the bartenders scooping the drink out of the jars to serve to patrons.
The reason that chicha comes in so many colors and forms is that chicha can be derived from so many substances.
This results in the rainbow of images that you’ll get when you hit the chicha bar.
Chicha & Cumbia
Due to the beverage’s ability to induce some, er, interesting states of mind, there’s a form of music that was started in South America inspired by drinking the beverage.
Originating in Peru, the music features wild dancing and combines elements of salsa, psychedelic rock, and surf music. It’s quite a riotous listen and has begun to spread to different corners of the globe due to its infectious grooves.
I was familiar with this chicha-inspired music long before I ever tried the drink. This was from growing up in the heavily Latin-influenced city of Tucson, Arizona.
There were several bands in town that took inspiration from the music and movement, including this one, called Chicha Dust.
If you’re interested in exploring some of this musical world then check out this online resource which can offer more information.
It’s been inspired by the Cumbia music of South America, which in turn was inspired by the tasty inebriation offered by the chicha beverage!
Places To Drink Chicha in Medellin
There’s a variety of places to drink Chicha in Medellin. Although, it’s not quite as prevalent as it is in the mountainous Andean cities of Colombia, such as Bogota or Manizales.
One very cool place to find high-quality chicha is called Metropole Beer Lab in Poblado. This place specializes in a lot of different kinds of craft beverages of various stripes.
On top of their massive craft beer selection, the bar has a very decently sized selection of chicha, which comes at a reasonable price as well.
Metropole Beer Lab is in the heart of the raging party district center of Poblado. So there are tons more to do in the area if you decide to go out and sample some chicha in that section of town.
Another sure bet if you’re looking to sample some chicha is to try one of the many Peruvian restaurants in town.
Since chicha originated in Peru, there are a ton of Peruvian restaurants that offer it on their menus.