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Exciting times out there. A middle-class revolution (of sorts) is in the Bogotá air.
You see there was a time when those of a perceived certain standing in these parts wouldn’t be seen dead in what would be considered a more ‘normal’ establishment. They had a reputation to keep intact. One couldn’t be mixing it with the ‘ordinary’ folk, now could one?
Yet, this misplaced mentality that if you spend more on something this means it’s better and/or elevates you to a higher social stratum appears to be changing somewhat. The more well-to-do types, relatively speaking in any case, are voting with their feet, turning to places that don’t sell things at ridiculously inflated prices and only market themselves at ‘desirable’ folk.
True enough, we can say with reason that middle-of-the-road options had been conspicuous by their absence until recently. Not too long ago, in terms of going for an afternoon coffee or the like, the basic choices were a fairly costly Juan Valdez or Oma (let’s not get started on Starbucks) or your bread and (no) butter, bog-standard panadería (our favourite of course, once we’ve established the proper prices).
That’s all changed now, thanks to the arrival of Tostao’ Café & Pan. It offers fairly decent-quality fare at affordable prices in a modern, half-fancy environment — OK, what constitutes ‘fancy’ for us may be open to questioning, but it’s well kitted out nonetheless. From an Irish and UK perspective, think Costa Coffee or Insomnia Coffee Company.
Regardless of how its viewed, Tostao certainly has caught the imagination of large swathes of the Bogotá public. Pass by any of its now ubiquitous cafés and there’s a good chance there’ll be a sizeable queue waiting to get their coffee and ‘whatever you’re having yourself’ fix, especially in the morning and at lunchtime. It does seem to be the, um, toast of the city right now.
In a similar fashion, the Aldi/Lidl-style D1 and Justo & Bueno stores have changed the grocery shopping habits of the working-to-middle classes. They aren’t, though, low-cost leaders for all household goods. The more established Éxito and Olímpica can still offer lower prices and similar quality, depending on the product type. Plus we’ve the smaller supermarket outlets as well as the local fruit and veg stores which very often offer better value for the same kind of quality.
The thing is, the local store, just like our beloved local panadería for coffee and bread, isn’t cool enough for some to frequent. Tostao, on the other hand, has hit a sweet spot for many Bogotanos. It’s certainly ‘in’ right now. A sign of a ‘race to normality’ is how we’ll put it for now.
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