For the second half of our trip, we headed south from Cartagena (a town we’ll return to in a future post), stopping briefly in Medellin before immersing ourselves in the coffee region. This lush, mountainous area of Colombia would quickly win the award for our favorite spot. We easily could have spent our entire trip in the area and have already decided that it’s a must on any future Colombia itineraries.
While in the area, we decided that, despite the fact that we’re not coffee drinkers ourselves, we had to visit a farm to see where the world’s best cup of joe comes from. On a recommendation from Enrique, the extremely helpful owner (?) of Hostal Ciudad de Segorbe, the place we are staying, we set off on an hour’s walk to the family farm of Don Elias. At four hectares, it’s a small farm, typical of the region, with the coffee, as well as other produce grown alongside the coffee–pineapples, oranges, lemons, sugar cane–sold via a co-op. Upon arriving, we’re greeted by the grizzled but friendly Don Elias himself, our own Juan Valdez.
He straps a basket around his waist, then in his reliable galoshes, leads us around the farm, his steps sure even on the steep incline.
He shows us the beans, which are red or yellow when ripe, depending on the variety of plant. He plucks and pulls, filling the bottom of the basket. The growing season is from May to November and during that period, the workers on the farm (his family plus a few hired hands) go out every two weeks, with each man gathering about 30 kilos per harvest.
Once we’ve picked enough beans, we return to the farmhouse, where Don Elias demonstrates the machine that shells the coffee, shows us how the beans are dried, and then, over a primitive stove, roasts up a pan full of beans. The coffee is sold to the co-op after it has been shelled and dried, at which point it weighs about half of what it did when it was picked.
Until the coffee was put on the stove, it had none of the distinctive smell we associate with coffee. As soon as it begin to heat up, however, the air filled with the aroma. Once properly roasted, the beans were transferred to another machine, where they were ground.
After the coffee was ground, the only task remaining was to brew it. Then it was time to enjoy a cup, which with a few heaping spoonfuls of sugar, Jeff and I were able to do. We’re definitely not converts, but we did buy a bag of the local coffee, which sits and waits for any coffee drinkers lucky enough to visit.