I don't drink coffee every morning before school. Mostly because I have yet to acquire a taste for plain black coffee, or even cafe con leche (coffee with milk). Also, I do not really like the idea of being dependent on something to "wake me up" each morning, however much I might benefit from it on some days!
Then again, I do love me some coffee in a big way. There is just something so delicious and soothing about this drink that we have come up with a million different ways to prepare. And honestly, I just love the idea (and actualization) of being a regular at a coffee shop. When I arrived in Colombia I knew there was good coffee to be found, but this is not immediately apparent. Since so much of Colombia's coffee is exported for profit, very little of the actual coffee in Colombia is good to drink.
In an attempt to search out some of the "good stuff" Kelsi and I started our visit to Manizales, a small mountain town about six hours from Cali, with a tour at Hacienda Venecia. Situated in the foothills of the central range of the Andes Mountains, at about 5,000 feet above sea level, this operating coffee finca is a prominent force in the Eje Cafetero, or the "Coffee Axle" of Colombia. Their coffee is specifically labeled as "cafe de origen" or in other words, coffee directly from the source.
We began our tour by learning that coffee originated in Ethiopia and has since spread out around the world to be grown in warm weather mountainous climates between the Tropic of Capricorn and the Tropic of Cancer.
There are two main types of coffee - arabica and robusta. During the tour we did a smell comparison of the beans from both types and noticed that the arabica beans smell a bit sweeter than their more bitter-tasting counterparts. Also, our guide told us another distinct difference is that robusta coffee tends to have more caffeine per bean. Hacienda Venecia produces a variety of arabica coffee called washed arabica, which basically just means the beans are washed several times before being dried and stored for exportation.
Starting things out at an appropriate place - next to the very first advertising poster for Juan Valdez AKA Colombian Starbucks.
Kelsi sorts through a pile of beans to find the best beans for roasting. This process is usually done with machines, but in some cases it is done by hand for maximum quality. Also - I had no idea coffee beans were green until you roasted them!!
In the end the "bad" beans are kept here in Colombia to be used for the coffee sold pretty much anywhere in the country that is not Juan Valdez. Awesome.
The full, good beans are exported to places like the United States, Germany, Spain, France and Italy. These are the beans we sorted as "good" enough to be roasted!
Hacienda Venecia covers a lot of ground with all of their coffee plants, production, on-site hotel and hostel, so our walking tour was quite extensive. Please note the adorable green ponchos to avoid the almost daily rains experienced in this part of Colombia.
One year old baby coffee plants - waiting to be placed in the ground to begin producing at the end of the second year.
Coffee cherries (yes, I also did not know that coffee beans came from the inside of coffee cherries) being washed for the first time.
Braving the humidity in the drying room where the coffee is completely washed and dried before being placed in bags.
For only $25,000 pesos (or about $13 USD) a day at the coffee farm was a day well spent in educating ourselves about this important resource for Colombia. Second only to Brazil, Colombia produces the most coffee in Latin America, and remains a vital source of income for many in this region. At the end of the tour we tried to buy coffee to take home, but many tours went through that day, so we settled for our very own Hacienda Venecia burlap coffee bags to one day hang on the walls of our "grown-up" houses.