A trip to Colombia wouldn’t be complete with out a stop in the coffee region. Despite not being a coffee drinker myself, I still wanted to explore this area and make a stop at a coffee farm to understand the process. In this post I share a little about the coffee industry in Colombia, the small town of Salento where you can stay and which coffee farm I recommend going to.
Colombia is the third largest producer of coffee in the world after Brazil and Vietnam, exporting coffee primarily to the United States, Germany, France, Italy and Japan. In 1790 the coffee plant is said to have spread to Colombia and commercial production is recorded as having started in 1835. Since then the Colombian coffee industry has grown, and is well known for mild, well balanced coffee beans.
However, since 2006 climate change and global warming have been affecting the specific climatic requirements for growing the aribatic bean, for which Colombia is the largest producer in the world and the number of bags produced has been declining. In 2011 the coffee triangle, part of the Paisa region was declared a world heritage site by Unesco.
The town of Salento is worth a visit even if you are not interested in coffee. This is a charming little town, full of colourful shop fronts and houses. You can spend a day just wandering around, stopping for coffee and buying crafts and artisanal gifts. There are plenty of accommodation options in town, we chose Hotel Salento Real as it was an affordable option that had great reviews and was centrally located.
Make sure to go find the bar Beta Town where you can play the Colombian game of Tejo. This sounds like a fairly unsafe game when you hear a description, but it is actually safe and really fun! Essentially you have two teams playing against each other and you throw a metal puck / disc at a board around 20 meters away. The goal is to hit the board specifically on the targets which are embedded in clay and contain gunpowder so they explode on impact. Told you it sounds dangerous!
There are plenty of options to visit coffee farms in the region, but based on reviews we chose to visit Finca Don Eduardo Coffee Farm (or Plantation House), located on the outskirts of Salento town. It’s an easy walk from anywhere that you are staying so I would suggest considering this as an option.
The tours are cheap, only around US $5 – $10. However, the coffee itself was much more expensive to purchase, with one small bag of coffee beans setting you back US $25.
You will be guided through the entire coffee making process, from picking the berries, through the grinding the beans and will enjoy a cup of fresh coffee at the end.
- Berries are picked from the trees by hand, it can take three to four years for the newly planted trees to bear fruit
- Once picked these processing should begin as quickly as possible. There are two methods, wet and dry and the drying method is still used in Colombia, whereby the berries are laid out on large surfaces, turned throughout the day and covered
- Hulling is then performed by machinery to remove the husks
- Polishing is then performed to remove any silver skin
- Beans are then graded and sorted, dependent on the size of the farm this may be by hand or by machine
- The milled beans are referred to as green coffee. The next step is to roast them to make the dark beans we are used to buying. At the farm we went to this was done by hand on a stove
- The final step is to grind the beans and then make your cup of coffee!
You can read more about the full coffee process on NCAUSA.Org.
I hope this post has been helpful in your planning for a trip to the Colombian coffee region. Please share you comments and tips with readers below.