Colombia is famous for it’s coffee. No doubt most of the coffee you drink is from here. With lush fertile valleys high in the Andes Mountains, Colombia has the perfect climatic conditions for growing the beans. It’s no wonder then that the country is the world’s third largest producer of coffee after Brazil, and surprisingly Vietnam. Small farms dot the undulating landscaping growing plant after plant of Arabica beans. What is so fantastic about coffee growing in Colombia is the fact that small landholders and families dominate the market with only a small number of larger corporations producing the bean.
One of the most striking towns in the Zona Cafetera is Salento, a quiet, traditional colonial village perched on a hill in the heart of the coffee growing region. After a long and frightening bus ride from Ecuador we were happy to land ourselves in this peaceful town and stretch our legs for a few days. We found a gorgeous hostel, Plantation House, to stay in which was nestled amongst the trees in a secluded location just outside of town, and just happened to bee a 100 year old coffee homestead. It was the perfect place to unwind and explore the nearby farms.
Salento is well and truly on the backpacker’s circuit, and floods with tourists – mostly Colombians – on the weekend. The whole town comes alive on Saturdays and Sundays when the main square fills with people, music, and eating. It is a really pleasant town to walk around and watch the locals in their ponchos lazing about the streets and observing the striking colonial architecture that has been so colourfully preserved.
As part of a deal for staying so long in our hostel, we were given a free coffee tour to a local farm called Finca Don Eduardo. The finca is owned and run by a British gent Tim and his Colombian wife. The farm has been in operation for over 80 years run by a local family. When Tim took over the business he reorganised and updated the facilities in order to initiate a new structure for growing and selling coffee beans. His company Your Own Coffee Farm is a brand new idea and is rethinking the way we buy coffee. It is a rather clever and interesting concept whereby a coffee fanatic can lease coffee trees off Don Eduardo, who will then look after your plants, harvest them, and then send the beans to you fresh or roasted. Tim said to us he is even willing talk to your plants for you, think Wagyu style coffee, or grow cinnamon and vanilla next to them for additional taste sensations. The concept seems to be geared more to the elitist crowd who want bragging rights to owning their own coffee plantation. Fancy having a friend over coffee, “darling, this coffee is delicious, what beans are you brewing?” “Oh darling, of course they are, they come from my private coffee farm in Colombia”. Of course they don’t need to know it’s only two plants. But you get the gist.
The Los Nevados National Natural Park takes up most of the Cocora Valley and provides plenty of hiking opportunities for all types of walkers, the easiest of which is a day hike taking you along the valley floor through to a tighter section of the valley, along a cascading stream high up into the hills to the Hummingbird Sanctuary and further up to La Montana, a café and lookout point. Walking from La Montana, back down into the valley was a delight with the magnificent view surrounding us, dominated by the impossibly tall Wax Palm trees, a protected tree and the national symbol of Colombia.
Next stop we visit the infamous drug capital of Colombia, Medellin…
Check out our photo gallery of the Zona Cafetera here.
Tejo, Colombian Bowls with a BANG!
Watch this video by CNN to find out what it is all about…