Rich and aromatic, dark and velvety. Even as someone who drinks very little coffee, I can appreciate a good cup o’ joe. And, seeing as coffee is second only to oil in global exports, I am clearly not the only one. When it comes to getting a cup of high quality coffee or espresso, there are few places in the world better than the rolling green hills, crisscrossed and sectioned, of Colombia’s Zona Cafetera.
Colombia, home of the world-recognized (fictional) Juan Valdez, is number two in global coffee exports and the number one producer of Arabica, the world’s highest quality coffee. The label ‘Colombian Coffee’ has become synonymous with excellence. So, we made it a list item to tour a coffee farm (or ‘finca’) and see what the fuss was about.
The tour of a local, family-run coffee finca outside of Manizales was conducted entirely in Spanish, and, despite our speaking skills not being up to par, we had a surprisingly easy time understanding the majority of what our guide was explaining. She led us through the entire planting process, from tiny roots to fruit to roasted coffee beans, while showing us each part of the process on the sprawling coffee plantation.
Win tried his hand at being a coffee laborer, searching each branch for only the ripe, red fruit, plucking them individually, and watching his bucket as it filled at an unbelievably slow pace. The life of these workers, going from farm to farm, making a living one kilogram at a time, cannot be easy. Yet, it is an integral step in the process, a process that supports vast swathes of Colombia’s people.
Incredible time and consideration goes into each step of the process, ensuring that the years of work that lead up to an individual harvest aren’t wasted. Colombia’s coffee farms are outstanding in their emphasis on organic, hand-picked crops, ensuring the absolute highest quality in the finished product.
They are proud of the fact that they do not use machines for harvests, that they rely on original sorting methods (does it float?) for separating good beans from bad. They are proud that they are careful about what fuel is used for roasting and what bags for storing to prevent flavor contamination. They know that size matters, and sort the coffee beans as such. The coffee growers know what works, and it is this human touch that distinguishes Colombian coffee as some of the world’s finest.