“I’d like to see coffee,” I told my family when I scheduled my vacation to Colombia. I didn’t know if this meant I’d have to go to coffee country, or if there was something a little closer to the city, I just knew that since I drink coffee every day, I wanted to see it growing.
Just outside of Bogota is a place called Hacienda Coloma. They grow coffee and sell the beans, as well as make coffee liqueur. I believe right now the coffee liqueur is their big product, but we were told that they’re actually in the process of replanting their coffee plants (their field was kind of chaotic before, so they’re making it more orderly now) and they’re working on being more involved in preparation of the coffee beans for sale from an earlier stage and making this a bigger part of their business.
Hacienda Coloma offers English-speaking tours, although the tour that I went on was mixed. I think it was a bit of a surprise that we were expecting an English-speaking tour (even though we had confirmed this before arrival), but our tour guide spoke English very well and I had a family member with me, who was also able to act as a translator when he spoke Spanish. We arrived on time for our tour, but the other part of our group arrived a little late and we actually had another group join us halfway through.
I didn’t feel a need to spend a few nights in coffee country, I just wanted to see it growing and learn about coffee production, so this tour was exactly what I was looking for. (It was also cool to visit Hacienda Coloma because they also have some other plants, so we got to see some of those as well. The guy who led our tour tends to the orchids on the grounds and you could tell how much he loves them. It would be cool to find out when they bloom and have him lead an orchid tour.)
Our tour guide walked us through the process of growing coffee from the beginning to when they collect the coffee beans. What I found most fascinating about this is the difference in time that it takes the plants to grow depending on the location. For instance, it takes twice as long for the plants to grow in Bogota than it does in coffee country.
After they pick the coffee cherries, they have to dry and husk them. We got to see where they store the beans, how they’re dried (in the sun) and where they throw anything that’s discarded. We also learned that coffee beans can also be partly dried in machines instead of completely drying in the sun, however there are difference in beans that are dried in certain ways and each way lends itself to a different kind of coffee prep once the beans are sold to consumers.
Once the tour was complete, we got to try the coffee! Our tour guide gave us more information on how long the grounds are considered “good” once you open the bag (it’s a lot shorter than you’d think—one lady who joined toward the end of the tour was shocked). He also shared how they store their coffee grounds once they start using them. He made coffee and then entire group gathered around the table to try it out.
I think this was my favorite part of our time at Hacienda Coloma—as well as the opportunity to get outside the city. Everyone else who went on the tour spoke Spanish, but I had a fantastic translator who helped me talk to the older man that sat next to me. He was so sweet and so excited that I was visiting his country. He asked what I had seen and when we told him what I was going to do next his eyes lit up.