The Coffee Triangle consists of three departments: Caldas (where Manizales is located), Quindio (where Armenia is) and Risaralda (see map above). We've ridden through all the departments in the last few days, taking in our surroundings of steep hills lined with regular dots of coffee plants. Today we're going to visit one of the bigger fincas (farms) in the region to learn about what makes Colombian coffee the best in the world.
On our way to the coffee farm!
Hacienda Valencia is one of the largest coffee farms in the area and we heard they offer a great tour of their operations. It's only 20 minutes away from Manizales, so we hop on our bikes real early to try to get to their farm on time for their tour. Unfortunately due to a GPS problem, we get lost trying to find our way out of the city. Neda was leading and she was cursing up a storm as we backtracked from a very long dead-end road. What should have been an easy 20-minute ride turned out to be a 40-minute rush.
We got to the farm 15 minutes late for the start time. Neda was very upset. However a guide from the farm approached our bikes and told us the tour started an hour later than we thought. We were 45 minutes early! Neda's mood visibly improved and I was happy. Because happy wife = happy life!
Not 5 minutes into arriving, we were handed these espressos
I have to preface this blog entry by saying that neither Neda or I are coffee drinkers, me especially. Besides the odd sip, I've had maybe two whole cups of coffee in my life and one of them was an Ice Frappucino... However, I am a Diet Coke addict, so I wasn't really overly worried about my caffeine intake for today. Bring it on, Hacienda Valencia!
The first sip of the day - perfect for calming down Neda's frayed nerves from this morning's frantic ride!
We were led to an outdoor "classroom" where we were given a brief history of coffee farming in Colombia. The espresso I tried was a bit sour. I'm not sure what to compare it to, never having had an espresso... I didn't like it too much, but our guide says that some people prefer the tart taste. Okay, I'll try a second cup to see if it grows on me. Free coffee throughout the tour! And I'm a sucker for free stuff.
Our guide gave a very comprehensive explanation of why Colombian coffee was the best in the world, but for some reason, all I could focus on was how my right knee was tapping out a frenetic message in morse code against the underneath of the tabletop. Strange. Dot-Dash-Dash-Dot-Dot... I wish I knew morse code.
From what little I got from the presentation, the Coffee Triangle in Colombia is special because it receives two rainy seasons every year, as the annual migration of the clouds follow a close pattern in the region. Apparently this makes for perennially fresh coffee. But when I hear two rainy seasons, the biker in me just gets mad. We rode all the way to an area with two rainy seasons?! On motorcycles?! WTF? I drown my sorrows with another free espresso.
Just thinking about Two Rainy Seasons is making my head pound and my heart race. TWO RAINY SEASONS! I think I might even be feeling a bit nauseous...!
Walking around the coffee farm
After the presentation, we get to tour the farm itself. It's not that warm outside, but all this walking around seems to make me sweat alot, especially my palms. Weird.
We got to hear about the lives of the migrant farm hands who work on the farm. They follow the harvest season as it moves across different areas. Colombian coffee is famous around the world because of the manual process these workers provide to sort out different quality of the beans that they pick.
One coffee bean ripe for picking
I seemed to be more interested in these plants that curled up when you touched them! Neat!
The tour was very informative, but there was a lot of information being given to us. It kinda made my head spin, like physically, my brain was dizzy from information overload. I think I needed to sit down to process all this knowledge transfer. Yes, sitting down seems like a good idea right now.
Oh look, peacocks! So... what was I saying...?
And lilypads too!
At the end of the tour, we were led to the main building where we saw our lunch being prepared. It felt good to rest up a bit and I was able to take some pictures of more than birds and lilypads (why was that so interesting 15 minutes ago?!?)
Hacienda Valencia is also a villa where you can stay. It's super nice, but super expensive too.
Lunch was good. Digesting food and information made me feel a lot better. I walked over to the espresso machine for more free java but Neda stopped me, "I think you've had enough".
"What are you talking about? I've had like 5 cups and the stuff hasn't even affected me one bit!"
Mexican Jumping Gene
On our tour of the processing facility, we asked where they shipped Hacienda Valencia coffee beans to. Our guide replied, "All over the world!" Since we've been accused of traveling too slowly by motorcycle, I thought we could ship ourselves to our next destination by coffee bean bag instead. We're going to use a courier company called "Federal Espresso"...
Just a little dip in the pool before heading back to the daily Grind
Great day! Great tour! Not a coffee convert though. Just didn't provide the same kick as my Diet Coke habit.
Oh look, a bird!