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An Unexpected Coffee Break in Colombia

Colombia. When you travel to this country here’s a little of what you can expect: an abundance of fresh fruit, more bird species than in any other country on earth, and coffee – the best coffee you’ve ever had.

As you know, we took some time off the quest over the holidays to visit Andres’s home country, and while there we went on a day trip into vibrant coffee lands. It was unexpectedly wonderful, so we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to share the story from a region so enchanting, it might as well be a national park.

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Because every quest needs a good coffee break.
The context: Red marker pointed on Concordia, where the journey to us.
The context: Red marker pointed on Concordia, where the journey took us.

A light rain pitter pattered down the window panes as our van splashed away from Medellin.

It was just after 7 AM and thick clouds cast the day with veils of gray. Nine of us relaxed in a van while our bellies rumbled and minds absorbed the insight provided by our tour guide, Juan from Land Venture Travel.

Up and up we went out of the valley that holds Medellin like a giant bowl made of mountains. Our road wound in and out of deep curves, a wild ride for anyone with carsickness. But even my queasy state couldn’t dash away the awe in my heart. Everything outside was lush, and so green. Despite the gray we were overwhelmed by the fragrant surroundings of Antioquia.

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Hidden wonders, a waterfall through the trees.

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Misty fog obscured and then revealed views of coffee farms clinging to steep hillsides.

For breakfast we pulled off to a roadside restaurant where the men wore sombreros and the women greeted us with warm smiles. What came next was the best Colombian breakfast I’ve had – melted butter and fresh farmer’s cheese atop homemade arepas with a crispy crust and soft inside, coupled with eggs and hot chocolate.

We continued on through a winding fairytale landscape, arriving to a coffee farm not far from Concordia. Vibrant peacocks, tiny dogs and parrots alike greeted us while we enjoyed our first sips of the farm’s sweet coffee. Be aware, preparing a cup of coffee is a science here – there’s no such thing as instant coffee.

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Glimpse of the farm grounds.
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The farm is more than coffee – furry and feathery creatures greet you at every corner.
Fall in love with the local traditions of coffee farming, or the farm dogs.
Fall in love with the local traditions of coffee farming, and the not-so-scary watch dogs.

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Mmm the scent wafting from these cups – something like a warm summer morning full of happy memories.
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Writing down the instructions for making a perfect cup of coffee.

If riding in the back of a dump truck sounds fun to you, then this tour rewards.

Pile on in, hold on, and remember to duck your head for tree branches! 

We learned how to pick coffee beans and even delighted in their sweet taste. You wouldn’t believe how many coffee beans a migrant worker can pick per day, I can’t remember the number, but you’ll trust me when I say it’s quite a bit. And yes, all beans are picked by hand.

The hours that followed were rich with detailed explanations revealing how the beans are cleaned, processed, dried, and finally roasted before final packaging. A large percent of the beans from this farm are exported to top coffee sellers across the world, but they also package and sell their own brand.

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A glimpse of the lush and well-taken care of coffee farm.

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Pick only the red beans. Migrants travel all around during coffee picking season – many are housed on the farm grounds.
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Three types of coffee bean – top notch, mediocre, and poor quality (shown in the middle). Poor quality beans are used for instant coffee brands, while even good hotels use mediocre beans. Top notch are reserved for boutiques and the best coffee shops.

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Our journey continued on to Concordia

There we saw first hand how farmers sell their beans in a co-op, which prepares the coffee for export. The town itself was a colorful marvel to behold with quite possibly everyone out on the street in celebration of the upcoming New Year’s Eve.

Spending time off the beaten tourist’s path was unforgettable – and I’m pretty sure the folks here wondered about our curious gazes and clicking cameras. I only sensed kindness all around us, even in the hard lines of old and weary faces.

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From inside the church in Concordia.
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Outside the co-op.
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A farmer watches as an official from the co-op measures the quality of his coffee beans.
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Loads of coffee waiting for export.
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A street of the hilly town, Concordia.
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No, this isn’t a tourist bus – these chiva buses are all beautifully painted to show off the craftsmanship of locals here.

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Pigeons watch a bustling square in Concordia.
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The soulful gaze of an elderly resident.
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A small farm we drove by – here the beans are exposed in the traditional way of drying coffee beans – in large trays under the simple sun.

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The pyramid mountain on this horizon was sacred to natives.

The day drew to a close with a stunning contrast to the morning.

A golden sun showered us with warmth as we made the two hour journey back to Medellin, lulling all into a relaxed and peaceful mood. We ended in the same restaurant as the morning and savored a typical meal of rice, beans and avocado, topped off with ice cream made from traditional fruits.

Reflecting on that day, I remember the many layers of scents, sounds and tastes weaving a tapestry of Colombia. We are so grateful to have that memory cloaked around us as we continue on our quest, spreading the good word of her lands and people along the way.

*Our coffee tour was led by Land Venture Travel, and we would highly recommend the experience with them. This post is not sponsored or endorsed by Land Venture Travel, we are just sharing for fun. 

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