Touring the Coffee Region

At the hostel in Cartagena, I roomed with a girl named Jani from Germany, who was also doing some solo sightseeing. She was just about to finish up her internship in another part of Colombia, and was planning to travel around when it was over. She wanted to make a trip to the Eje Cafetero, so I told her to hit me up.

Armenia isn’t a huge tourist attraction in itself, but it’s sort of a home base for a lot of fun day trips, so she stayed at a hostel in the city not far from my apartment, and when I wasn’t working, we did some exploring of the Coffee Region. It was great to be a tourist and see the sights with someone who was new to these places, too.

Jani was feeling a little sick when she first arrived so we spent the first couple nights hanging out at the cafe/bar connected to her hostel. It was a cute place with good food and drinks, and even some live music. On one of the days, my afternoon classes got cancelled, so we were able to check out one of the coffee plantations in the area that gives popular tours. It was called Recuca, and required a short bus trip out of the city, and a beautiful walk down a country road with plantain trees and gorgeous farm houses on either side.

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Cristian, our tour guide, seemed to be getting high on his own coffee supply. He seemed to bounce instead of walk, and he would crack jokes, and then bounce up and down with laughter.

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Shelling the coffee beans.

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Dressing to pick coffee beans.

He gave us a great tour of the history of coffee production in Colombia, and the process of growing harvesting, shelling, and toasting the beans.

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Baby coffee. It takes 2 years for the coffee plant to mature enough to begin producing.

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The tour wrapped up with a cup of black coffee, freshly brewed for us. It was literally the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. He also gave us some tips on brewing it, like make sure your cup is preheated before pouring the coffee in, because the temperature clash affects the taste. He gave us a sample with a pre-warmed cup, and a cold cup, and you could actually tell the difference.

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I bought a bag of their coffee and then we headed on our way.

That weekend, we decided to hike the Valle de Cocora near Salento. I had been wanting to hike that for a long time, so I was excited to have a hiking partner. I got up early, took a bus to Salento, and met Jani at the main square, where we hopped in a Jeep that would take us to the Cocora Valley.

It was a beautiful morning for a hike.

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The valley is gorgeous. There are cows basking in the sun, and every shade of green you can imagine. Sprinkled throughout the landscape are the wax palm trees, the tallest palm trees in the world, and the national tree of Colombia.

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A couple hours into the trail, we arrived at a nature reserve called Acaime. There, we walked up to a little lodge and enjoyed a nice cup of aguapanela. There were lots of hummingbird feeders hung around the lodge, and a constant flow of hummingbirds hovering a few feet away from us.

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After Acaime, we moved on to the steepest part of the trail. It was rough going with the altitude, so once we finally got to the top of the hill, we took a rest at Finca La Montana to enjoy the view. And by view, I mean solid fog. I’m sure there would have been beautiful sweeping views of the landscape, but instead, we got this. But I can’t complain, because the fog actually had a pretty cool effect, and we made it through the whole day without rain, so who am I to be complain about fog?

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We continued on , and made it back down to our starting point. The final part of the trip had some pretty amazing views. Then we grabbed a jeep back to Salento. It was already full on the inside, so we hopped on the back, which is the best way to travel by jeep. You have great views and the wind in your face. The only problems are low hanging tree branches, and of course the sore knuckles you get from hanging on for dear life when the driver starts taking the corners a bit too fast.

And now I’ll leave you with some more beautiful pictures of the trail.

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