I have a well-established obsession with exploring wineries on my travels, spending time seeing how one of my favorite beverages is made. (And trying it, natch). So I realized as I was planning my trip to Colombia that—given my intense love of coffee—it was really weird that I actually had NO real idea how coffee is made (grown? processed?). I had a super vague understanding (like, I know it grows on a plant, and then ultimately the beans are roasted) but nothing really beyond that.
It was time to remedy that.
As soon as I booked my impromptu ticket to spend Labor Day weekend in Medellin, I started looking to see if there were any particular day trips I needed to do in my short time there. Since Colombia is one of the best-known coffee regions in the world and I LOVE ME some coffee, I put visiting a coffee farm in Colombia at the top of my list.
There are many options for coffee farm tours from Medellin, from a very short visit to a full-day adventure, I ended up being able to combine the coffee farm with also visiting El Peñol (the town), El Peñon (the massive rock), and the colorful town of Guatapé. I used this Viator tour (which I found through TripAdvisor).
Tips for planning the perfect long weekend in Medellin, Colombia!
My guide, Carlos, and I arrived at Finca La Rivera mid-morning and were greeted by Miller, the farmer and owner. He was a sweet, soft-spoken man, and with Carlos to translate for us we first headed out into the fields. The first step in the process was to pick the coffee fruit.
Did you know that coffee fruit is red??? Yeah, I definitely didn’t. It’s a stone fruit, often called cherries because they’re just like cherries…the “pit” is the actual coffee bean that becomes what we drink. I spent a sweaty half-hour picking the ripe coffee fruit before Miller decided we had enough to use.
So then we headed over to a little shed to process the fruit. The next step was to use this big green machine (that looks a lot like a big version of my grandma’s cherry pitter!) to extract the bean/stone from the fruit.
You can see here how it comes out of the machine, and then the red pieces of the fruit we don’t need anymore (it becomes mulch and such). Side note, I’m in love with the pretty retro color of the pitting machine 🙂
Now we have our beans, and we need to get them good and dry before anything else happens. They go in this drying shed for 6 days, where Miller or one of his helpers gives them a good stir a few times a day to help them dry out. He said it definitely has to be 6 days, no more and no less.
You may be looking at those beans like, “This looks nothing like coffee!” That’s because once the beans are dried, we still have to get that light-colored outer shell off. This was a process fairly familiar to me as well, because it reminded me of the process of separating wheat and chaff (I grew up on a wheat farm).
First Miller ran it through a machine that basically cracks that outer shell and smooshes it so it falls off the bean. Then he blew a fan and poured from one bucket into the other to blow away the lighter shell pieces, leaving just the heavier bean that we want to actually use.
Now we’re getting there! There are a bunch of different levels of roasting that you can do, depending on the flavor you’re wanting. The ones in pink on Miller’s little card are where he feels the best flavor is present in the coffee bean, so that’s what he usually makes at his farm. We put our beans in to roast, where the smell started to get INCREDIBLE.
Only a couple steps left, and these are ones you and I would actually recognize…we ground our beans (fairly fine), and then he set up a pour-over coffee pot to make us some of this liquid gold.
The way the grounds almost foam a little is truly beautiful to me. We just sat and let the coffee steep and watched a beautiful Colombian mountain day. Then he poured us each a little cup and provided a little piece of chocolate he makes himself, and we enjoyed our delicious, rich, subtle coffee for a while in silence.
So, WOW! Did you know how coffee is grown and harvested?? I sure didn’t, and I should be an expert given how much I drink! I really loved visiting Miller’s farm and getting to actually participate in every step of the process—it made it all so much more real, and gave me a real appreciation for it.
I took this tour (you can find it on TripAdvisor or Viator) and my tour guide was Carlos. The cost was $285 for one person for the full day, though I think it would be the same for multiple people as well. As I mentioned earlier, it included several stops in addition to the coffee farm tour. This was a day trip from Medellin, where I stayed at the Diez Catagoria Colombia.
If you like to know how stuff’s made, here are other behind-the-scenes adventures:
- Exploring Mendoza’s Wine Country
- My Own Willy Wonka Moment: Switzerland’s Cailler Chocolate Factory
- Quiet, Cold, Love: Dog Sledding in the Arctic Circle
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