I am an avid traveler. After driving from Kansas to Alaska, my brother and I decided to try to drive south to Tierra Del Fuego.
The Hacienda Venecia coffee tour will be a highlight of any Colombian vacation—at least I know it was for mine! Below, you'll learn all about what the tour entails and why it is such a special (not to mention tasty!) experience.
Meeting My Fellow Travelers
English-speaking guides started the morning by serving coffee on the veranda of the reception building. As we sipped, the guide encouraged guests to share their reasons for touring a coffee plantation and asked what kind of coffee they drink.
“Now,” our host says in heavily accented English, “please tell me where are you from and why you are interested in coffee”. “I drink espresso to wake up”, says a middle-aged German gentleman, “I want to know how coffee gets to me”. One old swiss lady doesn’t drink coffee and says she is just interested in learning.
Sitting around me are other guests from Ireland and Belgium, as well as one native Colombian. Everybody is eager to learn about coffee plantations and sip some coffee. The sun is shining brightly to make another perfect day, and the steep hillsides are covered with thousands of coffee trees.
The History and Evolution of Coffee
Following our mingle on the veranda, a brief presentation with maps showed where coffee originated and how it evolved into its present-day use. The economics of coffee were discussed, and we learned how the best coffee travels all over the world, while the poor-quality beans stay in Colombia. Did you know that coffee is such a sought-after commodity that it's traded on the New York Exchange?
Interactive Q&A in the Coffee Fields
From the veranda, the guests simply followed the guide across the road into the coffee bushes, where the coffee plants were about six to seven feet high and planted close enough to cross branches. Some trees were covered with blooms, while others had all different sizes of fruit, from little green balls to soft, red berries about to fall off.
The guide explained about different varieties of coffee plants, including the use and advantages of each species grown in Colombia. Questions were much encouraged, and the great group of travelers on my tour was not shy. "How are pests controlled?” inquired an entomologist from Michigan.
The guide was well informed and told us about the main insect that damages coffee beans. He even found a damaged bean with a worm in it. He also told us about the small farm where most coffee is grown—the struggle to make money and the challenges with pest control, labor and commodity price. We learned in great detail about the plant's life cycle from seed to bean, including how the farmers prune and fertilize the plants to help them grow.
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My group was encouraged to smell the beautiful clusters of white blossoms. They smell like citrus. We were also encouraged to split a ripe red fruit and suck on the sweet beans.
Touring the Processing Facility
From the fields, the guide ushered us into a processing facility, where he told us how the fruits are sorted into low- and high-grade using water. Using a handful of fruits, the guide showed us how the small farmers split the beans out of the fruits with a crank-handled machine.
After holding forth on the different processes of drying the beans, the guides showed us into the factory. The farm is a big one, and the machinery is large and modern. We saw the water-sorting areas and the separated beans drying on racks. Later, we came upon sacks and sacks of dry beans sorted into their proper quality.
Sampling Freshly Roasted Coffee
After the processing facility, we were led to a beautiful gazebo nearby. A huge tree was dropping large pink flowers into a pool when I was there, and there were some peacocks nearby. In this gorgeous setting, the guide wrapped up our tour by serving us coffee.
He roasted a few beans and showed us how the bean turns brown and finally gives off that distinct coffee aroma. We were then allowed to grind the beans and make our own espresso. In the meantime, the guide used the French press and served cold brew.
Lunch Is Optional (But Highly Recommended!)
The tour ends with an optional lunch. The lunch costs an extra fee, but I highly recommend it. I found it most enjoyable. We sipped lemonade made with panela and listened to our fellow guests share their stories. There are bound to be some special people touring Colombia.
The lunch was served at the guesthouse, and the food was authentic Colombian, featuring beans, rice, fried plantain and a piece of meat, in my case, chorizo.
Want to Experience More From Hacienda Venecia?
This working coffee farm provides many services besides the coffee tour. There is also a chocolate tour of the plantation's less famous cocoa operation, as well as horseback riding, birdwatching and much more. To learn about all their offerings, check their website. Lastly—and this should come as no surprise—there is plenty of high-quality artisan coffee for sale on site!
© 2019 Peter strahm