Salento: Finca El Ocaso

Today is my first full day in Salento Colombia. I am in a coffee growing region so it is natural that I visit an coffee farm or a finca (Spanish word for farm). Finca El Ocaso Salento seems to be close to town and highly recommended for a coffee tour.

I skip breakfast and head out early for my 45-ish minute walk knowing well that I walk slower than most and will need extra time. It is 4.5 to 5 km from my hotel to the coffee farm. The walk is mostly downhill but there are some up and downs. I notice some unfortunate people biking uphill on the rocky road. I could have arrived by truck but it is my first day in town and I am not familiar with how to hire a ride. Walking is a great way to explore the countryside.

On my way out of town
On my way out of town

I travel to the edge of town until I get to the road that will lead me to my destination.

I love the views on my journey.

Finally I have arrived. I head down the path to the main building to check in for my tour.

I arrive slightly early for the English speaking tour. The cashier is confused when seeing my Spanish last name because I do not look like a native Colombian (I still carry the last name of my ex). She tells me that traditionally women in Colombia do not take their husband’s last names.

I wait on the beautiful grounds for my tour to begin.

We meet our tour guide. Our guide gives an introduction on growing Colombian coffee. Coffee is actually not native to Colombia but introduced by Jesuit priests arriving from Europe in the mid 16th century.

We look at the different stages of growing.

We are given baskets and instructed how to find berries ready for picking. I wander through the bushes trying to find ripe red coffee berries. I am having a hard time spotting them but I do find a few.

We are told to try the berries (or coffee cherry pulp) and it doesn’t seem to have much taste to me. Most berries have two beans (or seeds) inside. Some come with only one seed inside, those are used for peaberry coffee.

Our guide points out companion planting and that the coffee is mostly shade grown.

composting

We take our berries back for processing. We are told about a couple different techniques for this. The grinder separates the beans from the berry pulp and skin.

We go indoors and view equipment used for larger scale processing.

A german actually invented the modern day coffee peeler.

The most recognizable man in Colombia (besides that drug lord) is Juan Valdez. We learn that he is not a real man but a marketing feature that has been represented by different men throughout the years. It is a highly successful campaign.

We head back outside to see the beans drying on racks

Our guide tells us about the different coffee types produced on site.

In Colombia the beans get sorted by quality. We are told that lower quality beans float to top of water and are typically sold as supermarket beans. Meaning the worst of the beans get sold in supermarkets in Colombia. To get good coffee one has to visit a finca or a cafeteria. A great deal of the good stuff is exported to other countries as well.

Finally we are taken to the kitchen where we learn how to roast. It is a delicate process. In the USA we burn the heck out of our beans and that is not how it is done in Colombia. Colombians actually prefer their coffee lighter (but not necessarily light in caffeine). As I spend more time in the country I learn to love my coffee roasted lighter as well.

Grinder

We learn about different brewing methods but brew some fresh coffee using a pour over method.

I am very satisfied with my cup of coffee at the end of the tour.

I’ve skipped breakfast this morning so I head over to the café on site to order a coffee and a ham and cheese pastry. I sit back and enjoy the view.

When I decide to head back into town I contemplate the long uphill (and hot) walk to town. This seems to be the best time to take the red truck back to town. These trucks are very handy for getting around. The drivers like to pack them full as seen in the picture below.

Sorry for the crouch shot but I wanted a picture to describe where you’ll be riding if you aren’t the early ones on the truck.

The red truck drops me off at the town center. It is still early and a beautiful day so I take a stroll around town.

I browse through a couple of shops and cannot resist buying a colorful hammock. It is such an irresponsibly large item to buy while backpacking but I tell myself I only have a couple weeks left to carry it. If I ever have a home of my own again it will look lovely in the backyard.

Salento is a beautifully colorful town as well.

I find a nice terrace to have a sunset drink at Quindú Restaurante. Fortunately they have Colombian chicken soup (Ajiaco) on the menu, something I’ve been meaning to try.

Back to my hotel to rest because tomorrow I plan a long hike.

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