Life at the hacienda- A working coffee farm in Colombia

Note: This contains photos of beautiful antiques and a couple of videos about coffee production.  We hope you can load all the images and fully enjoy the story!

coffee finca views  We had the excellent opportunity to join our overlanding friends Kid and Gypsy as they visited this traditional and historical family farm in the coffee region of Colombia.   They met the owner while having mechanical work done in Bogota.  He invited them to park at the beautiful hacienda that has been in his family for many generations.

We drove through hours and hours of construction delays to reach the Ruta del Cafè or Route of Coffee.  This is the region of Colombia known for softly rolling hills, cool, moist air and hundreds of coffee farms.  The large homes in the center of the coffee farms are known as “haciendas” and the farms are called “fincas”.  We had been invited to park at the hacienda of a coffee finca and spend a few days relaxing and learning about coffee production!  coffee hills forever

The hacienda was decorated with fantastic antiques.  At one time it had also been a horse-farm so the saddlery was historic and high quality.  Here are a few of the saddles I found as I explored the hacienda.

saddlery collectionsaddlery 10saddlery 1One saddle in particular really captured my attention.  It is a large saddle, clearly designed for a strong horse or mule.  It appears to have been used for secure and important deliveries.  Each side includes a large pouch which can be protected with a beautiful old lock. The leather is still soft and supple, even after many generations of time have passed.  The workmanship and detail on this saddle is incredible.

saddlery locksaddlery 4saddlery 6saddlery 3saddlery 9saddlery 7saddlery 5saddlery 8

Other antiques on display included hand-stitched hats, a multi-section lunch tin, an old phonograph, handmade walking sticks and riding whips, steamer trunks and an amazing, handmade horse halter and lead which was hand hewn from of gut-material. All of these items represented a deep love of quality workmanship and durability that is so missing in our modern society!

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Hand-sewn leather hats
Four level lunch tin
Well-preserved Victrola
Walking sticks and riding crops
Halter and lead made out of tanned animal gut

But besides relaxing and staring out across the rolling hills of coffee plants, one of the highlights of our visit to the hacienda was learning about the way this finca handles coffee production.  We experienced roasting and brewing tours at coffee places in other countries on our trip.  But learning about the process in the field and warehouse was very interesting.  We climbed in to an old work truck (a wonderful Toyota) and rode along the bumpy, dirt roads down into the valley where the processing buildings stood.  kide and gypsyWe arrived just as the teams of pickers were reporting in for the afternoon weigh-in.  This means that each man had lugged their bags of hand-picked beans up and down the hills and would now dump them in to the processing machine.  As they step up to the scale the weights of their efforts are recorded on a weekly spreadsheet.  Then the beans are dumped in a hopper.

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Weighing each bag of hand-picked coffee beans from a day of work in the fields
coffee bean weigh in
Both the boss (blue hat) and the picker (blue sleeves) verify the weight of the bag.
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Each bag is then dumped into the concrete hopper to drop down into the processing area below.
coffee bean totals
This spreadsheet lists the coffee-pickers and the number of kilos they brought in each day. 

From there the fresh, red berries drop down into the processing facility below.  The machines are loud, grumbling and powerful.  We were able to get up close to each machine and observe and record the procedures of Colombian style coffee processing.  It is unique here, because they use a water-washing system to remove the skin and hull from each coffee bean.  They believe this makes a better flavor in the end of the process.

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Raw beans, fresh from field. Ready to drop into processing plant below. 

When the beans are released into the red metal troughs they are mixed into a water bath.  There they are spun, ground and agitated forcefully with water.  This procedure peels off the skin and the pulp from around the coffee bean.

In the next step the bean (now a light tan color) is surrounded by a mucilaginous coating holding in moisture.  This will be picked up and transferred to a roasting facility elsewhere in the area.  coffee process1.jpg

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Coffee beans in their sticky coating

The hulls and pulp of the bean are dumped into a large pile at the lower level of the facility.  At one time there was a market for this in the production of energy drinks.  But currently it just sits in a large, fermenting pile.  This produces the fetid odor that fills the air in this space.

The entire days worth of picking coffee was washed, peeled and processed in about one hours time!  It was an efficient and noisy process.  Just when we thought it was time to close down the processing plant, the truck pulled up.   It was full of beans from another part of the finca.  They had been weighed and recorded and dumped into the truck.  These would be shoveled in to the hopper and the whole process would begin again.  The two visitors went to work, unloading a truckload of fresh coffee beans while the boss watched.  coffee shoveling raw

Tomorrow the sticky beans will be hauled away for drying and roasting.  Tonight, we are ready to go back to the hacienda and relax among the antiques as we stare out over the beautiful hills of coffee plants.  It is a great opportunity to reflect on the labor and love that goes in to every delicious cup of coffee we enjoy!

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Next feature……the Northern Andes and some volcanic hot springs!

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