We left Auckland 15th of February 2017 for Bogota Colombian through Huston to be met by Ecom.
Our early start next morning we flew to Bucaramanga then travelled to C.C.A. (Compania Colombiana Agroindustral) mill to understand buying, milling and dispatch process. There we had our first cupping from regions (Huila, Santander, Coffee Axis, Cundinamarca, and Antioquia-Medellin). Great to cup some of these different coffees. After lunch we drove for hours to the region of San Gil, where we stayed in a beautiful hundred years old house in Barichara town.
Next morning, we travelled to Santander Socorro region visiting three coffee plantations, where they producing shade grown, high altitude Arabica Coffee. All farms family owned and run, and coffee was picked three times per year. Seeing green and red coffee cherries on coffee trees of which of all young and up to 2 metre in height to aid picking. Coffee was dried on the farm and sold under arrangement to buyers.
Back to Bucaramanga to stay overnight at Finca EI Roble, a coffee farm with beautiful old homestead which has been in the same family for 130 years. The farm’s nursery had 70 verities of Arabica coffee.
We flew back to Ecom office in Bogota the next morning for another cupping session of specialties coffees. Lunch and wrap up of our visit with Ecom.
Next morning we had a look around Bogota and visited the Gold Museum, Fish & Flower Market. In the afternoon we met up with another export company called E.C.T.P. After another cupping of some of their coffees, we were ready to experience the night life of colourful Bogota – Andre Carne De Res!! What a place! The building was spread over the size of two football fields, where we ate and drank New Zealand red wine and danced to all types of music, Latin American, Rock, Blues, including the Beatles. A great time was had, but our wake up call was 5am next morning for travel to Valledupar – Santa Marta region in northern Colombia, so about 11pm we had to call a quits, otherwise we could have gone all night. Andre’s was quite a place!
Upon arrival at Valledupar we travelled by 4W drive for about 4 hours to the end of a dirt road at the foothill of the mountains. Then either by foot or mule we travelled a further 2 hours up to an ethnic village where we stayed for the night. These ethnic people of 40 families live in houses with thatched roofs and no electricity. Their income is from shade grown coffee, plantain and sugar cane. Their micro lot coffee is growing under the jungle canapé, and it is quite unique because of its isolation. All coffee is dried onsite and transported by mule in 40kg sacks to a collection point back at the end of the road.
We were invited to their meeting house to be welcomed by the whole community. No lights just candles, so was quite an airy feeling. Gifts were exchanged and we were informed our group was the first Europeans to have stayed and mixed with these people. We felt very special. Our evening with the indigenous people was enlightening.
Our visit to the coffee plantation involved a further 1 and ½ hours up through the jungle from their village. Fitness was important as the humidity was strength draining, maybe that is why the indigenes people chewed coco leaves constantly for stamina. After our farewells we walked to the end of the road and back to the city of Valledupar, where we flew back to Bogota to our hotel for showers, meals and sleep.
Early flight to Neiva, Huila region in the south of Colombian where we were transported to a family coffee plantation called La Cabana to enjoy a beautiful lunch of roast chicken, tomato, salad and homemade bread, washed down with tropical fruit juice and their coffee off cause. Their plantation of 80 aces of Arabica beans, Bourbon, Colombia and Castillo, were grown at 2000 metres above sea level but not under shade. This family also own and run a buying and milling station further south in Huila.
After staying a night in Garzon Huila we travelled 2 hours to a buying station run by AsproTimana Coop, then visited La Falda plantation and nursery. Late flight from Neiva back to Bogota. Our flight to NZ via Huston was next morning.
This was truly an informative trip for me. I now appreciated what is involved in the coffee chain before I buy green beans in New Zealand. Our hosts in Colombia mainly Carlos, Ricardo, Edwin, Alejandro, Pablo, Anna-Maria, and in NZ mainly John Burton Ltd, Henrik and Co were fantastic. Much appreciated for an educational and enjoyable experience. Thanks to you all!
John Dye – Miscela Coffee