Stop right there! Before you pour that second cup of coffee from the office kitchenette or make a Timmy’s run think about how this dark brew made its way from across the world and into your favourite mug.
Downing a cup of Joe is easy and very satisfying, but there is a craft involved to take it from bean to cup, very similar with brewing your favourite larger or ale. And with 65 percent of Canadians downing a cup of coffee this in the mornings it’s time to understand this liquid ambrosia. This month Man Up is taking you to Colombia, the fourth largest and one of best coffee producers in the world, where you’ll work on a coffee plantation and learn first-hand what it takes to cultivate, harvest and produce one of the world’s most popular morning drinks.
Getting there: before you get to Colombia, for obvious reasons, make sure you get the all-important travel insurance and any recommended shots and vaccines from your family doctor. You can book a direct flight through Air Canada to Colombia; however, many travellers connect via the U.S. and upon arriving switch to a domestic carrier that will take them one of the closets airports – El Edén Airport (AMX) in Armenia, La Nubia Airport (MZL) in Manizales and Matecaña Airport (PEI) in Pereira – to the country’s coffee region, known as the Coffee Triangle.
Staying there: having a good to moderate grasp on the Spanish language will be useful when staying on a coffee plantation, because the Coffee Triangle is located in the countryside of the Paisa region which is on the western slopes of the Andes. Many plantations are family owned and run, therefore accommodations and services will vary from private to semi-private and hostel type lodgings. Meals will be provided, although it may come as an additional cost. What is guaranteed is that you’ll be given a warm welcome, a view of the countryside and, of course, a cup of authentic Colombian coffee.
What to pack: light and comfortable clothing that can be layered such as thermals, waterproof pants and jackets, gloves, scarf, cap and hiking shoes as temperatures will vary from hot to cold depending the time of year you go. Bring standard over-the-counter medication such as Advil and Imodium, sunblock, insect repellent and After Bite should those pesky critters happen to take a chunk out of you.
Be prepared for: with any farm-type setting you’ll be up early, on a coffee plantation that can means rising around 8:00 a.m. and taking part in the daily chores ranging from planting to picking coffee or repairs around the farm.
Coffee plantations to consider: here are three plantations in the Coffee Triangle that you’ll want to get you java jolt on.
- The Plantation House (Salento) – this 100+ year old coffee plantation is situated in the foothills of the Andes, an hour north of Armenia, offering cheap, cheerful and very basic accommodations; double rooms and dormitories both with and without private bathrooms. Their coffee farm Finca Don Eduardo is a 15 minute walk from the house and should you opt to book your working vacation here your package will include lunch, drinks and equipment (i.e.: rain boots, gloves and waterproof weather gear to farm). Prices available upon request.
- Hacienda Venecia (Manizales) – located 20 minutes away from the City of Manizales, Hacienda Venecia offers a step up accommodation with two types lodging; the main house, which is a traditional-style Spanish farmhouse, and the hostel both are situated on beautifully curated grounds that offer sweeping views of the Colombian country side. Hacienda Venecia offers a more relaxed experience than Plantation House, which makes staying here a vacation versus a working holiday. Its coffee tours are highly regarded taking guests on a comprehensive three-hour tour detailing of the region’s history, cultivation and process of the famed bean. Main farmhouse $280,000-360,000 COP per night. Hostel 35,000-105,000 per night. Coffee tour $45,000 COP.
- Finca El Balso (Armenia) – just south of the City of Armenia and 6km from El Edén International Airport is Finca El Balso a mid-upscale country B&B with – wait for it – free Wi-Fi and outdoor swimming pool! The property has its own coffee plantation on site, named Finca, and its owners will take you on a technical tour of the facility, relay its history and the process of taking coffee from bean to cup. Prices available upon request.
For more information visit colombia.travel/en.