While in Salento, a great activity is to visit one of the many fincas (coffee plantations) near the town. A good number of them offer tours where visitors can get a hands-on demonstration of the entire coffee cultivating process.
Finca El Ocaso
When my friend Tim was visiting me in Colombia, we decided to go to Finca El Ocaso for their coffee tour. It was recommended by our hotel. A tour lasting just under two hours costs COP$10,000 per person (as of February 2016) and is available in English. It’s a pleasant one hour walk to the finca or a 15 minute jeep ride for COP$3,000.
The highly interactive tour is very technical and covers the entire coffee growing process, from planting the first seeds to harvesting to brewing. Before the tour began, we all strapped on a basket and walked to a small seating area. The very first part of the tour is an explanation on how coffee trees are born, their life cycle, the best years for production during that life cycle, and diseases that can affect them.
Next, we walked into the plantation where all of the coffee trees are located. It was a beautiful dense forest with the cover of many other tall trees. These trees provided shade and created a microclimate for the coffee trees. Direct sunlight and extreme heat during the growing process can change the taste of your coffee!
In this area, we were shown a few of the different coffee trees that were grown in Colombia in the past and the time periods they were popular. The guide explained why farmers changed to different types of coffee trees and the improvement one had over the other.
After that, we were sent off to select and pick our very own coffee beans. We had about five minutes.
Once we finished our hard work, we were taken to the processing area to see how the beans are separated from the coffee cherries, processed, and dried.
Then came the best part of the tour – drinking a quality cup of coffee. The highest quality coffee beans from Finca El Ocaso were used for the coffee tasting and it was definitely one of the best cups of coffee I’ve ever had. It had an amazing natural flavor. No sugar or any other additives were needed.
Overall the tour was very good. It’s interesting and very informative to know the effort that goes into creating your morning cup of coffee and I learned a lot of new things during the tour. If you’re in the coffee region and only have a couple hours you can dedicate to learning about coffee, this is a great place for it. If you have more time, I highly recommend Recuca, which is located not too far from Armenia.