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The 3 Best Coffee Tours in Salento, Colombia

Alexandra Huetter

Contributor

Salento, the 'coffee cradle' of Colombia, doesn't only offer beautiful jungle hikes to see the area’s famous wax palms, it's also a great place to get to the source of the beloved brew that helps us wake up and stay alert day after day – coffee. There are numerous coffee fincas to explore in the area to get an idea of the entire process of producing high-quality coffee, and they are all situated not far from each other in Salento.

Finca El Ocaso Salento

Finca El Ocaso is located 5 km from the main plaza in Salento. It is easily reachable by taxi aka Willy, which are jeeps that transport visitors between the town centre and various trekking spots or coffee farms. El Ocaso translated means ‘the sunset’ and the coffee farm wants to ‘preserve and share coffee culture through life experiences’. It also offers accommodation for up to 10 people.

Visitors can choose between a premium and a basic tour in Spanish and English and will then be taken around the plantation with wicker baskets tied around the waist to collect coffee cherries.

These tours go for 1.5 or 3 hours and educate guests about the entire coffee production process from growing to harvesting. Expect to learn that coffee cherries are ripe and ready to be picked after 5 months and that the harvest periods run from April to May and November to December. Of course, a trip to a Finca also includes a freshly brewed cup of coffee afterwards.

Finca El Ocaso is probably the most well-known and advertised coffee farm in Salento. When you picture a traditional coffee farm, it’s probably this exact Finca that pops up in your head: A beautiful red and white painted colonial-style farmhouse, over a hundred years old, in a picturesque setting surrounded by lush greenery.

When it comes to their coffee, El Ocaso has certifications for being ethical, organic and sustainable. The climate is very favourable for growing coffee as it’s not too hot. In the plantations, guava plants and banana trees provide additional shade, which slows the ripening process of the beans and results in a naturally sweeter tasting coffee.

Mature coffee seeds

Photographer: Andrea Izzotti

Plantation House (Finca Don Eduardo)

The Finca Don Eduardo coffee farm belongs to Plantation House and is another sustainable coffee farm in Salento. The original Plantation House is over 100 years old and boasts a long history of coffee farming. The Finca Don Eduardo is only a ten-minute walk from Salento and offers tours in English as well as Spanish.

Guests can stay at the Plantation House (which is only five blocks from the main square Salento) in either a dormitory or private accommodation. While there, you’re encouraged to roam around the garden area, where coffee plants from the original coffee farm can still be found. The grounds of the Plantation House also boast waterfalls as well as a forest.

Don Eduardo cultivates four sub-varieties of Arabica coffee. This includes two traditional plants and two modern hybrids – Bourbon, Arabica Tipica, Caturra and Variety Colombia. Taste the difference for yourself during your stay and witness how they use traditional methods to roast the beans before grinding and brewing them.

The tour takes around 3 hours and guests are welcome to stay at the grounds and wander around after its conclusion with a cup of freshly brewed Colombian coffee. Visitors looking for a truly unique experience can also work at the coffee farm for one or more days. The work might consist of planting or picking coffee cherries (each cherry contains 2 coffee beans), digging holes or working on trails. This is offered as a package that covers your lunch, drinks and all necessary equipment.

Harvesting coffee beans

Photographer: Javarman

Finca las Brisas, Don Elias

The family-run coffee farm las Brisas (Café Don Elias) dates back 23 years and is located about 4 km outside of the centre of Salento. Their tours take between 30 and 45 minutes and are normally held in small groups in Spanish, although there might be a family friend at the farm sometimes who gives tours in English.

Finca las Brisas doesn’t use pesticides or synthetic fertilizers to grow their 100% organic Arabica and Colombiana plants. They also utilise other plants such as banana, pineapple, orange, yuca or avocado to support the growth of their coffee plants. The latter help composting the land with dropped fruit, while the sweet smell of pineapples and oranges keeps bugs away. A coffee plant reaches its peak within 8 years but can be harvested until it’s 25. In order to keep the quality high, Don Elias only uses plants until the age of 17.

Visitors are taken through the different stages of coffee production, from picking the coffee cherries by hand and removing the cherry skin (which is red for ripe Arabica beans and yellow for ripe Colombiana beans), to the fermentation, drying and final roasting of them in a pan on the fire. A hand grinder is used at the end to grind some freshly roasted beans for a fresh cup of coffee, which shows the traditional way of doing things while also filling the air with an intoxicating smell.

This small coffee farm is in close proximity to the family home, which just goes to show how dedicated the Don Elias family is to their craft and how intertwined their lives are with their coffee growing business. 

Drying coffee beans, Colombia

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