Friday, February 4, 2011

Coffee Farm Tour (Part 2)

This is the second of three parts from my visit to a working coffee farm here in Colombia. Part 1 was about the tour of the coffee fields and today's post is about the coffee-processing and coffee-culture part of the tour.

After we were done walking through the fields and had picked some coffee cherries, we headed back to the processing facility to learn how the coffee goes from being "fresh fruit" to piping hot in your cup. Most of the processing steps that were demoed were the manual methods that were used in the past. The idea is that if you understand the old way, the newer, factory methods would make sense.

First up was the de-pulping process. Using a rough-stone basin and a smooth round rock, the outer husk is removed from the coffee cherry:

A "newer", hand-cranked method was shown next. The machine had a center spindle with notches punched out of it. When the crank is turned, the coffee bean is removed from the husk. It was a much quicker way of doing the job but still no comparison to today's factory machinery.

After the husk is removed, what's left is the raw coffee bean, which still has a slimy membrane surrounding it. The beans are transferred to a drying area that allows the slime to be removed very easily. I've seen coffee being dried on rooftops, on screens, (even) in the street, and on racks like the ones that are housed in the "building" on the left:

The racks are pulled out during the day for the coffee to dry and are put back under the roof if it starts to rain or if it needs to sit over night. This photo shows the beans that still have the dried (formerly-slimy) membrane on it:

The beans are removed from the racks when they are dry and the membrane is mechanically removed. From there, the beans can be stored in their "green" state for up to two years if they're kept in the right conditions. Our guide took the green coffee and demonstrated how coffee was roasted in the past using this hand-cranked machine:

She then gave everyone a lesson in the proper process to make a cup of coffee using what I call the "cowboy-coffee" method. Start with fresh water, good-quality coffee, stop heating the water just before it boils, add coffee grounds, let it sit for two minutes, filter coffee grounds, and serve in a preheated mug. Removing the heat before the water boils is important, I learned, because water at that temperature burns the coffee, resulting in a bad flavor. It's also important to use a preheated mug as a cold mug damages the flavor as well. Add that to the "learning-something-new-everyday" list.

After the coffee-processing tour, the coffee farm does some hands-on cultural activities including participating in an old-fashioned dance as well as dressing up in historical, or perhaps hysterical(?), Paisa clothing. Juan Valdez anyone?

Yes, that's a non-TSA approved machete! Silly, silly farm folks--giving me such a toy. Overall, the staff at the Recuca coffee farm did a fantastic job and I'd highly recommend a visit if you find yourself in the Zona Cafetera. Now, to go have some coffee...


  1. You must make that last photo your Xmas card this year!

  2. I'll start printing them now. Thanks for the tip! :-)


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