eje cafetero: day 3: coffee farm tours

On the third day of the most relaxing vacation ever, Seth and I awoke early and planned to take the day a bit easy. We were both somewhat sore from the previous day’s ten-hour excursion, so we thought we would take our time with our morning coffee before going on a couple of coffee tours for, well, more coffee.

At breakfast we met two young Irish men named Julian and Stephen and their Swedish travel buddy Victoria. They had been traveling in and around Colombia for the past month, and they were finishing their adventure in Salento. Since the three of them were going to be staying at our hostel the entire week, we resolved to spend plenty of time together.

After our usual meal of fried eggs and pan de queso paipa, Seth and I embarked on our hourlong walk to two of Salento’s well-known coffee farms, El Ocaso and Don Elias.


On our first tour at El Ocaso, we met three Argentine guys, none of which were particularly fond of coffee. We learned about the two different types of coffee plants—the red kind (Arabica) and the yellow kind (Colombia); both types of plants are green when unripe, but their colors vary once they are ready to pick. When no one was looking, I sneaked a taste of each type. In their pure, raw form, their flavor was surprisingly similar, so I could understand why the coffee farms tend to throw both colors into the same batch and hope for the best.


On our second tour at Don Elias, we met two Austrian girls, one lone Londoner, and a British couple. The two Austrian girls hardly spoke a word of Spanish or English, so they had a difficult time understanding our guide; the Londoner was particularly snobby, constantly complaining about how much she had despised her trip to Colombia; and the British couple, Katie and John, were the friendliest of all, and they told us a lot about their past travels. Out of all the countries they had visited in South America—and believe me, they had visited quite a few—they liked Bolivia the most. Seth and I likely will not be visiting Bolivia any time soon due to their costly travel visa requirements for Americans, but it was still lovely to hear about it.


After sampling a cup of coffee at each farm, Seth and I were sufficiently tweeked and beginning to get a little hungry. We walked back to Salento’s main plaza for a hearty meal. The restaurant we happened to choose was very crowded, but a welcoming family from Armenia had a couple of extra place settings to share and offered us seats at their picnic table. They noticed that we were quite sweaty and sunburned, so they ordered us a pitcher of límonada and passed us one of their empanaditas. While we waited for our food, we talked with them about Colombia and the United States. Throughout our entire trip, the locals were constantly asking us what we thought of Colombia, insisting that we should leave Bogotá more often, and recommending more and more sites for us to visit. By the time my bandeja paisa and Seth’s trucha gratinada came out of the kitchen, we were ravenous and ceased almost all conversation.


After lunch we hobbled over to an artisan commune that we had spotted on the previous day’s walk. I bought a beaded bracelet from one of the shops, and the owner showed us around the complex. We walked through a couple of stalls, a garden, and an outdoor kitchen and workshop. About twenty people approached us one after the other, all asking the same questions. “Where are you from? Where are you staying? How long will you be in Colombia?” Seth and I quickly tired of regurgitating the same answers, so we walked back to the hostel to relax and watch the sunset.

Seth and I made the mistake of eating lunch far too late, and by the time dinner rolled around we had not yet regained our appetites. That morning we had signed up to eat at the hostel, where they were serving chicken tikka masala with rice and stewed vegetables. Although I took most of the meal to go for the next day’s lunch, what little I did manage to eat of the curry was absolutely delicious. It was much spicier and more flavorful than any version that had ever come out of my kitchen, possibly due to the chef’s heavy-handed usage of ginger and cloves. Seth and I dined with Julian, Stephen, and Victoria and made plans to watch the Colombia-Venezuela football match with them the following night.


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