Hacienda Guayabal: Get Your Coffee On!

Colombia, Feature, Travelogue — By on January 18, 2010 at 6:35 pm

The life of a worker on a coffee finca is one not to be envied to say the least. Ten-hour days consist of hauling 30kg bags on their backs up and down impossibly steep pathways for extremely little pay. Mosquitoes are relentless and the heat of the sun even more so.  The scenery, however, is breathtaking: an indescribable green as far as the eye can see.  The mountains in the distance resemble giant moss covered rocks, a scene a camera unfortunately can’t quite capture.  We were privileged enough to tour a plantation (Hacienda Guayabal) a short 45 minute bus ride from the city of Manizales, a visibly affluent city filled with cafes and bars and university aged students hanging about.  We got a fine lesson in the intricacies of farming the precious coffee beans – something to be remembered next time you pull up to a Starbucks.

The beans are either red or yellow (depending on the plant variety), with a skin that protects the bean as well as a sweet-tasting liquid. After the farmer has picked 30kg, he hauls it to a machine that removes the skin. The bare beans are sent to be washed, where premium and mediocre beans are separated: the bad beans, which can be identified by the fact that they float, are sent to be made into instant coffee or remain in Colombia, and the good beans are sent to a dryer where they will stay for 24 hours at 50 degrees Celsius. After being dried, the pale yellow-coloured beans are not roasted, but rather sent to a distributor responsible for roasting and export.

The mind numbing work these labourers go through in a day redefines the notion of hard work. What is more amazing is that the Hacienda we visited was able to sell a half-pound bag of premium coffee beans for only $4, even after factoring in all the labour involved in its production (planting, harvesting, cleaning, shipping).

It is beyond words to explain it further, one will just have to make the trip: The tour costs about $10 each and includes a 2-hour guided tour, a delicious cup of premium coffee, and a gigantic ice cream and fruit sundae. Tours can be arranged from Mountain House in Manizales.

Here we are...what a view, Manizales, Colombia

Red bananas...apparently they are hallucinogenic, we didn't try! Manizales, Colombia

Red flower, Manizales, Colombia

Red tree in a green landscape, Manizales, Colombia

Yellow tree in a green landscape, Manizales, Colombia

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