Welcome to our travel blog. We are Tabitha and Nic. In 2011 we 'retired' in our early 40s and set off to travel the world. We spent our first year in South America and have been lucky enough to make two trips to Antarctica.

Our blog is a record of our travels, thoughts and experiences. It is not a guide book, but we do include some tips and information, so we hope that you may find it useful if you are planning to visit somewhere we have been. Or you may just find it interesting as a bit of armchair travel.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Hacienda Venecia Day 2 - about the coffee

coffee plantation
Our second day was spent on a tour of the coffee plantation and a visit to Manizales town.  One of the staff, Alex, started by explaining about how the coffee is grown and the processing of the beans.  I guess I had never really thought about what coffee looks like in its natural form; in fact it grows on relatively small bushes, and the round fruit is about the size of a blueberry.  They start off green and turn either yellow, or more commonly red, when they are ready to be picked.

 The plant originates from Ethiopia and apparently the person who first 'discovered' coffee, did so when he noticed that the animals that ate these berries had more energy that the others, so he figured that it was good for them so it was likely to be good for us. He tried eating the berries and making a drink out of them, but they just tasted very bitter, so he threw them into the fire.  Then he noticed the aroma they made as they roasted, and he decided to try again with the roasted beans.  And coffee was born.
the good beans roasted

Because of the variable weather here in Colombia, they grow coffee all year round, although there is still high season for it.  The beans that they grow here are arabica beans as opposed to the robusta beans used in some countries.  Here they pick the berries and immediately remove the outer skin and then wash off the sweet white pulp beneath, leaving just the bean.  The beans are air dried and then oven dried at a low heat.  This 'green' stage is normally when they are sold in 40kg sacks, with the tops sewn up by hand.  The buyers want them at this stage so that they can be roasted as close as possible to the point of sale, for maxim 
bad beans
um freshness.

Alex showed us the different types of beans, in their the various stages of processing, before having us sort some green coffee beans into good and low quality so that we could roast the good ones.  After a cup of coffee for those who drink it, and a sniff of the oils that are used to train coffee experts, we headed off on the tour.  Alex showed us around the nursery where they prepare the seedling plants, and then walked us through the coffee fields and the processing stages.

seedling coffee plants

During the walk we had had to wade through a small river, created by the heavy rain from the day before, and so we had to dry of our feet and trousers back at the house.  The original plan was that we would go into Manizales town in the afternoon and evening to have a look around and have dinner, but we called that off because TJ reported back that the town was pretty quiet due to the water emergency.

bagging up the green beans

Almost two weeks ago, there was a big landslide just out of town that has taken out a large section of the water pipes, so the majority of the town has no water.  The military are bringing in tankers of water and distributing it in the main square, but it is still a huge problem that, if not fixed within the next few days, will be declared a national emergency. People in Manizales are proud to have good drinking water coming from the mountains that surround it, so they are especially unhappy about this, particularly as they say the mayor had been warned about the possibility of this landslide but had done nothing to prevent it.

So instead, we brought forward our dinner for a later day and stayed relaxing at the plantation.

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