Friday, March 21, 2008

A Cup of Coffee and a Bed

Visiting the coffee farm of Don Elias was like going back in time 100 years. The coffee farm of Don Raul was like leaping into modern times. While both farms are organic, Don Raul’s is certified organic. Unlike Don Elias, Don Raul has a large farmhouse which also serves as a bed and breakfast. This has been a growing trend since the price of coffee dropped in the early 1990s. Coffee farmers no longer earn the substantial profits they once did. Because guerilla violence and kidnapping are now almost nonexistent in Eje Cafetero, tourism has blossomed. Cartagena and the Caribbean coast still has the greatest concentration of foreigners. Yet young people, like me, who want to get away from the tourist areas and beaches travel into the country’s interior. The Disney World of coffee tourism is located in Montenegro, a town 12 km northwest of Armenia, and called the Parque Nacional del Café. Every variety of coffee in the world can be found in this park, as well as a museum and roller coaster rides. It’s a good place for families, but it wasn’t my cup of coffee (this is the worst pun I’ve used on my blog) so I skipped it.


I was more content being the only foreigner taking a tour of Don Raul’s hacienda. His 20-hectare farm is divided into three parts: 10 hectares for coffee, five hectares for animals, and five hectares for forests. As I entered his plantation, I couldn’t see anything but coffee plants. This is no surprise since he has 50,000 of them. Farther along I passed fruit trees and walked through a forest of guadua, or bamboo. The bamboo tree is used to build homes and bridges, and will last for 900 years. These strong trees are earthquake-resistant (recent earthquakes in Eje Cafetero have proved this), and are more effective at removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere than most other tropical trees. He then took me to the place where the coffee beans are separated and dried. His tour was a much shortened version of the one I had been given at Hacienda Guayabal. His farmhouse, painted white with red trim, was typical of those used for bed and breakfasts. It didn’t have the mom-and-pop feel of my previous two coffee tours. Nevertheless, Don Raul was friendly and I bought a bag of coffee from him when I finished the tour. Of course, I had a complementary cup of coffee. My next adventure was finding my way back to Salento since I didn’t plan on backtracking.



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