Did you ever think about the coffee, that used to save your life after a rough night?
I need coffee in the morning to be able to talk in my mother tongue, but never spent a second thought, how much work and love it
needs, to actually reach my mug.
As Salento is located in the middle of the Colombian Coffee Triangle, we took the chance to find out more about our favorite drink.
A climate between -8°C in the mountains and +29°C in the valleys, rich volcanic soil and the geology of the Eje Cafetero, the Colombian Coffee Triangle, provide a perfect environment for high quality coffee with short harvesting periods.
Salento has an temperate climate due to its altitude (1800 m) and the proximity of the Central Andes. In this area high quality Highland coffee is produced.
The coffee plant
The 2 main species of coffee cultivated today are Arabica (75-80%) and Robusta (20%). Robusta provides, compared to Arabica, more robust coffee plants, but an inferior taste with more caffeine. The Arabica plants are a bit more picky. They don’t like frost, do best with a temperature between 15°C and 24°C and prefer to grow in light shade.
The Eje Cafetero provides the perfect climate for Arabica plants and there are many species grown here. Every species has their pro’s and cont’s. Some grow low and are easier to harvest. But those are vulnerable to a certain disease, that can destroy 100% of the harvest. Others are immun to that disease, but have to grow higher or are not of the highest quality. And there’s a bug, that lays his eggs into one half of the coffee cherries, infecting one bean and endangering 50% of the harvest.
Most coffee farms therefore have a mixture of the different coffee plants with all kind of other plants to create an ecosystem, reduce insecticide and lower the risks of loosing their harvest.
A typical coffee plantation - we would have imagined it differently... you too?
From planting the coffee cherries to the first harvest 3 years go by. Then the coffee plant flowers and produces the first fruits. It can be harvested twice a year for the next 5 years.
After that the coffee plant needs to be cut about 1/2 a meter above ground and grow again for 1,5 years. A harvest period of 4 years follows. A second cut and another 1,5 years of growing provide another 4 years of harvest. Then the plant is not productive anymore. It is removed and the soil needs to rest.
The farmers of the Eje cafetero have developed techniques to cultivate, collect and process the coffee beans „one by one“ and have preserved this processes despite available new techniques of mass production.
Coffee cherries are harvested by hand in baskets -
just like we did, just using bigger baskets :-P
A machine (a bit bigger than this one but with the same principle) separates the coffee beans from the pulp. The pulp is composted and the beans are spread out to dry.
Women (they are said to be more thorough then men) sort the beans and divide them into 2 categories.
After peeling off the thin husk the coffee beans are ready for roasting.
In this state, the beans are shipped.
Here's the 4 states of a coffee bean:
1. The beans after drying
2. the sorted beans
3. the husks, that were peeled off
4. and the ready to be shipped bean
A light roast means more caffeine, but does not provide the full flavor. Coffee testers prefer a light roast to determine the quality of a coffee bean.
A medium roasted coffee is smooth and balanced, it contains the full variety of flavors. The coffee we buy is usually medium roasted.
A dark roast is needed for the second quality beans to burn all the irregularities and bad things.
According to the coffee farmers, one of the best ways to prepare coffee is the technique that was already used by our grandparents. Boil water, let it cool down for some minutes (boiling water burns the coffee and it has no oxygen, that is needed for the chemical process) and pour it slooowly over the ground coffee, using a filter.
We tried the coffee and although it was a bit thin, its smell and taste was amazing.
I bet you’ve already seen the famous promotion icon „Juan Valdez“.
(This is a logo owned by Colombian Coffee Growers federation for Juan Valdez)
A farmer from the region of Antiochia, dressed with the typical leather bag, sombrero and poncho accompanied of his donkey, is known in many countries and a symbol for the success of Colombian coffee.
In the meantime there is also a Starbucks-like coffee chain called Juan Valdez throughout South-America, featuring the same icon.
Read more about Colombia: