Buenos Dias! We awoke to birds singing, and the smell of freshly washed air after last night’s rain. So lovely not to wake up to an alarm.
Breakfast was hearty with eggs, toast, cereal, juice and, of course, as much coffee (Hacienda Venecia coffee!) as you wish. Today we are attending the coffee tour to learn more about this incredible crop. Following today’s journal, I will share the information we learned on coffee.
The first hour was instructional and spent learning where coffee originated, how it is harvested, different characteristics etc.
From here we walked through the coffee plants, many currently in flower. We are told this is a special time as the flower only lasts for a day, maybe two – lucky us. When the flower is in full bloom, it has a beautiful scent similar to Jasmine. From bloom to full ripe bean takes 9 months, just in time for September harvest. Walking back to the Main House we were shown the processing plant for Hacienda Venecia, a fascinating tour.
Lunch was a home cooked local soup of chicken broth, plantain and yucca, chicken, rice and avocado. Delicious!
We relaxed on our balcony for a good part of the afternoon, soaking in the beauty and listening to the birds (amongst the construction sounds) 😁.
And now for Happy Hour. Bottle of lovely red wine in hand we enjoy a pre-dinner drink on our balcony. Within seconds of sitting down we hear a familiar pop!, our neighbours opening their bottle of wine. The four of us chatted happily for the next hour until dinner was ready. John & Denise are from Auckland, NZ, have retired and are travelling for the next 18months!! They supplement their travelling habit by pet sitting all over the world. Sounds fascinating and I think I will check into this for the future.
At dinner we met some new folks that are staying here, John & Denise as mentioned, a couple from Dublin, Ireland and a young couple from Germany, and then Wendy & Russell who were with us yesterday. Russell is originally from the UK, however moved here 10 years ago and has started a travel company Colombia 57 – a great contact to have and possibly we can help each other in some way! His mother Wendy is visiting from the UK and is a delight. The conversation was very animated, and the meal was delicious – a great evening.
We managed to stay up until 10pm and then promptly fell asleep! Hopefully no thunderstorms tonight.
As promised, here are some interesting tidbits that we picked up (or can remember as there was a lot of information)😀.
Coffee originated in Ethiopia. The Arabs of Yemen were very business oriented and were the first to grow and exporting coffee (hence Arabica beans)
They only Exported roasted beans so that the seeds could not be planted and grown, thereby controlling the coffee market. They controlled the market until early 17th century.
In the early 17th century the Dutch got seeds from Ethiopia and grew them in greenhouses and then distributed to their colonies – Indonesia, the Americas, Africa etc. They then shared the plants with French who distributed to French colonies, and then the British, and so on.
Coffee is grown in more than 50 countries. It is grown between the Tropic of Capricorn and Tropic of Cancer 20 degrees north and 20 degrees south of equator, the ripe beans are known as cherries as they are red in colour. Exported Green beans or almond seeds are one of the most traded products in the world, 2nd after oil.
Coffee started growing in Manizales in the mid 19th century. The coffee trees are indigenous to this region to preserve the ecology.
The top 5 Largest producing countries of coffee
2. Vietnam 19%
3. Colombia 9%
4. Indonesia 7%
5. India 4%
Coffee has more than 100 species, that vary by flavour dependant on many factors, climate, location, soil, plants growing nearby etc.
Two species that are most common are Robusta (conifera), and Arabica.
Robusta – has 2% caffeine which makes it very hardy against disease and insects, however is a low quality coffee – produced in lower lying areas Used mostly in instant coffee or to be mixed with Arabica. It is bitter and rich in body. Production is easy and price is low on market.
Arabica – has less caffeine and therefore is more susceptible to insects, and disease so it is grown in regions above 1400m and is known to be a higher quality bean. Arabica is more expensive to produce, therefore more expensive.
i.e Blue Mountain grown in Jamaica
Kopi Luwak – beans are eaten by a Luwak a ‘cat like’ animal, processed in the animal’s digestive system and excreted. The beans are roasted from this stage. A cup of Kopi Luwak coffee can run as high as $30.
Two types of processes
Natural or Dry – generally used for Robusta beans and some Arabica beans in lower lying areas. Harvested by machine, the red ripe beans (cherries they are called) are laid out in the sun to dry for several weeks. The sweet gel like substance below the skin ferments into the seed giving it a sweet flavour. The market price is established in Brazil. This process is not used in areas that have a lot of rain or humidity.
Washed – Humid country’s use the wet process or ‘washed’ process. The same day the fruits are picked they peel the fruit and remove the jelly within hour. Mostly Arabica beans grown closer to the equator (Colombia, Kenya, Tanzania etc) are highland coffees, need large quantities of water and generally found on steep mountain terrain. Therefore these beans are picked by hand and processed by the ‘washed’ method. Once picked their skins are removed by machine and they are submersed in water for a day to remove the sweet gel leaving a smoother & acidic flavour. From here they are put into 50C ovens to dry. The chaff is removed and used as fuel to further dry the seeds, maintaining a 10% water content. The seeds are then sorted by weight & size (brings a better price on the market as well as guarantees even roasting at their final destination), bagged and shipped.
Colombia is one of the only countries that use the set or washed process.
Green seeds can be stored for up to 4 months (2months shipping, 2 months in roasting house)
Colombia is the largest producer of washed Arabica coffee
Juan Valdez is considered one of the best marketing strategies in the world. The first Juan Valdez was a Cuban Actor! Him and his mule Conchita made Colombian coffee famous in the 1960s. The second Juan was a Colombian who was well versed in the production of coffee, as well as the running of the Coffee Federation that had been formed in Colombia. Today’s Juan Valdez is a younger version of the second version.
Juan Valdez is owned by the farmers. The Coffee cooperative has over the years, brought drinking water, electricity and built schools with their Colombia trust which is public money
Colombia sold the first single Origen coffee in the world.
560,000 coffee growers in Colombia with an average of a two hectare coffee farm. Two hectares will produce 5 tons of green seeds.
Hacienda Venecia has 200 hectares – 130 hectares in coffee producing 320 tons of green seeds per year.
A pound of green seeds on the NYSE is about $1.50, the most value of coffee is when it is sold as a cup of coffee. This is why the federation have their Juan Valdez stores. If the market is selling at a low cost, the Federation will sell more to their coffee stores.
Colombia produces coffee year round. The southern mountainous region receives more rain in the first part of the year so harvest from Jan – Apr. the norther regions receive their rain in the latter part of the year and harvest from Sept – Dec. The Manizales and Cafetero region get most of their rain in the latter part of the year, however receive plenty of rain year round and can therefore harvest year round.
It takes 1 Year from fruit to coffee cup In Colombia, Kenya, Tanzania . Hacienda Venecia harvests every 19 days as there can be flowers, green fruits and ripe fruits all on one branch. Coffee needs a dry period to develop flowers, and a wet period to ripen the fruit.
Conifera/ Robusta can withstand higher temperatures all year round and is more productive
Arabica, requires 18-25 degrees for good quality
By law you can only grow Arabica in Colombia, Costa Rica & Hawaii
Hacienda Venecia during peak harvest season employs & houses 500 coffee pickers. They have 10 houses around the farm for this purpose. Pickers are seasonal, working in the south if Colombia in the first part of the year, and the north in the latter part of the year.