Sarah’s experience of Colombia’s coffee region
Colombia’s coffee region is one of the most beautiful parts of the country, with ideal temperatures between 17°C and 26°C. It covers three states – Quindío, Caldas, and Risaralda – and sits high up on the western Andes mountain range, with snow-capped peaks 5,300m above sea level. It has its own distinctive culture centred around the land and agriculture. Small pueblos, such as Salento and Filandia, have preserved their traditions and characteristic bright-coloured houses since colonisation in the 1840s.
The Coffee Triangle is a unique region declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, with a special blend of lush mountains, rich culture and an unrivalled peacefulness. Its altitude, climate and fertile terrain are what make Colombian coffee some of the best in the world. This is a place with lots to see and do, but it also inspires the desire to stop and absorb. Three or four nights here is an essential stop in any trip in this country.
Our guide, Pedro, was one of those truly special guides. He spoke perfect English and was so friendly, impulsive and fun. He was just wonderful company, an incredible host and couldn’t have been more accommodating and amazing. It was like having a friend showing you around, which made for a really authentic, memorable experience.
On our first day, we had lunch with one of the owners of a generations-old coffee farm near the town of Filandia. This was a lovely morning – eating simple food, taking in the view and listening to our host, Santiago, tell us about the family history of the farm, while his sister cooked for and served us. They were both very sweet and interesting.
After we had eaten, we walked throughout the property and learnt about each part of the process of growing, harvesting and producing premium-quality coffee. There were beautiful, exotic flowers everywhere and lots of birdlife. As we admired the spectacular views across the hillsides, he told us about the neighbouring farmers. We learnt that there is a friendly sense of historic community between them, so they all communicate and help one another.
After a thorough look around, we drove to Santiago’s coffee shop in Filandia, which is very pretty and quaint, and tasted some of the coffee from the farm. We were hugely lucky, as at only certain short times of the year, there is a harvest of ‘miracle fruit’. Our visit happened to coincide with this. First, they gave us a plate of limes and other sour fruits. We tasted each of them and then popped the miracle fruit in. We rolled the cranberry-sized berries around our mouths for a bit and then re-tried all the sour fruits. Suddenly, they were incredibly sweet and all had different flavours we hadn’t encountered before. This was a brilliant surprise and not something a lot of people have experienced.
The next day, we travelled back to Filandia and the iconic Cocora Valley. Here, we went for a coffee at this really charming, colourful café, and our guide bought us some pan de bono (cheesy buns) from a little shop before our walk. Soon, we were strolling through the Cocora Valley, home of the 60m wax palm trees, which have been classified as a protected species. This type of palm grows only in this particular region and is the official tree of Colombia.
Our final destination in the Coffee Triangle was Salento, a gorgeous, colourful little town and the home of our guide. We went to his house and played tejo – the country’s national sport, which involves throwing iron pucks at gunpowder targets – for a couple of hours, before heading back to relax and watch the sunset from our beautiful hacienda. It had been a thoroughly lovely couple of days that I would recommend to anyone.
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