Salento is part of the Colombian Zona Cafetera, coffee region. It is a farming community and as I walked down the streets, I saw men in gum boots, ponchos, a machete on their hip and a hat. Many were mustached and I searched for a Juan Valdez look-a-like. As I hiked the surrounding area, I saw the farmers out on horseback. This is all part of the charm of the region.
One of our first experiences was exploring the cafes of Salento in search of the best coffee in town. Chantal and I walked from cafe to cafe trying the coffees and searching for the best brew.
We eventually found our favorite, Jesus Martin! There was no other after we found this roasted goodness. Mmmm! The chocolate nut cake paired beautifully with the coffee. We spent time here every day having a coffee to get our day started.
We finally decided to take a walk out to Don Elias' coffee farm. We started walking and met up with a couple from our hotel. They had a jeep and wanted us to join them. Why not? We jumped in and the driver seemed to be waiting for someone. He kept saying Don Elias coffee and pointing in the opposite direction. We waited. An older gentleman walked across the bridge and up the hill. He walked up and we were introduced to Don Elias. The jeep owner was waiting for him before we went to his farm. He was so charming and welcomed each of us to Salento and to his farm.
Don Elias explained that his coffee farm was family owned and operated with the help of a few others that helped during the harvest season. He introduced us to his grandson, Carlos, who was giving us the coffee tour. He was 20 years old and has grown up on the farm. He apologized that he only speaks Spanish but he spoke slowly and I could easily follow his explanation.
We walked down into the coffee fields. Carlos showed us the coffee bean trees and explained the Arabica beans turned red.
Carlos pointed out that there were plantain trees surrounding the coffee plants to keep the coffee plants cool.
Don Elias is an organic coffee farm and there are multiple fruits and vegetable plants surrounding the coffee. We saw yucca, lulo, plantains, mandarins and pineapples.
Carlos explained that all of the coffee was picked by hand and each plant produced for 12-15 years. He picked a few ripe coffee and placed them in the basket.
We returned to the house where he showed us how the coffee bean was removed from the seed.
The beans were then spread over the ground in a greenhouse to dry.
Once the beans were dried, 80% of the harvest was sold to the Colombian coffee federation and the remaining 20% was kept for Don Elias' farm. The coffee beans that remained at Don Elias was removed from the shell and the beans were hand roasted to a beautiful brown roast.
Next, the coffee is ground and we all sat down to enjoy a cup of coffee with Don Elias. It was a delicious brew and I bought a bag to take home.