27 November 2017 | Medellin, Colombia
Cheryl / Cloudy and cool
Itâ€™s easy to see why Medellin is nicknamed The City of Eternal Spring. It sits in a valley with mountain peaks in all directions. We found Medellin to a first world city in a third world county. It is beautiful, trendy, and sophisticated and we canâ€™t wait to go back and spend more time exploring Medellin and its surrounding paisa country.
We arrived in Medellin a day later than planned so we did not get to take advantage of the downtown area that gets closed to traffic on Sundays (perhaps next time). We had pre-arranged a coffee tour that was a few hours away in Concordia. Our English speaking guide, Juan, was absolutely wonderful. His enthusiasm as well as his associateâ€™s Andres, was contagious. Our tour started with a stop at a small farm where took pictures of the view, had soursop juice and waited for the clouds to thin out at our destination. While we waited, we got to watch a local horse whisperer, remove and re-shoe a horse. I was quite impressed with his ability to keep the horse calm with all of us standing around gawking.
After the sky cleared enough, we proceeded to the coffee farm where, Juan, ground and roasted coffee for our tasting. It was delicious. According to Juan, there is an art to making the perfect cup of coffee. Unfortunately, I donâ€™t remember the ratio of coffee to water but the water has to reach a certain temperature (just under a boiling temperature so the coffee wonâ€™t burn) before it is added to the coffee in a French press. I should have paid more attention to the details but we bought coffee, so we can practice.
After our coffee break, we climbed into the back of a dump truck and proceeded to the area where the workers were waiting with their bags of coffee berries to be tallied and loaded into the truck. It didnâ€™t take long for the truck to be full of coffee berries. The workers get warned and they donâ€™t get paid as much if they have too many green berries in their sacks. The best berries are the red berries. After watching this process, we took off in a smaller pickup truck to pick our own coffee berries and take more pictures. Picking the coffee berries was addicting. I didnâ€™t want to stop, although I imagine if I had to do this for a living, it wouldnâ€™t be so addicting. After we picked our fill, Juan and Andres, showed us the difference between the best berries and the rest. There is a small worm that eats its way inside of some of the berries and makes them not very good (Nescafe beans). It was very difficult for us to detect the worm hole but once we got back to the production area of the coffee farm, it was easy to distinguish these berries from the others. They floated. The first process after picking is to move them from the vat where they were dumped from the truck to the processing center. This was done by moving the berries in water through a pipe. The berries are loaded into a separator where the bean is separated from the outside berry. At this stage, the bean still has its husk. The beans are dried and sacked and then taken to a cooperative in Concordia where they are weighed and the quality and price are determined. From there, the coffee is shipped for further processing or to the ultimate customers. We got to see all this happening. We also got to see the coffee that the farm keeps for their own label, where it is medium roasted and packaged. Of course we had to buy some. We are now in the market for a small coffee grinder for the boat. It shouldnâ€™t be too hard to find here in Colombia. On the way back to Medellin, we stopped and had an awesome authentic lunch locally known as bandeja paisa. It was delicious and better yet, it wasnâ€™t a buffet!
After arriving back in Medellin to our hotel, we walked around a bit to a trendy little area that reminded us of home. There were shops and restaurants and it was all decorated for Christmas. It was like we had just arrived at Highland Village in Houston! Our time in Medellin went by way to fast, so we are planning to visit again after the New Year and spend more time exploring all that Medellin and the surrounding area has to offer. As a final note, I am thankful that Ed remembers quite a bit of Spanish that he learned so long ago. It helped in Medellin, which is the first place we have been to where finding someone who speaks English is rare. We are managing to get by although our EspaĂ±ol es muy malo!