After chilling out in Bogota we headed for Colombia’s Zona Cafetera. Arriving late in the afternoon, after driving the terrifying La Linea, we rolled into Salento where we toured a small coffee plantation to see where the world’s favourite hot beverage comes from.
It all starts with this plant and the legend of a goat herder in Ethiopia who noticed that his herd became a bit livelier after eating the berries from a shrubby tree. Curiousity got the best of him and he boiled up a batch of berries, had a sip and created the world’s first cup of coffee.
Tim, the owner of the plantation and the hostel we stayed at in Salento, explained that there are two types of beans: Robusta and Arabica. Arabica is considered to be more suitable for drinking and, due to this, 75% of the world’s coffee produced is Arabica. However Robusta contains more caffeine and is most often used in blends. South American nations tend to produce Arabica while Robusta is grown mostly in Southeast Asia and Central Africa.
The berries are harvested and sorted at certain times of the year depending on ripeness and colour. Inside each berry are two seeds, which we call beans. The beans are then soaked in water to remove their natural sugars. Then they are dried in sunlight and during this time every available concrete surface is covered in beans throughout Central and South America.
The beans are then sorted and roasted for specific amounts of time depending on the desired taste. Lighter roasts have more caffeine and less flavour while darker roasted coffee is more flavourful but contains less caffeine. So, those hardcore coffee drinkers who order the blackest roast possible aren’t really as hardcore as they believe.
Beans are then ground and brewed to make the tasty drink we know and love. In fact, we love it some much that from 1998 to 2000 6.7 million metric tonnes of coffee were produced. And Colombia is the second largest producer of coffee worldwide coming in at 10.5 million bags!