It’s been a long time since I’ve written anything here. I was sure that while travelling I would eager to sit and write about places, people and events as they unfolded. It turns out the minutiae of actually sitting down to write a post has deterred me from doing so, until now. You might wonder what has aroused me from my laziness? To those who know me well it will come as no surprise that it is to talk about coffee.
I was (am) a coffee snob. I love coffee but I want it a certain way, in short, strong espresso with just the right amount of steamed milk, thoughtfully prepared. My coffee should taste like coffee, not milk, not sugar, not really anything else. Travelling has greatly reduced my snobbery but I still appreciate a proper macchiato when I can find one. As it so happens, many countries we have traveled through so far are major coffee producers (Tanzania, Guatemala, Mexico). Colombia, where we are at the moment is the fourth largest coffee producer in the world, after Brazil, Vietnam and Ethiopia or Indonesia (depending where you get your stats). In Colombia, as in Tanzania, Guatemala etc, coffee is a cash crop, meaning the farmers grow it in order to make enough money to buy the things they can’t grow. In Colombia, the local grower (of which there are 550,000) cannot set the price as he wishes but can only sell to the state which sets the price twice every working day, the price a couple days ago was $45 USD for 12.5kilos that costs $30 USD to produce, meaning the farmer earns about $15 for said amount. You can see that this is not really an avenue for getting rich and putting the money into the farmers’ pockets.
Enter Jesús Bedoya into the picture. A trained lawyer but a 4th generation agriculturist, a man passionate about coffee and the effect it can have locally. About four years ago he started experimenting with local roasting of local coffee, a novelty since traditionally the only coffee that stays in Colombia is of poor quality that can’t be sold. Three years ago he opened a cafe (Café Jesús Martín) where he sells coffee grown on his father’s land and a few other local fincas (coffee farms) that he roasts to perfection in small batches. It’s a small start but one that he is committed to making.
We had the pleasure of taking a tour with him through his toasting factory and being initiated into the art of “catacion” or cupping. I was like a kid in candy shop. I love hearing about coffee, how it’s grown, how it roasted, how best to prepare it, etc etc. Jesús is a man passionate about what he does and making change locally. Should you ever make it to Colombia, get yourself to the coffee region, or better yet, Salento (a lovely town in its own right), where one of the cafes is located. Do your part by ordering a coffee, or three, and enjoying the slow life knowing you’re contributing to the local economy.
A few more shots of our tour can be seen here. Also, there are plenty more photos of our trip so far that can once again be reached by clicking the “Photos” link on the main page, it’s now fixed.