Probably the Best Coffee in the World

In Salento, in the heart of the coffee zone, we relaxed for several days and recovered from the experiences of the last few weeks. It was a good time to sit out a few days of rain, and then we didn’t really want to drive on without visiting one more coffee plantation (we had already gone to Finca La Victoria in the north near Minca). Max asked where we could find something different from the touristy stuff, and the Reservat Natural Sachamama was recommended. Without any exact idea of what to expect, we drove along the gravel track deeper and deeper into the mountains and were greeted at gate by Pedro. One brief look at the width of the Bremach and the size of the entrance gate resulted in the assessment that we would manage to fit through. After two or three unsuccessful tries to drive backwards and make it up the dirt driveway, we had to turn around a bit further up the road and try it again forwards. We got through the posts quickly, but then the tires were full of mud and, despite double gear reduction, four-wheel drive, and differential lock, the Bremach still didn’t make it up the steep entry. Pedro finally tried to tow us up with his vehicle, but this was also in vain. There was no room to park on the incline, so Max drove on up, highly concentrated, but couldn’t keep us from sliding back down a little, again and again. On one of the slides down, the cabin of the Bremach mowed down one of the wooden posts of the entry gate, and, some of the other times, it slid along the barbed wire. Carla started crying because our Bremach now had pretty big scratches and scrapes – was the visit here really worth all this trouble? At that moment, we had no idea that our time here would find a very special place in our hearts and that we soon wouldn’t mind the traces of it on the Bremach at all. In the end, lots of powerful “running starts”, sheets of metal and fresh sand scattered around by Pedro got us over the most critical passage. We had finally arrived!

We were soon sitting very relaxed with Pedro and Marta on the open terrace on the top floor of their simple, little house with a lovely view of the beautiful green mountains and the most various birds eating their fill of the bananas lying out in the sun. Then we took a little walk through their property, which they had bought 14 years ago and reforested. Like the land surrounding it, it had been used for raising cattle after the exploding coffee cultivation worldwide had led to overproduction and ended in a coffee crisis ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_coffee‎ ). The coffee plants grown on Pedro and Marta’s property are over 100 years old and are once again located in the very natural environment of the rainforest, which had regenerated here amazingly quickly. Pedro takes care of his small piece of the rainforest with great conviction and is rightfully proud of it. Thanks to Pedro’s clear pronunciation and our meanwhile much greater proficiency in Spanish, we learned astounding things about the plants grown there and about coffee cultivation in Columbia. Who would have thought that most of the plantations in Columbia use gene-technically manipulated plants? These plants grow as high in one year as natural coffee in five and are disposed of after ten years because they bear hardly any more beans then. On the large coffee plantations, special products are sprayed on them, so that all the beans ripen at the same time once a year, which simplifies harvesting considerably. 30% of organic coffee is allowed to be non-organically cultivated, but the coffee nevertheless still be called organic. This led us to think intensively about what organic really means and what sustainable cultivation actually means. From the beginning, we found ourselves carrying on deep conversations with Marta and Pedro about the present-day food supplies and food policies worldwide.

Real wild coffee grows In Reserva Natural Sachamama, and, after we had seen the plants in their natural habitat for the first time, we were given the opportunity to shoot the red beans through the coffee press in order to peel them. The raw beans are fermented and then have to dry in the sun for a few days in lovely wooden boxes, and not on the warm asphalt along the end of the street, as you see so often. We took some of the dry beans to a small building further up the way which, in contrast to Marta and Pedro’s house, is connected to electric power. This is where the beans were peeled to get the so-called green beans, which are then roasted and cooled off in the fresh wind in front of the door. We – and especially the children – were allowed to help in every step of the process. Carla ground some coffee beans at the end, and Pedro prepared the freshest coffee we have ever had for us from them. Even the children were allowed to try it. In Columbia, it is completely normal for children to drink coffee, and we made an exception fort hem that day since they had been a part of the entire process, from the plant and raw bean to brewing the coffee, and we wanted them to be able to enjoy the whole experience ending with tasting the final product. They were completely thrilled, of course, to be allowed to taste the “drink for adults“. Afterwards, we helped pack the beans into vacuum bags and put on the labels. Four of the bags found their way directly into our Bremach. We are sure we will never again be able to get such natural, fresh coffee processed with our own help. And we wonder just what the wild coffee sold at certain stores in Germany is. Pedro is not allowed to sell his coffee abroad since only a few big companies in Columbia have a license for exporting coffee. Normally, the green beans are sold abroad and then roasted at their destination.

We spent the rest of the day together, drinking coffee, carrying on great conversations, and observing the birds. Marta had prepared a wonderful meal at lunchtime and made us another delicious one in the evening. Both Marta and Pedro are fervent supporters of the slow food movement. The whole time we were with them, we felt like we were staying with good friends and not at all like tourists. Our visit to Reserva Natural Sachamama was a wonderful experience in green surroundings. And I drank so much more coffee than I don’t know when. After a peaceful, dark night in the middle of the Columbian Mountains, we said farewell to this dear family with strengthened body and soul. It would do the world good to have more people who don’t just think like Pedro and Marta, but also act the way they do.

One Thought on “Probably the Best Coffee in the World

  1. Espectaculares fotos y muy lindas palabras para describir nuestro estilo de vida. Que el viaje continúe lleno de momentos felices es nuestro mayor deseo.
    Un abrazo
    La Sacha Mama Family
    Sara, Juana, Mar y Pedro

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