Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The life of a coffee bean (Sam's supposedly secret birthday present)

Colombia, home of some of the world's finest coffee. I wouldn't be able to even fathom writing this blog entry at 8 am (current time) on a Tues. morning without a hearty dose of the stuff, ahhhhhh. Colombians call black coffee with sugar "tinto", which in other countries means red wine, but I'll take either meaning of the word any time. In honor of the hard working coffee growers everywhere, and to make my sister Sam's cheap birthday present seem more special, I will attempt to blog on how it's grown.

I stayed in the coffee growing region in a town called Salento for about a week. It was a lush green hilly place where cows mooed you awake in the morning and where buckets of rain tend to splash down in the afternoon. One morning the sun came out and I took a little walk down to Don Elias' coffee plantation.

Don Elias looks exactly like the guy in the pictures you see on coffee packaging. He wears the typical hat, has the mustache, and owns his own little organic coffee farm full of banana trees and pineapple plants. He gave me a tour with his beautiful granddaughter. They apparently don't own a digital camera because she liked to pose for pictures and asked to see them later, giggling with delight. She was so darn cute.

First you grab a basket and pick the beans. Some beans are red when they are ripe, some yellow. Don Elias mixes the different kinds, saying they all taste the same. I've heard some are purple too, and the mix looks like Skittles on trees, but Don Elias didn't have any purple ones. He says the banana trees keep the beans from getting too much sunlight.

The beans are put through this contraption that separates the beans from the skins. At this time the beans are white and still covered with a sweet film.

The beans are dried out in the sun for, uh oh, I forget how many days...a week? The sweet film dries and comes off, er, somehow.

When the beans have thoroughly dried, Don Elias toasts them on the stove. This is when they turn black. When ready for a cup of coffee, you grind them...
and Viola! Don Elias doesn't have gas, so he had his grandson start a fire on their wood burning stove for the water.

The granddaughter and her cousin were singing along to Shakira songs while I sipped the best coffee I've ever tasted. I bought a couple bags for Sam's birthday to complement an apparently "surprise" other present from mom that Sam picked out. They were toasted just the day before. I took them to the post office today in Medellin but they were rejected. Hmmm, I might have to try my luck in customs...they might end up being a Christmas present---fingers crossed nothing gets confiscated!

In the meantime, my backpack smells goooooood...!


Ravioli said...

Very interesting, a great process to drink a delicious coffee. Good taste, flavors and smells!
Did You see Shakira? hehe, I think she is from Barranquilla, Shakira is a good singer.

Moe: said...

Hi Shannen,

This may be my favorite blog post of yours yet! I had no idea coffee beans were red\yellow\purple when they were still on the tree. And your host(s) seemed like a hoot!

Did you ask him if HE made decaf?


Shannen said...

*Hi Ravioli*

The Colombians I've met say they don't like Shakira because she thinks she is "too good" for Colombia. They all like Juanes (from Medellin) better, but not me. But I'm in Medellin, and maybe that's just the opinion of Paisas (people from Medellin)?

*Hi Moe!*

Eek, I didn't ask him. I am a truly selfish traveller. It would have been interesting to find out how they decaffeinate the beans! I always thought coffee-growing was a lot more complicated, would be fun to grow a coffee tree and try to make batch of my own someday. I'll aim for decaf!

Tara said...

Hey Shannita! Glad to hear your travels in Columbia are exciting and safe!!! I listen to Juanes everyday in my car...along with some other cool CDs I got from a friend once....afro-Peru etc. Thanks!!!! Safe Travels....where to next?

faith said...

I think I have that Afro-Peru CD too Shannen that you gave us- I'll have to go back and listen to it! Yes, thank you!

I am absolutely addicted to your blog. What amazing stories you have to tell and what a smart traveller you are! Hope you are having the time of your life and can't wait til you come to this part of the world so that we can connect again soon!

Lots of love and cheers to you, Don Elias, his beautiful granddaughter and a great cup of coffee! XOXO

Shannen said...

*Hi Tara!*

Everyday in your car...does that mean you found work? Hope you found a good one! Glad you still like the CDs from long ago, ha ha, I still listen to the Afro-Peru one a lot. Makes you natsukashii for Peru, ne!
Next are Venezuela and possibly Aruba, yippee!


Glad you like the CD too, that one's a classic, huh? And thanks for reading the blog! I enjoy reading and seeing the latest pics of Juli-chan, how quick she grows! It would be so fun to visit, I definately want to get to your parts sometime soon!

Moe: said...

Shannen, I know you are in Venezuela. You need to update your blog!

Shannen said...


I know, you're on to me...I wrote it up today and need to download the pics. But I've been putting it off, the computers here are so slow!

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I even bought the film Avatar for a SMS to http://rsskino.ru/kinofilm/avatar.html , the link was, but download fails, the system will boot quite strange cocoa something.
Men, advise where to normal as quickly download film avatar?

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