Colombia is one of the world's most popular and well-known coffee-growing regions with a long-standing reputation as a producer of consistent, high-quality coffee beans. Colombia is also the second-largest coffee producer after Brazil, exporting around 12 million 60-kilogram bags annually and the most well-known producer of mild coffees.
The country's unique and immensely varied geography created by the Andean mountain range, its tropical climate, and well-drained volcanic soils provide the ideal growing conditions for specialty-grade Arabica coffee. In Colombia, there are 8 major coffee-producing regions: Antioquia, Huila, Nariño, Quindío, Tolima, Cauca, Caldas, and Santander, most of which are located in the central and western parts of the country. There are also several other smaller coffee-producing regions like Sierra Nevada, Valle del Cauca, Boyacá, Risaralda, Magdalena, Caquetá, Meta, and Putumayo. They all produce different, unique coffees thanks to the high variability in growing conditions.
Santander, one of the smaller coffee-producing regions in Colombia, is located in the northeastern part of the country. It is not as well known as other, more popular growing regions like Antioquia, Caldas or Tolima but it is still a significant contributor to the overall economy in the country. The region is characterized by rugged terrain and mountainous landscapes, with elevations ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 meters above sea level. In this region, coffee is typically grown on small family-owned farms using traditional, shade-grown methods. The most popular varietals are Caturra, Bourbon, and Colombia, which are known for their balanced flavour profiles, typically with notes of chocolate, nuttiness, and bright, juicy acidity. Geishas are becoming popular among specialty producers and the country is also increasingly field-testing new specialty varietals and hybrids. The cool, temperate climate of the Santanderian highlands is one of the most important factors contributing to the complex flavour profile of coffee produced in the region. Coffee harvest season in the Santander region typically runs from October to January, with peak harvest in December, so we'll get there just as the cherry-picking gets going.
Arrival in Bogotá, local flight to Bucaramanga. Transfer from the Bucaramanga airport to the Posada Don Agustín, located in Aratoca Santander, a modest boutique hotel reimagined from a coffee farm into our exclusive compound with plenty of nooks to embrace the coffee plantation sights and sounds until sundown. Registration followed by a welcome lunch, a traditional plate, this will be a group event in the outdoor kitchen, and an option of poolside acclimation. Welcome dinner will be a light meal affair.
For breakfast at the Posada you have choice of eggs, arepas, fruits, fresh juice and coffee. Our education then starts with learning the process of coffee cherry collection, to be later processed manually as was done in a traditional plantation. We have a typical lunch at the Posada and in the afternoon we continue with the process of pulping and fermenting. Mid-afternoon we will have the experience of eating “arepas de choclo”, provided by the local producer. Dinner at the Posada
After breakfast at the Posada, we continue with the sequence of the coffee process: consisting of selecting the parchment, removing the husk or hulling, selecting the grain, roasting, and grinding. We have lunch at the Posada and in the afternoon we visit Jordan, a town on the banks of the Chicamocha River, where the first toll booth in Colombia existed. We return to the Posada for dinner.
After breakfast at the Posada, we will visit artisanal family run coffee farm near San Gil where we will learn about the coffee process from the farm administrator. We will have a traditional worker lunch there and in the afternoon we will visit the “Hacienda Cafetera La Pradera”, a family owned coffee processing business spanning three generations where their innovative techniques and quality improvements in specialty organic coffee is well known and respected. We return to the Posada for dinner.
After breakfast at the Posada, we will visit more local farms where they will explain their unique coffee production processes. At noon we head to the Chicamocha National Park, known as PANACHI, located along the Chicamocha river canyon 50 km from the city of Bucaramanga. The park contains a variety of outdoor activities, one of the most outstanding being the cable car that crosses the river to reach “Mesa de los Santos” on the other side of the canyon. Lunch is on your own in the park. We return to the Posada for dinner.
After breakfast at the Posada, we travel to Barichara, which is considered the "most beautiful town in Colombia". It is renowned for its buildings from the late eighteenth century and was declared a National cultural heritage site. Barichara has numerous restaurants, cafes and bars that preserve the colonial architecture, as well as a large number of ecotourism activities. Lunch is on your own. In the afternoon we return to the Posada where we will have our celebration dinner.
After our last breakfast at the Posada, we will have a group session to go over all the latest methods that are used to prepare your brewed cup of coffee, hosted by a local specialty coffee outfit, with a “cupping” included. The farewell lunch will be poolside and we then head back to Bucaramanga to take the flight to Bogotá. We transfer to the airport hotel via shuttle and dinner is on your own. In house papas bravas were quite good!Possible COmmit
- $2,500 USD (international air fare not included) - $600 to $850 direct roundtrip from Toronto
- Group Size: Goal is small groups (6 to 12) so as to fit the accommodations and maximize the learning experiences available.
- Altitude: Bogota is 2,600 meters, where we will be in Santander ranges from 1,600 to 2,000. Take the extra breath when needed and all will be fine, but do remember why you feel a half breath short at times.
- Weather: Temperatures are quite stable on day to day basis 15C to 22C (59 to 71 in the other ones), what is more influential is rain. The collection season can be one of rain, so be prepared, the good thing is it changes quickly but normal is to expect a shower a day!
- Sunrise: 6 am to 6 pm - being so close to the equator makes for very balanced hours of light. Colombians are know to be early risers, in particular the roosters that abound, if only we could teach them to make coffee instead of noise
- Sun: when it is out, it is strong and with elevation, we are even closer to it! Just remember the equator thing and that although not excessively hot, it will burn if not protected
- Covid: Yeah, people still want to know...Colombia has a registration requirement for immigration, but once in the country, its up to your discretion as to how to prepare, there are no mandated measures any more.
- Safety: I leave this to the end because we feel we are taking the necessary precautions to ensure a safe trip. As a country, Colombia is well aware of its reputation, but its putting its best foot forward to change that perception and embrace those who come to her shores. Tourism is at an all time high since peace was established and over 3 million visitors come to discover her riches annually, dare to be one more!