Straw hat with pink hibiscus flower
Colombia,  Food & drink,  Landscape,  Monday walks

One of Colombia’s most famous crops

(no, not that one!)

Colombia is notorious for a particular crop, but as a visitor you’re not very likely to visit any farm growing that! However, they are very openly proud of their coffee and many farms welcome visitors.

Most of the best coffee is grown in the area known as the Coffee Triangle or Coffee Axis. Part of this region was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 2011 as the Coffee Cultural Landscape. The listing describes the area covered as:

An exceptional example of a sustainable and productive cultural landscape that is unique and representative of a tradition that is a strong symbol for coffee growing areas worldwide – encompasses six farming landscapes, which include 18 urban centres on the foothills of the western and central ranges of the Cordillera de los Andes in the west of the country. It reflects a centennial tradition of coffee growing in small plots in the high forest and the way farmers have adapted cultivation to difficult mountain conditions.

Visiting a coffee farm

We visited a typical farm with our guide, Juan-Paolo, who was a former employee. Yes, that’s the same Juan-Paolo who was to nearly finish off my knees on the walk in the Valle de Cocora the following day! Thankfully this walk was to be a bit easier, although hotter.

On arriving we were immediately served a cup of coffee. This was a big improvement on our hotel’s rather weak (catering to US visitors) breakfast coffee, but perhaps not the transformative experience Juan-Paolo would have us believe. Big claims are made for the quality of the coffee in Colombia, and in particular its smoothness. And it’s true that it is good, and smooth, but maybe I prefer a slightly bitter edge?

After enjoying our coffees we were encouraged to don lightweight ponchos worn in different styles according to our gender, straw hats and small baskets, the latter tied around our waists with string. We then went to see a display of coffee bushes at different stages in their development, from seedling to ready to plant out. We also visited a coffee bean drying area where Juan-Paolo told us probably more than we’ll ever need to know about the different ways of treating the bean to produce a different style of coffee!

A walk through the farm

Then we started our walk through the coffee farm itself. There was a long flight of steps down and a shorter climb up.

Wooden steps laid on a grassy slope
The steps back up
Hillside with bushes and trees, and distant mountains
View back towards the steps we’d descended

On either side of this first stretch of the path we saw bamboo (which grows really well around here and is used a lot in construction and crafts), a variety of bushes and lots of flowers. Among the coffee bushes too we saw lots of different plants. Juan-Paolo explained that these were planted as part of the biodiversity approach of the farm. For instance, they could monitor the condition of the hibiscus as they would show signs of disease or infestation before the coffee bushes were affected. At one point he picked up a fallen hibiscus flower and tucked into the band on my hat (see my feature photo).

Frilly pink flower with long stamens on a bush
Hibiscus flower
Dramatic red and green plant
Bright yellow and orange flowers on long stems
Vivid blue dragonfly on a dead leaf
Damselfly on fallen leaves

As we walked Juan-Paolo encouraged us to pick any red coffee berries we could find, to drop into our baskets. But I found myself more interested in photographing the flowers and views, so I was glad when he topped up my supply with his own gatherings, as he did for Chris too.

Landscape with low bushes and a few trees
Looking back over the farm

Traditional coffee making methods

At the end of the walk we came to a stone building. Inside a young woman whom Juan-Paolo introduced as Maria was roasting some beans in a pan over a fire. She then ground them and made coffee using a cloth filter, the traditional method here.

Young woman standing at a stove with a fire burning
Maria roasting the beans
Young woman pouring water into a cloth bag suspended over a tin pot
Maria making the coffee

That was our second coffee of the tour and again very smooth. As with the first, Juan-Paolo encouraged us to sip and taste, sip and taste, explaining that with each subsequent sip we would be able to taste a different aspect of the coffee. I wasn’t convinced, but I enjoyed the drink!

From here we followed the rough road the relatively short distance back to our starting point. On the way I spotted a beautiful little bird, bright yellow, which Juan-Paolo named as a Saffron Finch.

Bright yellow bird perched on a wire
Saffron Finch
Bright yellow bird perched on a wire
Saffron Finch

We finished with our third coffee, this time an iced one. It was very welcome as it was a warm day and I was hot from the walk. But it was rather unusual to our taste, being made from chilled coffee mixed with lemonade. It was better than that sounds, and very refreshing, but I think I’d have preferred a regular iced coffee. However don’t think I’m complaining; any morning with three coffees has to be a good one.

I hope Jo will have enjoyed this Monday Walk, despite the lack of cake to accompany the coffee!

I visited Colombia in February 2023


  • Annie Berger

    Steven and I visited many of the same places as you in Colombia but not a coffee farm, Sarah. I enjoyed reading about your experience there and could almost taste the coffee thanks to your vivid descriptions!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Although not a highlight of our trip it was certainly worth doing this – as much for the landscape as for the coffee, much as I like the latter 😉

  • wetanddustyroads

    You were brave to take another trip with Juan-Paolo 😉 … he sounds like quite a charmer! You had some great views on your walk here Sarah – I love the splashes of colour (even Maria’s skirt is beautiful).

  • Suzanne@PictureRetirement

    Sarah, coffee beans, much like vanilla beans grow in the most glorious places. I am reminded of a tour of a vanilla bean farm in Moorea. Talk about an aroma! The saffron finch is aptly named for its beautiful color.

  • rkrontheroad

    I’ve toured a few coffee plantations, fincas, in Guatemala in past years, and still get my coffee at home from there. Nice to see that these growers include lovely flowers in their fields.

  • leightontravels

    I was gushing over the beauty of the flowers in your photos, particularly the hibiscus, then I saw the little Saffron Finch. Sounds like a beautiful morning and a nice not too tiring walk in the lovely setting of the farm. I’m with you on mornings with three coffees in them. I do quite enjoy Colombian coffee, but smooth coffee is more to my preference than a bitter one. Wonderful post, Sarah.


    Always interesting, a coffee farm tour…on the ones we’ve done, it seems the information is slightly different each time and there’s always a bit more to learn. There’s some unusual choices here in Vietnam, that’s for sure! By the way, can you remind me whether you visited one if the floating market towns south of HCMC? If so, which one….we’re just weighing up our options for later in the trip. Ta!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      I’m with you on that, strong and black is the way to go! Having said that, after a hot walk the iced coffee and lemonade was surprisingly refreshing 😀

  • Suzanne

    That is one crop I would eagerly visit any day of the week. I am a coffee snob and love my morning brew especially after my usual 10km walk, talking of a brew must be time for another. Wonderful images, Sarah.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      If you enjoy coffee AND a good walk, this would be perfect for you Suzanne! Not that we walked 10 km (a bit far for me in that hilly terrain in particular) but longer walks are possible here for sure 🙂

  • restlessjo

    Love the Heleconia and the hat with the hibiscus trim, Sarah. The surroundings look nice too and I’m definitely a coffee drinker. Thanks a lot for sharing 🤗❣️

  • bushboy

    A lovely tour of a plantation Sarah with fab photos. I would be in for a good taste but the lemonade would make me think twice.
    Can I be a bit bold. Your dragonfly is a Damselfly. They have a skinnier and longer body than Dragonflies.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Please do be bold – thank you Brian. I’m never quite sure of the difference and did hesitate before captioning but made the wrong call! I’ve corrected it now 😀 I wasn’t sure about the lemonade but it was nicer than I expected, although would never be my first choice.

  • Sue

    Great images, interesting description and seems hibixpscus is to the coffee plantation as roses are to a vineyard…..d

  • grandmisadventures

    A beautiful and delicious walk through the coffee farm. Coffee with lemonade sounds interesting. I am a big fan of sweet tea with lemonade so I think I would probably enjoy trying this mix 🙂

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you 🙂 Yes, if you like your coffee sweet you would enjoy the lemonade one. I asked how they made it and was told they make up jugs of quite strong black coffee which they keep in the fridge. They serve it in tall glasses with lots of ice and topped up with lemonade.

  • sustainabilitea

    Beautiful flowers and the saffron finch is stunning. I’m a tea drinker rather than a coffee drinker but when I do have coffee (usually as a mocha or cappuccino), I prefer smooth. Your photos remind me of a vanilla farm we visited in Costa Rica once. They also grew many other things but what a beautiful place. BTW, I would definitely wear that hat!!!


    • Sarah Wilkie

      A vanilla farm would be interesting too – we were in Costa Rica last year but didn’t visit one there. These coffees were all served black, so might have been a bit strong for your taste 🙂

  • Mike and Kellye Hefner

    What a perfect place to tour on your trip to Colombia! The coffee farm sounds so interesting, but like you I would’ve been looking for other things to photograph. I also think it’s interesting that they planted other plants to enable the detection of disease, etc. before it affects the coffee. Nice walk, Sarah!

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Glad you enjoyed this Kellye 🙂 It was only afterwards that I realised I had no photos of the coffee bushes at all! Yes, that organic approach is great, much better than a load of pesticides 🙂

  • Amy

    Wonderful to see the nature through you beautiful photos. Love the bird captures. The blue dragonfly is so beautiful. The coffee…!!

  • Anne Sandler

    Thank you for taking us on this coffee roasting tour. Love your photos. It’s tough to give a tour to a photographer since we’re too busy taking pictures to listen and participate. By the way, Australia has great coffee. Strong and not bitter.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thank you Anne 😀 Yes, you’re right, I’m often to be found turning my back on a guide or wandering off to get a good photo. If it’s a personal tour for the two of us, like this one, I always say to them that I’ll still be listening even while taking the photos as I don’t want them to think they’re wasting their time! And I know about Australian coffee – one of our favourite local coffee shops is run by an Australian/British couple and their ethos is shaped by her experiences of coffee back home in Australia 🙂

  • Brad M

    It’s fun to be able to collect your own coffee beans and then have them roasted. Have you taken a Kona coffee roasting tour?

  • Yvonne Dumsday

    As always, I loved your photos of the plants and then that beautiful finch. Do we have a photo of you in the full regalia? Your trip reminded me of one we took in Cuba to see a tobacco growing plantation and saw cigars being made by hand. Like you with the coffee we were offered one to taste. Never being one to turn down a new experience – but with some trepidation – I accepted a cigar and, to my absolute amazement found it a very satisfying experience. Good job I don’t live there or might have been tempted to try more.

    • Sarah Wilkie

      Thanks Yvonne 🙂 No, no photo of either of us in the gear – Juan-Paolo did take some on his phone but he didn’t send me those, unlike the ones he took the following day at the Valle de Cocora. I suspect therefore that they didn’t come out very well.
      We visited cigar factories in Cuba and Chris bought a cigar as he wanted to enjoy what they call the ‘holy trinity’ – a coffee, a rum and a cigar all taken together. He loved the experience! I did have a few puffs on his cigar too and found it pleasant enough but I wasn’t tempted to get my own 😆

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