Sacha Mama is a natural reserve owned by Pedro and his family (his wife Maryori and his daughters Sara and Juanita). It is located 9 km from Salento. Pedro picked us up with his 4×4 and it took is 45 minutes over the bumpy dirt road to reach their house.
The house has an amazing view over the valley and their garden. The garden is actually a forest filled with beautiful birds and exotic trees, such as; toucans, motmots, woodpeckers, palm and avocado trees, and of course coffee plants!
The house itself is basic in the sense that it does not have windows, electricity, nor hot water. But as Pedro states: ‘candles are nicer anyway’ 😊 And since there is no electricity, there is no fridge and so they only cook fresh food and every meal was delicious!
We spent the first day walking around in the garden and learning about the production process of coffee. Pedro told us about the current regulations in Colombia: almost all ‘raw’ coffee beans are exported. In Colombia you will hardly drink real Colombian coffee since the production process doesn’t take place here. Apparently most Colombians (incl. coffee farmers) drink Nescafé at home…
All export of coffee beans goes via one private owned company called ‘Juan Valdez’, it is not allowed as a farmer to expert beans directly to a foreign company. All beans are collected and mixed at Juan Valdez, get a (random) specific label like ‘fair trade’ or ‘organic’ and are sold. The farmers don’t get a good price and are forced to focus on quantity instead of quality. They all grow a specific genetically modified coffee plant (which is lower and has more fruits which makes it easier to pick) and often collect fruits that are not yet ripe. In this model it is almost impossible to run a business in the traditional way.
Pedro makes a living by offering eco tourism tours to his farm. He has a few coffee plants and the rest of the garden is a great mixture of plants and trees. This biodiversity is for example important for wildlife. Pedro guides people around and explains the traditional and new way of farming. He does not sell the beans for export, but processes them himself and sells the coffee to tourists visiting his house (like us).
It was really interesting to watch to production process of the coffee:
1. Pick the fruits (only the red ones are ripe).
2. Separate the seed (bean) from the fruit.
3. Let the bean (that looks like a peanut) dry and ferment for 2 days in a closed wooden box. Normally the beans are exported after this step.
4. Remove the skin (perkament) from the bean.
5. Heat the bean at 200 degrees for 15-20 minutes while constantly rotating. Only after this step the coffee bean looks like the brown bean as we know it.
6. Let the beans cool down.
7. Grind the beans.
8. Make coffee! Several different techniques are possible like filtration, infusion or espresso (steam).
The fresh coffee tasted great! We went to bed early – tired from listening and talking lots of Spanish all day 😉 – and slept well in our ‘tent’ in the upper part of the house.
The next day we woke up with a stunning view on the mountains, lots of birds and of course… fresh coffee! We walked around a bit in the morning and spent the rest of the day mainly reading since it was quite rainy.
We really enjoyed our stay at this peaceful place and would definitely recommend everyone who’s visiting the Colombian zona cafeteria to bring Pedro and his lovely family a visit. You can find more information about them on their website: http://www.44inc.com/fincasachamama/about.html
To conclude: all above information is as Pedro told us (or better; as how we understood his story in Spanish 😬) so it might be the case that there are different points of view on the ‘Colombian coffee story’ or that some details are not 100% correct 😉