Tuesday, May 29 – Day 1 of Colombia Coffee Project
Blog by Annika Horn
Waking up early to green Jardín, in the heart of Antioquia (one of Colombia’s 32 departments) was like waking up on Christmas morning. Our Colombian experience was finally about to begin. We young explorers are as excited as children about to unwrap the shiny gifts awaiting us under the tree. We have no idea what to expect here, but we are certain that what awaits will be unlike anything any of us have ever experienced.
We assembled together for a morning meeting at the Hacienda Balandu where we had spent the night. After a filling breakfast complete with hot chocolate (the traditional morning beverage in Colombia) we learned from Santiago Arango, Nespresso South America Green Coffee Project Manager, that each one of us young explorers would be allocated to a different farm in Jardín. (Our very own coffee farm!) We will spend the next three days apart from each other, living the life of our Colombian coffee farmer who had each generously volunteered to host us in his home.
After the meeting, the Nespresso coffee technician team arrived in a fleet of rugged turquoise Jeeps for introductions and distribution of wellington boots, ponchos, and bug spray. With a final wave goodbye to my fellow young explorers, we went our separate ways. After a long bumpy ride deep into remote green canopies, I finally arrived to my home sweet farm. My host farmer’s name is Fabio; he was waiting for me with the biggest welcoming smile I had ever seen. As I hopped off the truck, Fabio helped me with my luggage and showed me to my room.
Fabio is a 36-year-old coffee farmer, who has been living alone, working on his “finca” (Spanish for “farm”) since the age of 14. He owned the most adorable little house, so much different than what I was expecting. It was just two bedrooms, with a kitchen and a minuscule bathroom. The walls were painted in a sky-like blue and Fabio’s designated color for his cement floor was a bright yellow — which reminded me of a shining sun. His little finca looked like paradise on earth, his front yard had been freshly cut, his goats were munching away happily and a 2-week old puppy was following me curiously. The gay and joyful colors of his tropical looking flowers were a pleasure to observe. The air I was breathing was fresh and clean and nature’s quietness that surrounded me was pure delight to my ears. Amongst the full-sensory bliss, what struck me most was the view. The scenery was mind blowing; through all of my travels, my eyes had never seen such beauty. The green mountains were standing tall and proud in the distance, rolling hills were covered with never ending coffee fields, exotic trees and every squares of colorful little fincas could be spotted against bright blue skies. The clouds that rolled in looked dramatic and intimidating as the heavens threatened rain not far in the distance.
Once the beauty before me had finally soaked in, I regained my senses and went off with Fabio into the fields to pick my first coffee cherries. He gave me a poncho, a sombrero, a bucket to tie around my waist and a few instructions about the picking process. Then we were off! I was told to pick the red ripe cherries amongst the green ones and I had to make sure I didn’t miss a single one. Because for Fabio — as for every other farmer in this region of Colombia — every single coffee bean counts.
As we were picking, Fabio and I couldn’t stop chatting. We were comparing our lives, from the food we eat, to the clothes we wear, passing through short descriptions of our homes, our jobs, our pets, our religions, our families, our houses, and daily habits. As excepted, we had not much in common in the details, but for one all-important exception, we were both happy and perfectly satisfied people. I was amazed by Fabio, he had so little yet he was so proud of his life and especially of his finca, and I was delighted at his impatience to share every single detail with me.