Yesterday morning (that is, Monday morning), we checked out of the fancy Decameron resort in Armenia and a small group of us hopped on a bus bound for the farm La Rochela located in the Trujilla Valle, about 3 hours from Armenia.
From the moment we got there, we knew we were in for something special. We began by having coffee and breads on the front porch of the hacienda (above). After that, we headed into the living room for a presentation by the family Perez who owns La Rochela.
The presentation was super interesting. They told us how they had gotten both Rainforest and Organic certifed seven years ago, and since then had been carefully tracking the progress of the coffee. But they had actually noticed that in going organic they had lost some of the cup quality, so they were most likely going to go back to conventional farming soon.
After the in-depth presentation, we crossed this amazing foot-bridge that leads to the pool, spa and outdoor grill and clay oven. We ate a great lunch before heading out to get into the fields.
But first, we posed for this group photo with the dudes from Dillanos, who were leaving for Cali. The rest of us were set to spend the night on the farm.
Here are the three members of the Perez family in charge of the hardcore day to day operations, father, uncle and son.
Then we hopped into jeeps and rode into the hills to see the coffee and fertilizing operations. The variety pictured below is the yellow Colombian variety, which was developed to be disease resistant, but actually might be part of the reason cup quality has suffered in recent years.
Below is Julian, the son, showing us the worm composting.
Here’s a photo of the pickers’ quarters, which all of us thought were pretty nice. They had decorated their rooms and planted flowers in cans, and there was a well-tended herb garden just off the kitchen.
One thing that totally blew my mind — having never been to Colombia before, nor having ever been this far south — was that on one coffee tree you could often see ripe cherries alongside underripes aith flowers at top! It’s because they’re so close to the equator. Julian said they harvest 50 weeks out of the year, with the heaviest times being April/May and October/November.
Here are some of the babies…
So one thing they’re doing at La Rochela that is hella cool is that they’re growing Geisha. Here is Baca with one of the one-year-olds.
After the farm visit, we ate an amazing dinner — chicken cooked in the clay oven — and went to bed earlier than we have been. We’re all pretty zonked by now. This morning, this is the view I had when I stepped outside my bedroom door.
And if I turned to the right, this is what I saw.
After breakfast and just before we were to climb back on the bus, we went to check out the nursery across the road where they were growing around 10 different varietals.
We headed out of the valley bound for Cali.
It was another long, windy ride on the bus of death, which is what I called it because I sliced open the back of both of my legs on a jagged piece of metal protruding from the seats. Thank goodness I’m up to date on my shots. And then, finally, we were at Cafe Palo Alto, the cafe in Cali owned by Geoff Watts and Monica Zambrano. It’s way cool.
And Geoff happened to be here! He comes every three months. It’s so obvious how much he and Monica love this place. They’ve completely refurbished the building, which is located in the foodie part of Cali.
Stephen M. was also there, having done a training with the baristas the day before since the Colombia Barista Championship is next month! Here he is teaching Baca the “Morrissey Method” for carrying cups to the judges.
Here, Adam and Abraham relax on one of to outdoor patios at Cafe Palo Alto.
Geoff taught Monica to roast, and she’s been roasting for the past year. Since we’ve been here this afternoon chillin, we’ve all been totally loving the Santuario Tipica from Finca Santuario. Here is Monica with the roaster.
It a well rounded, sophisticated cafe. I remember Aleco from Stumptown telling me before I left on this trip that he loved just hanging out at Cafe Palo Alto, and now I see why.
Early tomorrow morning, Baca and I head to our respective homes — I’m really excited to get home and see Ken and our cats and dog, and catch up on work and sleep, and dig into the last month before the election! But I can say without a doubt that thi experience in Colombia will stay with me forever. Be sure to check out the December/January issue of Barista Magazine for an article about this trip!