Colombia: Zona Cafetera & Hacienda Venecia
The mountainous region south of Medellin is collectively known as Zona Cafetera and is the heart of the Colombian coffee growing. It is designed as UNESCO World Heritage site as the Coffee Cultural Landscape of Colombia. Many historic coffee plantations, some with over 100 years of history dot the verdant hills, growing the choicest Colombian beans. One of the more celebrated and famous ones is Hacienda Venecia near Manizales. During a full coffee tour of the plantation you get to see everything about coffee making from A to Z – blooming coffee plants and ripe berries, the collection process, wet and dry milling, sorting, roasting, and finally brewing and tasting. Almost all the production here goes to export, including to big coffee houses. Interestingly, it is the mild and medium roast that get the best beans and the best aroma and taste qualities (as well as highest caffeine content), and not the dark roast which takes all the leftovers since they are over-burned anyway (hence dark roast is usually cheaper and – coincidentally – that’s what Starbucks buys to later charge you an arm and a leg for Colombian dark roast blend). Live and learn! Oh, and we also got to try local rums as a bonus.