A Coffee Tour With A Twist
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. – UNESCO World Heritage explanation of Colombia’s Coffee Cultural Landscape
I had heard of Panorama Cafe Hostel before but I also forgot about it. So when a friend suggested we go there for a break for the city, I knew it wasn’t some off the grid spot she found. I’m all for exploring off the beaten path, but I also prefer to not be a guinea pig when I need the break. Panorama Cafe Hostel is the sister company to Experiencia Cafetera so when I was there, I was offered to do a tour. I rolled my eyes. I’ve done too many coffee tours in Colombia, how could this one be any different?
This post is not endorsed by Experiencia Cafetera, so I can be honest.
This was the best coffee tour I ever did!
I’ve done coffee tours in Huila (a local gave us a tour of his finca for free), Minca (Finca La Victoria) and Salento (Finca Don Eduardo). The tour in Minca was interesting because it was an organic farm and they used only gravity and water when harvesting and preparing the coffee beans, which wasn’t done at any of the other fincas I’ve been to and I believe the process is unique to them. However, Experiencia Cafetera explained the culture of coffee and how it has impacted this region of Colombia.
There are different coffee regions in Colombia, but only one of them is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Experiencia Cafetera is the only tour (that I know) that explains how and why the areas in the western and central Andes received this prestigious honour.
On the tour, I got the opportunity to witness coffee beans being sold from the farmer to a wholesaler and the quality checks that had to be done. I also got to taste the different methods of coffee preparation and how the same bean can produce a different flavour (it’s mind blowing!).
The tour is based out of Pijao, Quindio (my favourite pueblo in Colombia – and that’s saying something because I’ve been to quite a few). This pueblo is about 40mins from Armenia, which is the same travel time to Salento. More tourists go to Salento, but this tour is off the beaten path and for those who want to experience the real Colombia. Because of this, I’ve met people who do the coffee tour then go to Salento for the Valle de Cocora hike.
This tour is all day so you get lunch, drinks and the best empanadas I’ve ever had in Colombia (those little ladies in Pijao can cook). And to end the day, one of the best sunset views (weather permitting of course).
The great thing about this tour is that it is all about sustainability and empowering the local people. I can’t recommend it enough.
Where to stay:
Panorama Hostel is based in Buenavista, another quaint pueblo, but the tour company will arrange pick up for you from the hostel. Casa Sarria is a Airbnb property in the town of Pijao that I have my eye on.
How to get here:
From Armenia, take a bus to Buenavista or another bus to Pijao. Although Buenavista and Pijao are 20mins apart, there is no public transportation between the towns and a Willy costs $30,000 COP. Your best bet is to talk to Experencia Cafetera and ask them where to stay that suits your needs.
Where to eat:
If in Buenavista, you have to eat at Rio Azul and try one of the trout dishes or the Arroz al Wok. So freaking good! Unfortunately, the best restaurant in Buenavista only opens Friday, Saturday and Sunday so time your visit accordingly. Buenavista is tiny, and although there are 2 more restaurants I don’t recommend them. If their dishes aren’t bland they are too salty. If in Pijao, there are more restaurants and the food tastes better here.
What to do:
First of all, drink all the coffee you can because the coffee here is one of best I’ve had in the country. Hike to the river, other viewpoints or mini waterfalls. Watch the clouds move in the valley as the sun rises from the hostel sofa. Pet the friendly ginger, black and white cat in the supermarket in Buenavista. Watch the sunset over the valley from the town entrance. If you time your visit right, you can experience the horse festival that takes place during Christmas week in Pijao. Take a horseback riding tour – my friend and I went horseback riding two days and the views were amazing! The most award winning cafe is in tiny Buenavista. I would take my book to Cafe San Alberto, and sipped my cappuccino whilst admiring the view from their terrace. Paragliding with Quindio Aventurero – I didn’t do paragliding in Medellin but I think this is better because the views over citrus plantations and coffee fincas can’t be beaten.
Now, the rest of the photos