Today Marc and I left Bogotá for the Coffee Triangle, where we will be spending Christmas. It was a very quick and an easy flight to get there, which was nice. We were picked up at the airport by the place we are staying and were surrounded by mountains and lots of different crops. It was pretty and a change from what we have seen so far on this trip.
Side note on Bogotá: We will be back. I was a bit bummed that we didn’t have more time to explore, but I really liked what I saw and experienced. Really cool vibe, lots of parks, good layout of the city and excellent food.
When we arrived at the hacienda, it just felt so peaceful. The layout seemed very traditional and has lots of flowers, places to chill and beautiful views to take in. The staff was really warm and friendly, and had our room ready to go plus our itinerary for our stay. Unpacked, had a nice lunch by the pool, and also applied bug spray (yep, we’re now in a place where the bugs are “friendly”).
Our guide came to pick us up at 2:30pm for a tour so we could learn more about what is grown on the property. We went through a bamboo forest, where we were chased down by cows (kind of reminded me of this incident on the ‘Australian Walkabout’) - literally they followed us and blocked the entrance out of the forest. Fortunately our guide had a good distraction and we escaped unharmed.
We then learned some interesting facts about Colombia from Guillermo. Colombia is a country that straddles both the Atlantic (via the Caribbean) and the Pacific Oceans. It also has 2 different mountain ranges, 3 glaciers and 2 deserts. This leads to 86 different microclimates and the weather forecasts being about 50% correct (hmmm). They also have 1900+ species of birds. We are now at 3600 feet of elevation in the Coffee Triangle as opposed to the 8300+ feet of elevation we were at in Bogotá.
We looked at cocoa plants and talked in depth of how the plant grows, is cultivated and then how the beans are extracted so they can be sold. This set us up well for the cocoa tasting that we had later on in the afternoon. Amongst the cocoa plants were lots of banana trees. We learned that the bananas take lots of moisture out of the soil, which helps the cocoa plants. Also for those who were always curious about the difference between plantains and bananas - the former is a veggie and needs to be cooked. The latter is a fruit and does not need to be cooked.
Marc and I then went to our chocolate tasting class, which had similarities to the one we took in Peru. This one was more in-depth and was led by the chef of the property itself, Reuben. Guillermo stayed on to translate for us. The main delta between today’s experience and the one in Lima was around the grinding process. In Lima, we skipped the step of grinding roasted beans until a smooth paste. Reuben ground them into a chocolate paste in the shape of a ball so the output was less chunky than in Lima. Basically it was ground down until the cocoa butter was separating from the rest.
We also learned that Peru and Colombia have many similarities around cuisine and gastronomy, but the main difference is that Peru has done a better job of promoting it. As we were talking to Reuben, we started discussing how cassava and yuca being used in Colombian cooking fairly frequently as a starch. It dawned on me that I might have better success with the cassava flour that we experimented with earlier in the year as a thickener. Arrowroot is a gluten-free thickener used in Paleo circles, but it doesn’t always work how I would like in my dishes. I am excited to try this when we get home!
After the class, the property prepared a special Christmas Eve dinner outside with really nice lighting. It was a set menu and they had more chocolate treats than Marc could ever ask for. It was a beautiful setting to watch the sunset with a cocktail or two. All in all, a wonderful start to our chapter in the Coffee Triangle.