190 miles from Colombia’s capital, Bogotá, lies the city of Manizales, best known as a center of fine coffee production. We came to Manizales in search of one particular farm that feeds that reputation: Buenos Aires. Getting there required another forty minute drive through winding roads in lush Andean rainforests. Along the road, local “fondas” (road-side stores) sell everything from toilet paper to horse saddles.
It’s hard to think of a denser, greener landscape - perhaps that’s why coffee shrubs grow so abundantly in this part of the planet. We turned off the main artery cutting through the countryside and found ourselves jostling over a bumpy dirt road all the way to the bottom of a narrow valley where we encountered the famous Tapias river, a key resource for the production of the region’s great specialty coffees. From there, we climbed through a series of steep, narrow switchbacks until we reached the top of the hill where a beautiful, traditional Colombian coffee hacienda has been sitting for over 80 years.
Rodrigo (owner) and César (his lieutenant) welcomed us with a generous lunch (sancocho) followed by a walk around the main house while they explained the history behind the farm. It’s a magical place. The floors in the house creak with each step giving it the comforting feel of a home that has protected several generations of family. Maybe the sound is a reminder of the rich tradition and coffee culture this place contains.
A trip through the surrounding coffee fields leaves us with astonishing views surpassed only by the exquisite experience of laying in a hammock while sipping the house brew.
Rodrigo, a dentist who passionately talks about his “side job” as coffee entrepreneur, was able to buy back the farm that once belonged to his family, revitalizing the greatness of a decaying estate while making him a fourth generation coffee grower. Committed to his region as much as to his community, he has generously collaborated with the neighbouring farmers to promote the Tapias valley coffee through project “Laderas del Tapias”.
By improving their hand-picking standards and meticulously documenting their processes, the project has been able to raise production quality across the board. This has resulted in increased interest from craft roasters in Europe and the US, which is why White Tale Coffee just had to come visit.
Genuinely concerned about the environmental effects of intensive farming, Rodrigo has allocated almost 40% of his land to protect the native forest, underscoring the importance he places on water preservation as well as the protection of local wildlife. His determination and hard work has also brought the Tapias community together in their efforts to burnish their reputation as an point of origin for fine coffee - a source of great pride in the region.
The Neira region where this coffee is grown has been designated a Coffee Landscape World Heritage by UNESCO, an award which recognises the cultural wealth surrounding Colombia’s coffee culture. We are very enthusiastic about our relationship with the Laderas del Tapias community; their beans are a tribute to the great history and hard work of these family farmers.
An early morning brew offers a chance to experience the pride of the Tapias valley.