WakeCup to the Best Coffee Tour in Colombia!

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best coffee tour in colombia
Coffee beans, or “cherries”, at Don Leon’s finca (estate)

During my travels to many countries over the last 12 years, I have taken a lot of day tours, either with a group or privately. I’ve seen a lot of amazing things, but I don’t often have what I would call an “authentic” experience. The WakeCup Coffee Tour is exactly that. Authentic. I got to meet not one, but two coffee farmers, and witness the entire process from bean to cup. This is what I think makes WakeCup the best coffee tour in Colombia. Not many people can say they got to meet the farmer who grew their coffee. Meeting these coffee farmers really made my trip to South America special.

I first read about the WakeCup Coffee Tour on seecolombia.travel/blog where you can read about this blogger’s experience with this same tour. You’ll see we had a similar experience and met the same farmers who make this tour so unique and special.

My day started with a bus ride from Pereira to Pijao at around 7:30AM, with a transfer in Armenia. The bus trip from Pereira is easy, but you’ll need to leave Pereira early in order to reach Pijao before 10:00AM.

The beautiful little town of Pijao houses the offices of Experiencia Cafetera, the tour company behind the WakeCup Coffee tour. Juan David Agudelo is the owner. He’s young and innovative, and just the type of entrepreneur that makes Colombia’s Zona Cafetera region a great place to visit. I joined a couple from Israel for this tour, and our guide was Hugo, who is also the accountant for Experiencia Cafetera. The other guide, for the first part of the tour at least, was Capitan. He was sent back home for being easily distracted.

best coffee tour in colombia
As you can see, Capitan was easily distracted. He’s a guide in training.

One of the things I like most about the WakeCup Coffee Tour is that it promotes sustainable tourism and fair trade. It also helps local farmers benefit directly from the tourism industry rather than having to go through a third party or middle man. I bought a bag of gorgeous coffee from both of the farmers we met, and one of them has his own cafe in the town of Pijao, as you will read about later. Sustainable, eco-friendly tourism is something that Experiencia Cafetera believes in, and it is one of the reasons this company keeps the tours small and maintains the quality of their tours and accommodation.

Our tour started in Pijao, where Hugo gave us a brief tour of the town, explaining how it got its name and showing us the river that is so important for the processing of the coffee beans. We also stopped by the co-op where the coffee farmers sell their beans, and then the co-op sells them to big buyers, like Starbucks and McDonald’s. I found this aspect of the tour particularly interesting. How many times have you been to a co-op or warehouse where your coffee is stored before it is exported?

best coffee tour in colombia
The local co-op in Pijao buys coffee from the farmers and sells to big coffee industries overseas

Pijao is a beautiful little town. All the action happens around the town square, and that’s where we headed to taste two different kinds of coffee. The first was “just coffee” and the second was specialty coffee brewed for us by the farmer who grew it. We had our first cuppa joe at the oldest cafe in Pijao, made with the oldest coffee machine in Pijao. It’s been at this same cafe for 80 years and was brought on horseback from Argentina.

best coffee tour in colombia
The river water comes from the Andes and is clean and very important to the farmers
best coffee tour in colombia
The town square in Pijao is where life happens

I must admit, I thought the coffee was pretty good, but certainly not the best I’ve ever had. Hugo informed me that this was “just coffee” and that we would have the really good stuff in a few minutes. He was right. But I enjoyed the coffee from this ancient machine. It even has a milk frother.

best coffee tour in colombia
The oldest coffee machine in Pijao. It still works. Every day.

Next we went to Cafe La Floresta and met Carlos Arturo, the owner of the cafe and a coffee farmer. A few years ago, Carlos was bankrupt and the government took his house away. That’s when he got into the coffee business. His coffee, La Floresta, proves he knows what he’s doing when it comes to growing, processing, and brewing coffee.

We sat down in the back of his cafe and watched him brew each of his three types of roasted coffee – washed, honey, and natural – using different methods. Each method of brewing is meant to compliment that particular type of roasted bean. Washed beans have the slimy, slightly sweet covering removed before they are dried, which takes six months. The “honey” bean is dried with the slimy covering on it for six months. The natural bean is dried not only with the slimy coating, but the husk still on it, and this process takes 18 months.

best coffee tour in colombia
Carlos Arturo working his magic at his cafe, La Floresta

Slimy is the word Hugo used, but it’s actually more slippery. This coating between the bean and the husk makes a big difference in taste, depending on how it is processed. Carlos used a V60 brew technique, originating in Japan, for the washed bean. He used a German method, for the honey, and for the natural I admit, I cannot remember. They were all excellent, but the natural was my favorite. All of these coffees were from Carlos’ specialty coffee beans. Thanks to his expert knowledge, and a budding tourism industry, Carlos only grows specialty beans that he the roasts and sells in his cafe. He doesn’t have to buy beans from anyone else, or sell lower quality beans to the masses in order to make a profit.

best coffee tour in colombia
Carlos and Hugo in Cafe La Floresta after many cups of excellent coffee
best coffee tour in colombia
Different brew methods on display, along with an award Carlos won for his specialty coffee – well deserved

After this tasting, Capitan was sent home and we were picked up in a Willy’s Jeep for the 30 minute ride to a coffee farm owned by Leon Campo Salazar. He and his wife live on the farm and we were treated to a delicious, traditional lunch made by Leon’s wife. After a bit of rest, because we were all full from lunch, we walked up the hill with Leo to see his coffee trees and learn about his specialty coffee. The specialty coffee requires more shade, so it is planted under large trees, and banana trees. He also sells the bananas! He explained that coffee, just like wine, takes on the flavors of the earth where it is planted.

best coffee tour in colombia
Leon, coffee farmer and owner of Don Leo coffee

Leo guided us through each step of the process, from planting the trees grown from the beans, to washing and drying them, roasting, and then finally, drinking the fruits of his labor. His specialty coffee goes through the same processes that Carlos’ does. We now had to pay for our lunch by picking through the beans to find any that were flawed and remove them, which is harder than it sounds. I think if I were auditioning for that job, Leo wouldn’t hire me! I was too slow! Next, Leo washed the beans, and any beans that floated were removed. Why, you ask? If they float, it means there’s no bean inside! Or only half of a bean. We were shown the rest of the process, including how the husk is removed by a machine.

best coffee tour in colombia
Hugo sorting through the cherries to pick the best ones
best coffee tour in colombia
This machine removes the husks from the coffee cherries

We went up on the roof of one building where the beans were being dried. We observed three different stages of the drying process. One washed, one honey, and on another section of roof Leo was drying his beans that he sells to the co-op. We could see the difference in what the co-op would accept, and what Leo expected from his specialty beans. Hugo showed us what Leo has to do if it rains. The metal roof of the building just rolls right over the top of the beans so they don’t get wet. So clever!

best coffee tour in colombia
Coffee beans from Leo’s specialty coffee – it smelled so good up here on the roof

Leo has only been growing coffee for six years. His knowledge of this plant, the beans, and the entire process is astounding given that he’s only been doing this a short time. The conflict that Colombia suffered through for years caused Leo to be displaced twice. When he came to Quindo six years ago, he began growing coffee to sell to the co-op, the local buyer, a middle-man, who sells the coffee beans to buyers in other countries. Big buyers. Not the small cafe owners.

In the last six years his knowledge and experience have led him to grow his own specialty coffee. He now processes, roasts, and sells it to the people on the WakeCup coffee tours. He’s also starting to sell his specialty coffees to people in other countries who have their own small businesses, enabling him to make a much higher profit margin than he does selling to the co-op.

This is why the relationship between Juan and Hugo at Experiencia Cafetera and the local coffee growers is so important. Most people who take a coffee tour don’t meet the person who grew what’s in their cup. That important personal element makes all the difference. When people are able to see the knowledge, experience, and labor that goes into getting a really good cup of coffee, it makes that coffee taste that much better.

best coffee tour in colombia
Leo showing us how to remove the skin from the beans, but only he can do it by hand

Now for the moment you’ve all been waiting for. I know you want the contact information for Experiencia Cafetera so that you can book your own tour. I’ve included their information below as well as a link to their website in the article.

Experiencia Cafetera

Juan David Agudelo – Tour Operator

agente@experienciacafetera.com

+57 318 4932758

For a group of 6 or less, the price is $150.000 COP each, and for groups of 7 or more, $120.000 COP each. I joined another couple, so if you are just one or two people and want to keep costs down by joining another tour, this is possible, but tour sizes are limited. They keep the tours small to keep the quality of the tour high. The tour begins at 10:00am and lasts about 5 to 6 hours. Keep in mind this includes a traditional Colombian lunch at the farm and a lot of great coffee. 

Juan also owns and runs Panorama Cafe Hostel in Buenavista, which is about 20 minutes from Pijao. This is a great place to stay to explore the area. A stay here includes all the great coffee you can drink!

I hope you enjoyed this “tour” of Pijao’s coffee region and meeting the farmers who grow your coffee. I hope it inspires you to take the best coffee tour in Colombia and learn more about the process. I would love to hear your thoughts on the tour below in the comments section. I’ll be sure to pass them along to Juan and Hugo. And Capitan, of course.

best coffee tour in colombia
One last picture of Capitan, laying down on the job. He’s got a lot to learn before becoming a professional guide.

 

 

 

 

 

Mary Lyons
I have had incredible travel opportunities since moving overseas eleven years ago. I created this blog to share my experiences, what I've learned, and my mistakes and frustrations, in hopes of entertaining readers and helping people to create and plan their own travel opportunities.

7 thoughts on “WakeCup to the Best Coffee Tour in Colombia!”

  1. I’m glad my blog inspired you to take the tour and that you had such a good time. I’m also so happy to see Capitan looking so healthy and happy: when I lived in Juan David’s house in Pijao for a month last year he had just rescued him and he was still so nervous and thin. He’s such a sweet dog and you really made my day with those photos of him 🙂 Enjoyed the article, and thanks for the shout out.

    1. Hi Chris, thanks for reading! I’m happy to give your blog a shout out. It’s the reason I went on this tour, and I so enjoyed it and learned so much. I too fell in love with Capitan. He is doing great. Happy, healthy, friendly, and loves a good belly rub. He cracked me up digging those holes. Your article about the WakeCup Coffee Tour is very informative and has great details, so I hope between your article and mine, more people will take the tour and learn about how to help local coffee growers.

  2. I hate following your blog… Haha, okay, just joking 😉 You just remind me of all the stuff that I visit that I had done or known about when I was in Colombia, and then you make me so badly want to go back and explore it all 🙂

    A super great and interesting post! It makes me so happy to know that there are people out there taking care of the local communities and the farms by providing these kind of tours. Thanks for sharing! It was so nice to be taken with you on the tour.

    1. Thanks and thank you for reading! I’m glad you felt like you were there with me on the tour. You’ll just have to come back and experience it for yourself! I am in Peru now, but I already miss Colombia.

  3. Hi Mary. Loved this post. Firstly, because I’m addicted to coffee and secondly because my surname is ‘Pereira.’ Now I certainly want to visit Columbia. So much of relevant information in this post for first time visitors. Thank you.

    1. Thanks, traveltoes85! I remember seeing your surname on Instagram, I think, or maybe on your blog somewhere, while I was actually in Pereira. If you’re thinking of visiting Colombia, the WakeCup coffee tour is certainly a must.

I would love to know your thoughts!

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