We decided to do a day trip to Minca to visit a coffee plantation with our friends from another boat, Totem. Its a 30 minute walk (taxi is 5000 COP) from the marina at Santa Marta to the office of the company, Cootraminca to purchase our van ticket. The vans wait outside the office and when they are full they leave. Our group was 10 people, so we waited about 10 minutes for an empty van big enough to hold all of us. The trip is quite windy and takes about 45 minutes to get there.
After our arrival in Minca we decided on doing the hike to La Candelaria Coffee Farm. as they offered both coffee and cacao tours. From the van drop off point you have a short walk back up the hill before, before taking the first street on your right and walking for about 15 minutes on a relative flat road, passing restaurants, hostels, horse riding ranches and a few farms. Before reaching the turn off for Candelaria Coffee Farm we had a dog join our group and stayed with us for most of the way up, thrilling the kids. Although the signs say that from the turn off its a 45 minute walk, it took us well over an hour to make it up the steep road. The kids managed the hike no problems, their mother was not too happy and about 1/2 the way up I told my husband to pick me up on the way down. I did make it up, but I’m sure I will be sore tomorrow. An alternative to the walk is to get someone to take you up by motorcycle from the town, I wish I had known that.
After finally making it up to the farm and entering the main building we were greeted by the resident toucan, Tuki. The kids took turns holding out their arm for Tuki to flutter on. Tuki had a bit of a fascination with Tristan’s wristbands and kept pecking at them, which he enjoyed.
By the time we had recovered from our walk, looked at Tuki and enjoyed the view from the farmhouse, we were all starving. Unfortunately La Candelaria does not do lunch, unless you are staying their overnight and have pre-booked it. So lunch had to wait.
The farm has been in the family for nearly a 100 years and was first started by Eugenio’s (current owner) grandfather. Eugenio conducted out coffee tour in English, first taking us to the old coffee arabica bushes. Arabica beans are the chosen coffee plant in this area as they like to be between 1200 – 1800 m above sea level. The coffee farms in this area have suffered in the last few years due to a roya fungus which is killing the plants, the borer worm which destroys the beans and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 which nearly wiped out the years coffee beans. As the farms in this area are organic, the farmers have had to come up with unique, non-pesticide ways to solve the problems of the fungus and worm. The farms are small and so they belong to the Federation der Cafeteros or the FNC, which although corrupt, does offer the farmers a way to get finance from the banks and both research facilities and scientists who have helped to solve the problem of the fungus. Currently the scientists have found that they can crossbreed the coffee bushes from Indonesia with the Colombian ones and have a coffee bush resistant to the fungus. The only problem is that it requires the removal of the old bushes and replacing with the new variety, which is not only expensive, but also takes time for the bushes to mature and produce the beans. Canderalia is slowly replacing all of its bushes, so far 50% have been replaced. Canderlaria also buys in wasp colonies which kills the worms before they can destroy all the beans. So although coffee bean production has been very low for the farm over the last few years, they have opened up a B and B and are hopeful that production will pick up in the future.
After the coffee beans have been picked they are soaked in water for 24 hours, followed by drying, they have an oven like machine that they use in the wet season and in the dry season they are dried in the sun for a week or so. The skins are then removed, the beans roasted and either sold as beans or ground coffee. Most of the farm’s coffee is sold to tourists or internally in Colombia, they do hope when production increases again to be able to export their beans. An interesting fact: Finnish are the world’s biggest coffee drinkers. Another interesting fact: The average Colombian drinks Tinto, a sugary, watered down coffee with cheaper coffee beans.
The tour finished back in the farm house where Eugenio, ground some coffee beans and using a french press brewed some coffee, which everyone tried. Tristan liked it so much he bough 500 gram bag and everyone else thought that although the brew was strong, it was also very smooth. I actually don’t like the taste or smell of coffee and while I still don’t like the taste, this coffee has a delicious hint of chocolate in the smell.
Our hike down took about 45 minutes and the kids were pleased to catch up with the dog who had escorted us up, waiting at the bottom. It was about 4 pm when we got down so we grabbed a snack of empanadas and papas rellenas (my favourite) before our return van trip home.
We enjoyed our day trip but it was a fairly long, exhausting day and rushed, but there are plenty of options with hostels to stay a night or a few and do hiking trips to the lost city and other farms. Minca has a bit of a hippie feel and there are plenty of young backpackers who head there for hiking, as well as older people looking for the relaxing experience.
Tourist Information for El Paraiso de Tuki or in English The Paradise of Tuki (Candelaria Coffee Farm)
- Coffee tour costs 20 000 COP pp and you need a minimum of 2 people. Tour lasts one hour and you will do a tour of the process of making the organic coffee from the bush through to grinding coffee and tasting a cup.
- Cacao tour costs 20 000 COP pp and you need a minimum of 2 people. Tour lasts 1 hours includes an explanation of the Cacao plant, making chocolate and sampling a hot chocolate.
HILO (Candelaria Farm Coffee) products:
- 250 g of HILO coffee – 15 000 COP
- 500 g of HILO coffee – 20 000 COP
- Honey – 15 000 COP
- 250 g of HILO Cacao – 15 000 COP
Transport to Minca: We went Cootraminca, located on the streets Calle 12 and Carrera 9. There is a small ticket office, tickets cost 8 000 COP per person. The vans leave when they are full. The drivers have a white shirt with the company logo on it and there is usually an empty or partially filled van waiting for more passengers.
Official Website: https://www.elparaisodetukibnb.com/