Tag Archives: coffee

Minca, or thereabouts…

Finca Carpe DiemThe small town of Minca is a reasonably popular destination in the hills of Colombia South-East of Santa Marta. My plan was to head to Minca, but with last minute bookings I ended up staying on a small coffee Finca called Finca Carpe Diem in the hills south east of the tiny town of Bonda. While the hills of Bonda and the hills of Minca are different places, they offer the same things. Relaxing in the jungles, visits to coffee farms, cacao farms, hike to hilltop viewpoints and hikes to swim in waterfalls and natural jacuzzis.

Finca Carpe Diem is a very relaxing place to be. It is completely surrounded by trees and jungle, set alongside a river in the hills. The hostel has several rooms and bungalows around the property. Central to the hostel are the outdoor swimming pool and the nearby dining room. While many activities are in walking distance of the hostel, many people spend a large amount of time sitting around chatting and/or swimming.

Available for your perusal is a book of the activities available in the area, some are self-guided and others you can pay a guide for. At the suggestion of the book I did a little local exploring of waterways and waterfalls, but also engaged in two paid activities. A visit to the local Cacao Finca and a Waterfall tour.

Finca de Cacao

Approximately 30 minutes walk through the jungle is where Finca de Cacao can be found. It is a very small family run cacao finca. The farm has been in the family for many generations and is currently run by Diana and her family.

Ripe and freshly opened cacao podAs we strolled onto the property, Diana jumped from her hammock to give us a super friendly and enthusiastic greeting to the farm. She welcomes you with a piece of her organic, artisanal handmade chocolate before launching into the tour options – 30 mins for 10,000 pesos or 1.5 hours for 15,000 pesos. With the heat and the fact that Diana did not speak a word of English, we opted for 30 minutes.

Even though Diana is unable to speak English, she is absolutely brilliant at choosing the language relevant to people who only speak a small amount of Spanish, and despite our fears, we understood the entire tour!

The Cacao Finca has 1600 entirely organic trees. They harvest throughout the year but some months are ‘high season’ for harvest. All the cacao beans are fermented for 4-8 days after harvest, followed by drying in the sun for 4-5 days and eventually being roasted. The roasted beans are stripped of their outer shell by hand, before being manually ground through an old fashioned coffee grinder. The cacao paste is kneaded by hand and has sugar and cinnamon mixed through for sweetening. Maria may then add additional ingredients depending on what she is making at the time.

We had the opportunity to try the fresh fruit as well as the cacao beans in all their stages of development, right through to the terribly bitter cacao paste and then the sweetened version of it.

Colombia is a big exporter of chocolate, not so much in terms of quantity, but it is known in the world as some of the best quality chocolate.

Waterfall Tour

Swimming in a remote waterfall in the jungleFor 35,000 pesos each we headed off with a local called Luis, to traipse through the hidden jungle trails to a couple of large and private waterfalls. Luis also didn’t speak any English, but wasn’t as good as Diana as simplifying his language. So apart from a few stilted exchanges we mostly walked in silence.

We first walked past several local fruit farms, before jumping across a river and heading into the unknown. Being amongst the trees in the jungle, no where near other people is a brilliant feeling, and it’s fantastic to listen to the sounds of the jungle nature around you.

Within minutes of starting the walk you are dripping with sweat from every single inch of your body. So arriving at the waterfalls with icy fresh water was quite a nice contrast to the humid sticky air around. We splashed about in each of the waterfalls for a while, enjoying the cooling water and the stunning environment, before heading back. The tour in total takes around 3hours.

Getting There and Away

I headed to Finca Carpe Diem from Santa Marta.

Heading there we got a taxi to Bonda for 50,000 pesos (it turns out we got ripped off and it should have been 10,000). From Bonda we got bumpy motor-taxi ride up a dirt road to the hostel for 10,000 pesos.

Returning to Santa Marta we got the motor-taxi for 10,000 pesos back to Bonda and then a local bus for 1,400 pesos.

I did not pay too much attention to the time of transit, but I would allow at least 1 -1.5 hours.




OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAntigua is a UNESCO World Heritage site in the Guatemalan highlands at 1500 metres above sea level. It was founded in the early 16th century. Like Lake Atitlan it is in an earthquake prone region surrounded by volcanos. There was a large scale earthquake in 1773 which destroyed almost the entire city. Much of Antigua was rebuilt, though some of the old monuments remaining.

The city has an Italian/Spanish influence and like so many other towns has such character in the buildings and cobbled streets. It’s just fantastic to wander and explore. I spent quite some time getting lost in the streets and have loads of awesome pictures of the different streets, doorways and ruins.


For US$20 and a national park entrance fee of 50 quetzales, a group of five of us did a half day tour to the Pacaya Volcano. It’s roughly a 1.5 hour bumpy drive from Antigua.

The hike is not overly challenging and is 6 kilometers return. As you might imagine the hike there was uphill and the return was downhill. Despite having a terrible, uninterested guide, the hike was pretty awesome and we were all glad we did it.


We thought we would be walking to the crater, but this was not actually the case. We walked to a viewing platform of sorts and then descended a short distance to the base of the 2010 lava flow.

It was interesting to see the lava flow and all the broken chunks of volcanic rock. At the very base there was a small hole in which we were able to roast marshmallows. Despite being quite some distance from the actual craters edge, it was incredible how hot the air coming from the lava flow was.

Coffee Plantation Tour

A group of ten of us booked a private tour to the Azotea Coffee Plantation. The transport cost 30 Quetzales and entrance to the plantation with guided tour was 50 Quetzales, all up the trip was approximately 2.5 hours.


The tour was throughly fascinating and we had a brilliant guide. I learned some very interesting things along the way.

Coffee was discovered accidentally in Ethiopia when a farmers goats ate the beans and then couldn’t sleep and were incredibly energetic. Coffee is rated in terms of quality and production. For quality the top three producers are Ethiopia, Kenya and Guatemala. For production, or quantity, the top three are Brazil, Vietnam and Columbia.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere are two main types of coffee, the first is Arabica which is grown in the shade, allowing the coffee to be a better quality, but it doesn’t produce a great quantity as it can only be harvested once a year. The second type is Robusta, which is grown in the sun and can be harvested twice a year, which leads to higher production quantities.

When coffee beans are red they are ready to be picked. This is called a coffee cherry. Each cherry contains 2 beans, though occasionally a cherry will contain just one bean, in which case it is referred to as peaberry coffee. The beans are stripped of their husks to access the bean itself, before being roasted. Beans are typically roasted to medium, medium dark or dark roast. Once roasted they are ready to be ground and prepared to drink.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAt the end of the tour we got the opportunity to taste a standard medium dark roast, which was a bit strong for me, and a peaberry coffee which had a more subtle flavour.

The plantation owner from the year 1912 onwards, Alberto Orive Del Pando has been quoted as having said “Coffee should be black as night, strong as passion, sweet as love and hot as hell”. I still like my coffee sweet and white, but I think he did a great job with the plantation as they continue to produce great coffee!

Check out all my Antigua photos on Flickr