February 23: We arrived in Manizales yesterday and everyone quickly piled on their layers as soon as we hit the tarmac. It´s obvious that we´ve become accustomed to the warm climate of Colombia because the `coldest place in the country´ has us shivering- despite being a normally comfortable 60 F. This is part of the coffee growing region in Colombia. The microclimate here is a perfect balance of rain and sun, situated at just the right altitude. Additionally, many of the dramatic and steep hills are actually inactive volcanoes, now carpeted in thick green vegetation. The volcanic ash also adds richness to the soil to grow some of the best beans worldwide.
I took a tour of a small coffee plantation which features mostly shade grown coffee. We walked through the entire process, from the berry picking to the drying and roasting stages. Our guide , Ceider, was passionate about coffee like a sommelier; he paused with every sip to determine subtle distinctions in the smell and taste. His warm-hearted demeanor was touching, especially when he interrupted the tour, responding to a dog´s whimper, to carry his very old companion from the porch to the grass for some sun. The morning stroll through the grounds was finished with shared coffee, of course, and blackberry juice which is an apparent staple in Colombia. My appreciation of coffee has always verged on fanatic, but this tour certainly shed light on the many items I consume without acknowledging its origin.
Tomorrow, it´s on to Rio Blanco which is one of Manizales´ nine (!) nature preserves. We´re promised many hummingbirds and beautiful hikes- we´re all crossing that the sun perks up and the rain lets up a bit.