The drink of gods, coffee
I grew up in the coffee region of Colombia. My grandfather was a coffee farmer. He owned a farm in which every member of the family worked. I heard many stories about coffee. I heard tales of riches and poor, of fantasy and reality. Today my mother owns the farm, and I hope that one day it will end up in my hands.
Coffee bush. Picture taken at my family's coffee farm in Colombia
Let's have a tinto, let's be friends
My cousin Natalia (left) and my friend Jenn (right) drinking tinto (coffee) at my family's farm in Colombia
For Colombians coffee is not a drink to help you stay awake. Coffee is family and friends. Coffee brings people together. It is an invitation to say hello and converse. Coffee is a cool morning in the mountains when a rooster sings to the sunrise. Coffee, simply put, is Colombia.
Drying coffee the old fashioned way
My cousin Natalia inspecting the coffee that was left to sun-dry
Cultivating coffee is an art. There are traditions that, if followed correctly, will yield the most exquisite aromas and flavors. Like wine, coffee requires the right plants, the ripest beans, and careful processing. Drying coffee in the sun is an old fashioned tradition that unlocks the bean's color and flavor. Today, many people dry coffee with heaters as a way to expedite the process, but doing it the way our grandfathers did it makes coffee taste that much better.
The people of Colombia are warm, loving and caring. In a small town like the one I grew up in there is a big sense of community. People care about one another and they help each other. There are also many interesting characters. If you ever read a Garcia Marquez book, then you would understand what I mean. My mother is such a character. She is known in our town as 'Silvia the taxi lady.' She started a taxi company on her own that revolutionized how people traveled to the city. She is just an example of the many wonderful hardworking and even a little crazy people that you will find in Colombia.
My mother, Silvia, at our coffee farm in Colombia
My grandfather Miguel was another person you could say was a character in my town. He was well known mostly for the wrong reasons. My grandfather was a revolutionary that fought in Colombia's civil war. He was a gambler who made his own rigged dice so he would always win. But most of all he was a man of the land. He knew what each plant could do, and he had a solution for almost every ailment. He literary talked to animals and plants because he believed that every living thing needed to be cared for and nurtured. In return, they would reciprocate by giving him what he needed to survive.
Miguel and family
Family photo of my grandparents with my uncles
Four generations of the Herrera family have worked and lived off of the land in my native town of Cuidad Bolivar. We are proud coffee growers that still know the secrets my great-grandfather taught my grandfather, who in turned taught to my mother and uncles. Today the farm is in my mother's hands being worked by my cousins. Their children are growing up there, learning the trade just like previous generations.
Left to right. My cousin Luis, his dad (my uncle) Guillermo and my mother Silvia fishing trout at our farm in Colombia
Colombia is blessed to be located in the equator. With a tropical climate and rich biodiversity there is very little that won't grow there. There are fruits in Colombia like granadilla, zapote, anon, coroso, guanabana and pitaya that are so sweet, delicate and exquisite that they could only come from paradise itself.
My cousin Natalia holding pitaya grown in our farm in Colombia
My friend Jenn and I eating granadilla.
Colombia is one of the most biodiverse countries in the world. Home to rain forests, jungles, mountain ranges, plains and oceans, almost anything can be found in Colombia. Best known are its coffee, orchids, pink dolphins and the spectacled bear. Colombia also produces 15% of the world's oxygen.
My aunt Rocio showing the vegetables grown in our farm in Colombia
A staple food of my region of Colombia is sancocho. Sancocho is a hearty chicken stew that is traditionally cooked over an open fire. It is a meal that brings the whole family together, and my mother makes the best, of course.
My mother Silvia and my aunt Hilda making sancocho at our family's farm