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Colombia Travel – Coffee Junkies

Colombia Travel

Peter and Dalene of Hecktic Travels share facts of the preconceived notion that Colombia travel means good coffee.

Colombia Travel & Colombia Coffee

Good coffee is synonymous with Colombia and for that reason, we couldn’t wait for our turn at Colombia travel. We visualized Juan Valdez walking casually beside his donkey, an amiable smile on his face as he tips his hat to the camera. Yes Juan! Lead us to all your caffeine-laced goodness!

After six months of traipsing around South America, and umpteen hundred cups of bad instant coffee later, we were on her doorstep and ready to indulge in the best java that this hemisphere has to offer.

Or, so we thought. After our first night’s stay across the southern border in the small city of Pasto, we awoke to yet another container of Nescafe instant coffee waiting with my breakfast. How could this be? Juan, where are you? Why are we not being handed a cup of the good stuff at every turn?

Turns out, we had to go looking for it. And not just to the local street stands that sell it, as that coffee was also highly disappointing. The local preference for preparation is to make it very weak and have it chock full of sugar (they call it “tinto”). For our prime coffee fix we had to go to the mountainous region in central Colombia known as Zona Cafetera, the prime growing grounds of the some of the world’s best coffee beans.

Salento & Manizales

Colombia Travel
We made two stops in the region and did two different finca (coffee plantation) tours. While the small town setting of Salento provided for some excellent hiking and impressive scenery, our tour outside the bustling university city of Manizales offered the best caffeine-induced experience!

Zona Cafetera

Colombia Travel
Zona Cafetera is a prime growing location for the Arabica bean which provides the richest and most full bodied coffee.
Colombia Travel
The growing fields always amazed us as they climbed up steep hills – We couldn’t imagine being the people that had to tend to them or hand pick them during harvest season.
Colombia Travel
Some coffee beans fresh from the fields! As part of the tour, we did our own “quality assurance” by picking out the best beans that would become our very own espresso!
Colombia Travel
We watched as the beans were roasted and put straight into the espresso machine. This was, without a doubt, the very tastiest shot of caffeine we had ever had!
Colombia Travel
Oh, and by the way, we did find Juan. He now has his own chain of coffee shops – think Starbucks for Colombia but to a much smaller scale.
Colombia Travel
Colombia Travel

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Sabina says:

Amazing that they’re serving up Nescafe for breakfast even in Columbia, like everywhere else. My travels in the Mid East have taught me that powerful Arabic coffee is very popular. Still, you’re likely to get Nescafe for breakfast and have to hunt down the good stuff here, just as you guys did.

Yup, it’s something I would have never thought before I traveled.

steve says:

Looks like a good place to visit. I’ve never tried JV coffee before but Colombia is on my list of “Coffee Countries to Visit”. 😛

As for NesCafe… try it with vodka. 😉

Dina says:

Very interesting, I thought it’s easy to find a good coffee there. So far I found Spain is the most reliable place to get a good coffee. Even in the cheapest place, a cup of coffee is always good.

(Great article, Dalene!)

Dorian Zuleta says:

@jason / @dalene,

I was wondering if it was your first time in Colombia? I am Colombian myself, born and raised in Los Angeles but I have some family back there. I have visit from time to time and it really isn’t what people make it out o be.. What I’m trying to say is that, it’s beautiful and the people are kind and generous.. I wanted to get your opinions on that.. I really enjoyed your article and look forward to reading more of your stuff.

Dorian, If you search our site you will find many articles on Colombia, one of our favorite countries we visited. And we agree with you, its an exciting to place to visit, especially the cities such as Medellin and Cartagena.

Dorian Zuleta says:

Thanks Jason, I will check that out…..

Like I said before, I’m looking forward to reading your blogs/articles….. Wish I new you 20 years ago when i was having trouble finishing the “Where In The World Is Carmen San Diego Game”


Dalene says:

Dorian – we fell in love with your country as well, and you can also find some articles on our website. This one in particular ( talks to how people have a poor perception of what the country really is like. It really is a very beautiful piece of the world, for the scenery and the people!

dafunny1 says:


Being Colombian, I enjoyed the read………….

claire says:

I am no fan of coffee, but I def like the pics!

dafunny1 says:

@claire – I’m not a coffee fan either and the pictures were great.. Funny thing is that I’m Colombian and have never tasted coffee..

Aracely’s mother is from Ecuador and still drinks Nescafe Instant to this day. And when we visited Aracely’s family in Ecuador they all had the Nescafe Instant on the table. It was something I would have never guessed. South America is the big Coffee Producers, but the United States and Europe are the big consumers.

Kyle Morgan says:

It is surprising how hard it can be to find good coffee in some of the world’s top coffee growing regions! I have the same problem in southeast Asia!

Dalene says:

The good stuff goes where the money is, I guess. Disappointing is right. And I think I am slowly poisoning myself with the Honduran stuff I have been drinking each morning… 🙂

Abi says:

I could really do with one of those this morning…

Jason says:

Me too, the Folders Coffee just doesn’t do it for me.

Andrea says:

Great post and pics! I totally have high expectations for coffee in Colombia. Guess we’ll see

Dalene says:

Hope it doesn’t let you down! Just know that you have to go looking for it!

Abby says:

Congrats on finally finding your joe! I don’t drink coffee, but still… the same thing sorta happened to us in Costa Rica. You can buy the good stuff at every grocery store, but since the locals make it at home (buying a cup of coffee is a weird concept to them, at least in my town), it was hard to go into town and purchase one!

Dalene says:

I guess we’re just spoiled (me, anyways, as Canadian) to find it on every corner, it can be a disappointment to not have it all the time. Especially for this junkie here!

I don’t even drink coffee but I man do I love everything about it here in Colombia. I gotta get out to the Zona Cafetera.

Dalene says:

If not even to go for the coffee….just go for the incredible scenery!!

Dalene says:

Oh yes, the scenery in that part of the country is incredible. The popular hike near Salento (Valle de Cocura) was one of our favorites in all of South America.

Sophie says:

Earlier this year, we visited 3 coffee-growing countries in Latin America – Guatemala, Costa Rica and Colombia. Guatemala had the best coffee of the three, I think. And not a Nescafe sachet to be seen 🙂

Dalene says:

That is one country we shamefully haven’t been to yet (Guatemala). All the more reason for us to go there!

Always amazed at how difficult good coffee is to find in… good coffee producing countries. Turns out they export almost all of it, but sucks for travelers!

Dalene says:

I know! It’s such a shame. They need to be more like Italy with their wine, keep the good stuff in-country. 🙂

Jason says:

You are right Michael, I wish they kept in the country, but economically it makes no sense for them. There is so much more value shipping the cafe to China, Europe and the States than attempting to sell it locally at that same price. It won’t happen; the disposable income just isn’t there in poorer countries. It’s very simliar alcohol. The most popular drink is Aguardiente, and that stuff is dirt cheap.

So, I know why, only after visiting and learning, they serve Nescafe Instant, but it still sucks. So when visiting the coffee plantations you can get the good stuff, because as a tourist, we are willing to pay the price at which they sell to international exporters.

Don Faust says:

Very picturesque – the coffee is definitely a bonus!

Leigh says:

And one of the biggest things every coffee drinker can do to save the songbirds is drink shade grown or sustainable coffee that is organic & fairly traded coffee. The beans used in the instant stuff is wrecking bird habitat. And if anybody cares to read more then Bridget Stutchbury’s Silence of the Songbirds is an excellent & thought provoking read.

Dalene says:

Wow Leigh – I had no idea. Thanks for sharing that.

Randy says:

Very cool photo essay! I didn’t realize that instant coffee was served so regularly in Colombia.

Dalene says:

It’s a travesty, really. I think we stayed in one hostel that had free, really good coffee, but the rest of the time, just instant.

Got myself a bag of Juan Valdex beans last week. Great coffee. But Costa Rica’s is slightly better 😉

Dalene says:

Oh yes, Costa Rican coffee is pretty excellent as well!

I would have NEVER left. Colombian coffee especially JV coffee is THE best of the best. Loved this post!

Dalene says:

OMG Andi, I can’t even tell you how good that super fresh coffee was. I’m not a big espresso drinker, but I downed to shots like it was water in the desert. So smooth and delicious!

One thing I love about the travel experience is how we come face to face with preconceived notions and judge how they hold up. Coffee in Colombia was a giant one for me. When I visited I, like you, couldn’t help but get grouchy when instant coffee kept appearing on the table in front of me. Maybe it’s time for me to get to a plantation and find it at the source.

Dalene says:

I don’t mind it when the preconceived notion doesn’t hit on some things (like everyone’s expectation of drugs and guns everywhere in Colombia!), but the coffee was a huge disappointment. And yes, the plantations are where it’s at!

Shawna and I are huge coffee addicts… I am hearing way to many horror stories of nothing but instant coffee in many places around the world…this is way too frightening…

Dalene says:

Oh yes Skott, get ready for a whole lotta nescafe. You get used to it after awhile, if that’s any consolation… 🙂

We are now thinking of leaving our laptop at home and making room for Starbucks instead…

Dalene says:

Sometimes, the sacrifice might be worth it…!

Cam says:

As huge coffee lovers, we also found it tough to find real coffee in South America, which surprised us

Jason says:

For us too, traveling all throughout Central & South America, I was depressed to find Nescafe instant everywhere.

jose delgado says:

Sorry to hear about the Nescafe in Colombia. You are right, specially about the Tinto. The problem with finding good coffee in Colombia is that we export all the good grains and are left with the rest for consumption in the local market. So visiting the coffee area was a great idea.

Dorian Zuleta says:

Maybe it’s a good thing that I’m not a coffee drinker..

We just had a Juan Valdez experience yesterday after craving some real (iced) coffee

Visiting Salento is also high on our list. Can’t wait to see it for ourselves.

Jason says:

When you get our to Salento, just be sure to hop on a jeep and day hike in the largest palm trees in the world. Wax Palms.

dafunny1 says:

WAX PALMS is beautiful.. Been there a few times in my lifetime

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