Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Buena Vista Coffee Adventure!

For the last couple of months, we have been eagerly awaiting the arrival of my (Nathan's) parents and our friend Beth.  My folks have come to spend 3 months working around Etnos and Beth came to spend a week with us.  As a coffee barista, she really wanted to have an opportunity to see a coffee plantation.

Unfortunately, Bolivia's best coffees are produced in the Yungas region on the other side of the country.  I put some feelers out anyway and found out that a coffee I occasionally purchase is produced only 2 hours' drive away from Santa Cruz on a plantation that includes a cabaƱa-style hotel with a swimming pool and a tour!

We thought we could only spare one night of Beth's week-long trip, but we wanted to make the most of it.  So we rolled out first thing in the morning and headed north!

Packed into the Patrol.  Kaylee rode in the jump seat with Addi and Lydia.

About two hours and 65 miles later, we arrived at the little town of Buena Vista, which means "good view" in Spanish.  Our hotel, Hacienda El Cafetal, was just a couple miles off the highway, and boy did it have a view.  It overlooks a national park that is reportedly full of jaguars, monkeys, and incredible birds.  Throughout the 24 hours we were there, the weather changed quite a lot, making for some great scenery.

The main buildings of the hotel, as seen from the lookout tower
(Click here or here to see a 360-degree view from the lookout tower!)

It was a great way to get out of town and relax a bit.  Of course, the girls were mostly excited about the swimming pool and we stayed in it a good portion of the afternoon, in spite of a rain storm.
We were delighted to find out that, because it's the off-season, we were the only overnight guests and had the place pretty much to ourselves!

Once the weather cleared up, we inquired about the coffee tour.  We were guided by Mario, who has been working at Buena Vista for 25 years in all aspects of production.  He was very personable with a dry sense of humor that Kaylee and I enjoyed.  Unfortunately, we had to translate to English for our guests, so some of it was lost, but we all had a good time.

We started with the coffee plants themselves and learned about the process of growing plants, caring for them organically, and harvesting:
Mario explaining details about the coffee fruit
The girls, with some 7-year old coffee plants
After we asked a lot of questions, we moved to the industrial side, where they service 1500 hectares of family coffee production.  The plant processes 180-200 metric tons per year (harvested April-June), about 90% of which is shipped to the Netherlands as raw beans.  The other 10% is roasted and ground for the national market.
The dryer brings the moisture level of the beans from 40% down to 12%
Looking into the roasting, grinding, and bagging room
The tour ends with an espresso served by our host, Abel.
Mario (r) chats with Abel (l) as he serves up espresso

Beth said, "It's not bad, just not very interesting."
We ended the day with Pique Macho in the hotel restaurant.  The next morning, we had another swim, checked out, and went into town to see what Buena Vista had to offer.  It was pretty quiet, but we found a cool place to take a photo on the plaza.

As usual, we took lots of photos, the best of which are in our Picasa Web Album.