Right outside of Manizales, Colombia, in the heart of the Eje Cafetero, or coffee triangle region, there is a small family-owned specialty coffee farm named Tío Conejo. Their coffee experience is perfect – if you are passionate about coffee and want to meet passionate growers. You will enjoy fresh aromas while learning more about the process from a more in-depth perspective.
When my family came to visit Colombia, I wanted to take them on an authentic and sustainable tour of a coffee farm because they love coffee and agriculture; Tío Conejo was a great match!
Our day began in the city of Manizales. Ivanov, one of the founders of Tío Conejo, picked us up in the morning. We all appreciated the private transportation that came with the tour. On the way, Ivanov, told us a little bit about the farm’s history. During the drive, he stopped to treat us to his favorite locally made Colombian buñuelos. As we drove out of the city and into countryside, the landscape changed from a dull concrete gray to a vibrant green.
When we arrived at the farm, we were greeted by Efrain and Johana. They had coffee (of course), and fresh orange juice waiting. We all took a seat on their porch which had sweeping views of the farm. As we chatted with Efrain, we were grateful for his and Ivanov’s fluent English. It would help us to understand all the details of the tour our poor Spanish couldn’t quite catch. They asked us a little about what we were most interested in regarding the coffee process. Then, they personalized the tour to our interests.
As we sipped their specialty coffee which had been grown all around us, Efrain gave a detailed lecture on the history of coffee cultivation. We learned about the different families of coffee and the basic production methods for speciality, organic, and commercial coffee. He answered each question thoughtfully. His expertise and love for his work was clear. They grow high quality varietals like Red or Yellow Caturra, Tabi, and even Geisha.
Sustainability at Tío Conejo
After the lecture, we sat down to a traditional Colombian lunch beautifully prepared by Johana. During lunch, we learned about Tío Conejo’s focus on sustainability.
Efrain’s genuine care for his employees shone through as he told us about wanting to raise the minimum standard of living for coffee farm workers. Tío Conejo believes in providing fair wages and benefits like healthcare and education. We discovered that all their employees receive workers compensation and retirement plans.
After lunch, we began our hands-on tour of the farm. Efrain walked with us through the coffee plants. He knew every square foot of the property. As we wandered higher up the hillsides, Efrain explained in detail the process of planting, growing, and harvesting coffee. The process takes more than two years of patience and diligence from the time when the young plant is introduced.
We observed each step, from planting the seeds, nurturing the soil, washing, fermenting, drying, packing, and shipping. In addition to the informational lesson, we also experienced the beauty of the lush coffee landscape. The unique vegetation, butterflies, and flowers were worthy of their own tour!
Accommodations at Tío Conejo
When it started to rain, I was glad I had worn hiking boots and a rain jacket, and I was especially thankful Efrain was prepared, and offered all of us high-quality ponchos to wear. We took shelter in one of the farm’s buildings as we waited for the rain shower to slow. The building we were in was for hosting guests. The rooms are rustic but authentic to the Colombian tradition and architecture. If we had more time, it would have been lovely to spend the night for the complete experience.
After the tour, Efrain drove us back to Manizales in his classic Jeep Willy. We ended the day with not only our minds full of detailed information about coffee but also with a deeper understanding of the industry we are part of, as consumers.
I highly recommend this tour to any visitors of the coffee region who wants to support local coffee growers and learn more about the origin of the coffee in their daily cups.
Socially-conscious tours of local coffee farms – like this one, can be found on our itineraries page.
From the travel journal of Ashley Peak: Ashley Peak is a writer, adventurer, and educator. Ashley left her home in Washington state for a teaching job in Colombia and spent 2 years exploring South America and falling in love with Latin American culture. In addition, she has traveled extensively in North America, Europe, and Africa. She writes for travelers seeking authentic and meaningful experiences and is currently based out of Spokane, WA.