Read of Robbie’s trip summary from his January visit to the El Socorro farm in Colombia!

Amaga, Antioquia, Colombia January 2015

My wife Angie and I were lucky enough to visit the farm at El Socorro, an hour outside Medellin, at the end of January. Joe Van Gogh started buying this coffee a year ago, and I’ve been most impressed by its versatility, worthy of presentation as a single-origin but fabulously solid as the spine of a blend. And now I was able to see first-hand how it moves from farm to cup.

As the guests of Claudia Vargas, who owns and runs the farm, and Edwin Gil, who lives in Charlotte and helps us get the coffee all the way to Hillsborough while doing the leg work back and forth through Cafe Perfecto, we were treated to a tightly run, healthy operation of 1.3 million Arabica trees.

I can’t really do justice to the steepness of the farm, but thank goodness my little horse could – without her sure-footed grace, I would have never reached the top of the farm or seen the amazing view of the small city Amaga. And though gravity would have surely tumbled me back down to the stables, the ride was much more enjoyable.

El Socorro moves its cherries from several stations on the mountains by an ingenious, spring-fed water/gravity method. The coffee arrives via PVC to a central washing and drying location behind the main house and next to the stables and seedling nursery. There it is depulped, washed, graded, dried and then moved as parchment down the road to Volcafe’s new, state-of-the-art mill. There, it is polished and bagged and sent on the long road to North Carolina and our coffee roastery.

The fresh-fruit smoothies at breakfast, the tortilla soup at dinner, the hearty beans and sausages in the middle of the day made every meal a treat. Fresh oranges and limes and avacados and lulos were both a snack and integral to the meals. A farm at the equator in January is a mouth-watering treat for a gringo like me.

As for the coffee that brought us there, it has been a revelation, with both a juicy, citrusy profile at our preferred roast level, and body, sweetness and depth when we decide to roast it deeper for blends.

And finally, the city of Medellin itself, which we drove through in the dark on our way into El Socorro, but where we toured and spent the night on the way home. As impressive as the farm was, the city, on of South America’s industrial hubs, ups the ante as mountain spectacle, sprawling up both sides of the Aburra Valley of the central Andes. New, glass, sky-touching modern buildings spring up in clusters but hardly dwarf the many distinct neighborhoods. A modern Metro knits it all together. And the whole place fairly hums, radiating the energy of an international hub and befitting a city with an estimated population of three and a half million.

You won’t be surprised to know, I can’t wait to go back.