Colombia produces some of the finest quality coffee in the world and is the third largest global producer behind Brazil and Vietnam. Coffee tourism is increasingly popular for visitors to Colombia, but there is so much more to discovering Colombian coffee culture than just a basic tour. From immersive cultural experiences to traditional Coffee Region festivals, here are the eight best coffee experiences you can have on a trip to Colombia.
This immersive, full-day coffee experience has been called the best coffee tour in Colombia, and with good reason: the tour, run by Experiencia Cafetera, goes into far more detail than your average coffee tour. Most basic coffee tours take a couple of hours at most and deal with the physical process of growing and harvesting coffee. The WakeCup Experience not only visits a working coffee farm – run by a formerly displaced farmer now producing his own specialty coffee – but delves into the human side of coffee as well. Visitors spend time with coffee pickers, Jeep drivers, farmers, and whoever happens to be around the town square in Pijao – a delightful little town that is like Salento with no tourists – where the tour takes place. The aim of the WakeCup Experience is to show how coffee has played such a pivotal role in the entire culture and history of the Colombian Coffee Region. And don’t panic, you get to drink lots of excellent coffee as well.
Bogotá is home to a burgeoning specialty coffee scene, with excellent cafés serving third-wave Colombian coffee seemingly popping up on every corner these days. A growing number of coffee entrepreneurs are taking advantage of this wave of quality coffee with tours to coffee shops, where participants can discover the world of Colombian specialty coffee, and learn from the world-class baristas brewing it. The best of the bunch is the Specialty Coffee Experience from Flavors of Bogotá, which visits at least three different cafés around the city during a tour. Guests learn firsthand from baristas exactly what makes Colombian coffee so special, and the best ways to prepare it to enjoy its myriad flavors and profiles. A Specialty Coffee Experience is a perfect way to experience a different side of Colombian coffee culture while drinking some of the best coffee in the world.
A truly immersive coffee experience in the Colombian Coffee Region doesn’t just have to involve taking a few tours: truly dedicated coffee enthusiasts can cater their entire experience around those magic little beans! Hacienda Venecia is a working coffee farm near Manizales, which also offers some of the best accommodation in the Zona Cafetera in beautiful and authentic traditional houses. With options to suit all budgets – including a hostel and guesthouse – Hacienda Venecia is perhaps the best place in Colombia to stay to be truly immersed in the landscape and culture of Colombian coffee.
The best coffee-lover’s hostel in Colombia, Panorama Café Hostel is entirely themed around Colombia’s most iconic national product, with specialty coffee from local farms available all day, every day. The walls are adorned with images of local coffee producers and farmers, all accompanied with QR codes linking to recordings of them explaining their connection to coffee. Located in the small coffee town of Buenavista – which lives up to its name, offering some of the best views in the region – the hostel works alongside the aforementioned Experiencia Cafetera, and is the perfect base for enjoying their tours. If you’re backpacking in Colombia and love coffee, this is the hostel for you.
One of the oldest working coffee plantations in Colombia, The Victoria Coffee Company was founded in 1892, and soon after began working in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains – where the small town of Minca is located. A coffee tour of the La Victoria farm is less focused on the plants, and more on the machinery of the farm, which dates back to Victorian times and is entirely self-sustaining, being run by nothing but water from the surrounding mountain streams. Coffee beans are moved from the plantations on the mountainside by nothing but gravity and the water-powered generators. La Victoria is a fascinating window into the long history of Colombian coffee production and the incredible machinery that powers the industry.
Although not strictly a coffee experience, there is no better way to explore the culture of the Coffee Region than to enjoy the festivities of one of the area’s Yipao Jeep Parades – a long-standing cultural tradition focused around the Coffee Zone’s iconic Willys Jeeps. The hardy vehicles were first imported to Colombia from the United States in 1946 to transport coffee and goods along the treacherous mountain roads of the region, and have been inextricably linked to Colombian coffee culture ever since. During Yipao – the most famous parades are in Armenia and Calarca – the Jeeps are paraded through the streets fully laden with goods and decorations, and also take part in daring acrobatic feats on just their rear wheels. Yipao is perhaps the best way to experience the deep cultural connection that rural Colombia has to coffee.
Arguably the Colombian café boasting the most beautiful view, Café San Alberto is perched on a slope overlooking the central plain of Quindio department, with the Western Colombian Andes visible in the distance. San Alberto’s premium coffee is the most decorated in Colombia, having won a variety of taste and quality awards. It’s all grown on the slopes around the café, which serves delicious specialty coffee on a small terrace overlooking that spectacular view (the sunsets here are especially gorgeous), and they offer a coffee tour and tasting experience as well. Café San Alberto is probably the most beautiful spot in Colombia to enjoy a cup of quality coffee.
The National Coffee Park is a theme park owned and operated by the National Federation of Coffee Growers of Colombia, located just outside the city of Armenia. With interactive exhibits focusing on the history and culture of coffee, a coffee museum, coffee-themed food stalls, as well as rollercoasters, log flumes, and bumper cars, the park is the perfect place to discover the history of coffee and have a fun day out at the same time. Perfect if you’re traveling with children, the National Coffee Park is a slightly surreal – really, a coffee theme park?! – but enjoyable way to experience coffee from a totally different perspective.