National Parks
Tour Operators

Delicious coffee from Mesa de los Santos - Colombia

Leaving Barichara on my way to Bucaramanga, I made a stopover at the Chicamocha National Park. Here I took the cable car which leads up to Mesa de los Santos. A taxi brought me to a finca "Café Mesa de los Santos" of more than 230 hectares with 100% organic coffee. There is a coffee museum on the farm, where you can admire 52 different types of coffee from around the world. The annual "Cupping Extravaganza" is held here, a competition that tests the best coffees in the world in terms of aroma, flavor and fragrance. What is the difference between aroma and fragrance? Aroma is the smell that you inhale when the coffee is mixed with water. The fragrance itself is the first thing you can smell after grinding the coffee, before it infuses with water. To cite just one example, the "Geisbia-Aribica coffee" is among the top 5 coffees in the world. Also "Arabica Icatu" is one of the top coffee types. The house itself produces 35% Bourbon & Tipica and 65% Caturra.

Finca Mesa de los Santos

The difference to other coffee tours is that I got an explanation about the different types of coffee: How are they different from each other? How can you recognize them? What pests are there on the coffee plants and how to destroy them? On other coffee tours (like in Concordia, Manizales, Minca) I learned more about the coffee processing and the history of coffee growing.

Coffee & Mesa de los Santos

Also on my tour there was a brief explanation of the manufacturing process and then I was allowed to taste the different types of coffee. First I smelled the dry coffee, then I could really taste it myself (like during a wine tasting I had to spit the coffee into the glass). When they took off the cover to hide the beans, I discovered I liked "Tipica" the most. During the harvest from September to December, the Finca employs around 500 people, in the off season only 50.

Coffee Tour in Mesa de los Santos
What is the difference between the coffee from Mesa de los Santos and the coffee from other parts of Colombia
-> In the region Mesa de los Santos, there is only little rain which causes stress for the plants. This stress promotes a better quality, larger leaves and developing of other flavors like citrus and red fruits.

-> By the tectonic activity in the area, energy is absorbed by the coffee plants. Unfortunately for the Colombians and foreigners like me 95% of the best Colombian coffee is exported. 

From Bucaramanga I visited the colonial village Giron, which is also in the list of "Red de Pueblos de Patrimonio de Colombia" and is composed exclusively of white houses. The small village is only 15 minutes away from Bucaramanga and offers itself as an afternoon activity.

Giron, heritage village in Colombia

Giron, heritage village close at Bucaramanga

Did you know?
1. Colombia had long ago other names and was also much larger. New Granada (1499, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, North-West Brazil and Panama), Gran Colombia (1830, secession of Venezuela and Ecuador), Republic of New Granada (after the dissolution of Gran Colombia in 1830, consists of Colombia and Panama with smaller portions of present-day Ecuador and Venezuela), Granadine Confederation (1858), United States of Colombia (1863) and now Republic of Colombia (since 1886).
2. Only the two central veins of coca leaves contain coca.
3. The difference between Colombian and Brazilian coffee is that in Brazil, the amount of production is important, while in Colombia, the quality is at number 1.
4. Where was coffee invented? A pastor in Ethiopia (Kaffa province) saw his goats in the pasture eating the coffee plants and found out that the goats had more energy after eating leaves. The pastor made a mixture with the leaves, but found the taste terrible. Later, the coffee was roasted for the first time and the delicious smell has been discovered.
5. The coffee type "Arabica Moca" has the smallest fruit and is also very expensive. $ 240 / lb.
6. A coffee seed takes 6 months before it can be planted outdoors.
7. A coffee plant bears fruit from the first year and starts from the fourth year to grow faster and bear more fruit. After 10 years, the plant is cut down to a height of 50 cm and a year later the plant can produce coffee again.
8. A coffee plant annually produces 20.000 to 25.000 fruits.
9. What is the difference between Arabica and Robustica coffee? Robustica coffee plants are bigger, stronger, but also have a less qualitative taste.
10. Why the is "Arabica Guayaba" called “Queen of coffee”? Due to the fact that the crowns of the plant wear their crops the longest.
11. Queen Elizabeth of Spain drinks only coffee type "Blue Mountain Arabica", which is one of the 15 best coffees in the world.
12. "Maragogipe Arabica" coffee bean has the largest, and least cores.
13. On the photo: A large fruit Maragogipe, the smallest is the Arabica Moca.
14. The "Arabica Polisperm" has the largest fruit, but the core is small. Every two years the plant only produces 3 fruits, but there are 8 beans per fruit. 15. Because Brazil is working with Robustica coffee plants, they can use machines for the harvest. In Colombia, everything is done manually. Yep, my coffee know-how is refreshed again. Santander, I love it!

1. Watch your belongings in Giron. Pickpockets.
2. No ATM in Barichara nor at the teleferico in PNN Chicamocha.
3. Santander has a sunny climate, so pack light shoes also.
4. The coffee tour was unfortunately only in Spanish.

How to get there?
Bucamaranga - San Gil = 2.5 hrs, 22pp.
San Gil - Santa Marta = 12 hrs 55pp.
Bucaramanga - Santa Marta = 7-8 hrs.
Bogotá - San Gil = 7-8 hours, 30-57pp.
Medellin - San Gil = 11 hrs, 60-80pp.
San Gil - Barichara = 1 hr, 4-7pp (every 30 minutes, last 20:15).
Barichara - San Gil (every 30 minutes, last 18:30).
Guane bus = 15-20 min, 1.7-2pp/motocarro = 12pp.
Bus San Gil - PNN Chicamocha = 1 hr, 10pp.
Barichara - Chicamocha = 1 hr.
Bucaramanga - Barichara = 3.5 hrs.
Bucaramanga - Cucuta = 7 hrs (to the border of Venezuela).
Bus San Gil - Socorro = 8-10pp, 30 min.
Barichara - Socorro = 1 hr.