coffee and orchids

Date June 9, 2008

I spent all day Saturday in Chinchina, a small town between Manizales and warmer, at a coffee farm owned by one of the families from school. I’m always amazed by the hospitality of these people and do my best to be sociable when I’m offered an invitation. I admit that sometimes I let the day pass thinking I’d rather be reading or writing or in a place by myself somewhere, but this was not one of those days.

The drive took about an hour and I watched in silent awe as the Rio Chinchina cut through the land, rushing over rocks winding its way toward a sea somewhere. The breeze was constant and pleasantly cool, the smell of coffee carried on it. At last, the jeep made its way down the drive and I grinned at the family standing hand in hand at the gate to welcome us. I like Colombian families. We shuffled off the bus, sipped freshjuice, and the went for a short walk.

“We call this Eden,” Jose Fernando said and I understood how they’d come up with name. The space was alive with flowers and birds in exotic colors. Orange, red, and yellow against the deep green of coffee plants. The sound of trickling water running into a small pond. Yes, Eden. And then there were the orchids. I hung onto every word el abuelo said about his precious plants. I watched as he touched their leaves, gazed adoringly at their blooms. I saw in his touch, heard in his words, how he cares for them, loves them. How they need time and affection and how “like a lady, they desire the heart of their companion.” I was moved.

We shared lunch at a table set for eighteen and took our time savoring the smells and tastes of fresh cheese, ajiaco, arepas, and tinto before we moved toward the coffee fields. I walked through the rows, plants far above my head and listened to stories about the life of Colombia that blooms white, bleeds red, and bears fruit. I asked questions like a child and stood speechless at the answers I received.

All of the coffee is picked by hand. The laborers bring their loads and rest in houses set on stilts. The farm uses the outer shells of the beans for fertilizer. The beans are washed again and shelled once more. These parts are used to make the energy that washes, bags, and loads the final product. Nothing is wasted. Juan Fernando touched the leaves of each plant he passed gingerly, searching out and pulling parasitic plants that “steal the life from the coffee, the land, and from me.”

I shuffled through the rows as we turned back toward the house, the flowers, and Eden.  The smell of coffee like a blanket in the air.

3 Responses to “coffee and orchids”

  1. kathryn said:

    sounds beautiful-wish i could have been there with you!

  2. Summer said:

    Amazing! It sounds incredible. And I love the photos.

  3. Lou said:

    Thank you for taking me too. Bring some of that coffee home if it is possible.