After visiting the El Carmen of Acevedo producers we had a long day of driving ahead of us. Fourteen hours to be precise, up to Manizales in the Caldas department, where we planned to visit Descafecol who have Colombia's only decaffeination plant. It is here that we hoped to see the Sugarcane Decaf process for our next project.
The drive itself was beautiful with breathtaking scenery and scorching temperatures. We stopped twice for food, once at a quirky roadside service station(Parador El Molino de Hobo) where the ubiquitous breakfast of arepa and eggs with fried plantain was heaped on plates and again in Mariquita - where I ambitiously took on a huge plate of Bandeja Paisa (google it, it's amazing) - before the long winding trip up to 3300masl.
We stopped for refreshments at the peak, the air was so thin it was a struggle to breathe and the temperature was a balmy 1°C. After 12 hours we knew it was only an hour down to Manizales and spirits were high (nothing to do with the prospect of a lie-in the following morning at all).
The next day started with a fantastic breakfast of fresh papaya, grenadilla and the usual arepa and eggs doused in hot sauce. We set off to Descafecol in the industrial sector of Manizales where we met Sven Dabelstein, the GM of both the decaffeination plant and the freeze-dried (instant) plant down the road. We were given a coffee and sat through a ludicrously corporate promotion video, the likes of which can be seen on any manufacturer's website. After which we finally were allowed to tour the plant.
Personally, many of us were sceptical of the process and its effect on the beans. (This will be the topic of next week's blog post). This led us to ask perhaps far more pointed questions than were expected from polite visitors. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside the plant (no electronics are permitted), but were taken through the entire facility and asked many searching questions of the technical staff with regards the process.
In the end we left satisfied that the process was safe, natural, and suitable for our project and also you, our customers. Later on in the trip we blind cupped the decaf among many others and often it scored higher than it's caffeinated brethren!