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Lonely Planet Magazine (US) - - Easy Trips -

Wake up and smell the cof­fee in Colom­bia’s Zona Cafetera, whose land­scapes are as rich and textured as the re­gion’s most fa­mous crop.

Rain be­gins to fall over the mar­ket town of Sa­lento. It starts as a gen­tle driz­zle, soon evolv­ing into a fear­some down­pour: gi­ant droplets bounc­ing off the side­walks and up pant legs, drum­ming on the cor­ru­gated-iron roofs and gur­gling in the gut­ters. In the shel­ter of his café by the town square, cof­fee evan­ge­list Jesús Be­doya sits by the win­dow look­ing up at gray clouds, and then into the es­presso on the ta­ble be­fore him.

“A good cup of cof­fee is like a fine wine,” he says con­tem­pla­tively. “You can taste the terra: the land where it is cre­ated. When I drink cof­fee I think about the fam­ily that grew it – the work, love and pain that has gone into each bean.”

Vol­canic soil and high-alti­tude farm­land make much of Colom­bia prime ter­ri­tory for the cul­ti­va­tion of ara­bica beans, but nowhere more so than the Zona Cafetera. Here, heavy year-round rain­fall de­stroys um­brel­las, turns roads into part-time wa­ter­falls, and serves as the magic in­gre­di­ent for the most fla­vor­ful cup of cof­fee in the Amer­i­cas.

Since the 19th cen­tury, cof­fee has been the lifeblood of the Zona Cafetera: served with break­fast, lunch and din­ner, and given to chil­dren from the age of 5 (though lo­cal par­ents dis­agree about whether this is a good idea).

The son of a cof­fee farmer, Be­doya left his job as a lawyer eight years ago to em­bark on a mes­sianic mis­sion: to open a café sell­ing pre­mium-grade, lo­cally pro­duced cof­fee in the cof­fee-farm­ing town of Sa­lento. It may sound like a re­dun­dant business model, but in Colom­bia al­most all lo­cally con­sumed cof­fee is low-

Ho­tel Sa­lento Real in Sa­lento has func­tional rooms clus­tered around an atrium. The ho­tel’s break­fast spread in­cludes ex­cel­lent em­panadas (from $50; ho­tel­salen­to­real.com).

Jesús Be­doya’s cof­fee shop is called Café Jesús Martín (cof­fee from $2; cafe­je­sus­martin.com).

Finca el Ocaso of­fers tours of the plan­ta­tion in Sa­lento (from about $3.50; fin­cae­lo­ca­sos­alento.com). shapes the land­scapes, too. Cof­fee plants cas­cade down the con­tours of the hill­sides. Snug in the folds

mea­sure­ment for sale).

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