Skip to Content

Working the coffee fields of Colombia – The story of a Juan Valdez wannabe

Working the coffee fields of Colombia – The story of a Juan Valdez wannabe

As most people that make their way to Salento, I too am absolutely addicted to the brown stuff, and there isn’t much else as quintessentially Colombian than coffee. A significant portion of the world’s Arabica beans come from the fertile valleys of the Andes in the middle of Colombia.

Harvesting enough to keep up with the demand of a busy and tired world is no easy task. It’s hard manual labor collecting the beans that make the drink that you may even be slipping on as you read this.

*When looking for the best price and biggest selection of hotels check prices on, we’ve found they are the best option and have a great cancelation policy.*

Coffee Farm Work - Salento, Colombia-7

Maybe it’s my engineering mind but I always want to know how things are made… you know the behind the scenes stuff! So while in the coffee zone I jumped at the chance to work the fields for and day and see what it was all about.

Coffee Farm Work - Salento, Colombia-3

After a short lesson of what color beans to pick, and proper technique to pluck them from the tree I was off to fill my buckets with the bright red coffee cherries. After an hour of picking, I don’t have a lot more than what covers the bottom of my green pale.

Coffee Farm Work - Salento, Colombia-6

A combination of my rookie skills and primarily that it’s not the main harvest, made picking an even slower process than normal. After 5 hours of standing on slopes that would make a goat slip, me and one of the farm hands collected nearly 10 kg (22 lbs) of cherries.

That doesn’t really sound like a lot of coffee does it? Well, it’s not, and considering you need to loose the skin, dry them, and of course roast them it’s even less than it sounds. From tree to your cup the beans lose about 85% of their weight. So the 20 lbs of coffee fruits will end up begin about 3 lbs between the two of us.

My office for the day

Coffee Farm Work - Salento, Colombia-2

It’s not easy work, but the office and the co-workers are pretty good. My co-worker of the day were the farm dogs, who spent most of the day with me just lounging between the rows of coffee.

Coffee Farm Work - Salento, Colombia

Berries to Coffee

Once the bright red fruits are snatched off of the trees there is still a lot to do before it makes it to your cup. The seed or bean inside the fruit is the only part that will one day be coffee, so first you have to get it out of the fruit!

Coffee Farm Work - Salento, Colombia-8

That’s where this contraption comes in handy, the “Dispulpadora” lightly crushes the cherries and separates the fruit from the bean. The beans go forward and fruits fall off the back. The tray of tan colored beans then have to be sorted and final separated, which is done by hand, today my hands!

Coffee Farm Work - Salento, Colombia-9

After this step, it takes a few days before they are ready to be dried then roasted and ultimately coffee. We have another post coming soon on the full spectrum of start to finish of coffee.

Coffee Farm Work - Salento, Colombia-10

This was the first day that I “worked” since quitting my job for this trip, I couldn’t help but think about it that day while in the fields. It felt good to get my boots dirty and work a little bit, and I love learning about the things that normally we take for granted. Thanks to the Plantation House for giving me a shot at being a coffee farmer for the day, and teaching me the behind the scenes of coffee!

Coffee Farm Work - Salento, Colombia-4

It was some tough work, we all could have used a nap afterward!

Alejandro Leroux

Monday 6th of March 2017

I am doing a school project on coffee and came across your site. Is it okay if [ use a couple of your photos for my photo collage. Thank you. Alejandro Leroux

Hannah Lukaszewicz

Monday 20th of March 2017

Thank you for asking us, please email us and we can discuss further.

Emma @ Everyday Postcard

Saturday 17th of May 2014

I would never have guessed those red berries were actually coffee! How interesting!


Monday 29th of September 2014

Yep that's coffee! Tasty coffee too!


Wednesday 30th of October 2013

This sounds so tough but so much fun too! What a great experience.


Saturday 2nd of November 2013

Adam is glad he did it, he know has a better appreciation for his daily consumption of coffee!

Laura @Travelocafe

Saturday 26th of October 2013

Wow! What a wonderful experience! I am sure you have learned so much from it. We had a similar experience in Bali and I remember it was tons of fun.


Sunday 27th of October 2013

We did learn a ton about coffee for sure, which coffee tour did you do in Bali? We did one in Bali too in 2012!


Thursday 24th of October 2013

oooof! Who knew?! Feel rather stupid for not knowing that the coffee bean is actually the seed! I didn't imagine them to be bright red berries either. Thank you for the insight :)


Sunday 27th of October 2013

LOL, don't feel stupid! Glad we taught you something in this article. Coffee makes the world go round!