Once the raw coffee beans have been fermented, dried and the husks removed, the Finca Santa Ana brings the bags of beans to a roaster in Salento, the nearby town where they also have a small cafe. The roasting facility is very small scale - they can roast up to 5 kilos at a time on a state-of-the-art German roasting machine. As they said, the Germans don’t make good coffee but they make good machinery! Before going into the roaster however, the beans need to be sorted and inspected. The first step is to put them through a screen, where the smaller beans fall through. Those smaller beans are reserved for the low-quality “local” coffee. The larger beans are then put into metal trays where each bean is individually inspected for abnormalities. They are looking for immature or sour beans, discolored or misshaped beans, overly dry, wet or moldy beans, or beans with insect damage, among other things. After they have been looked over carefully, they are then ready to roast.
The roaster is warmed to 160 degrees celsius, and then they pour 5 kilos of inspected beans into the machine. The temperature immediately drops, but slowly starts increasing in temperature. For darker roasts, they would increase the temperature and the time, but you never want to go over 190 degrees or the beans will start to burn. In Colombia they pride themselves on their coffee that is medium roasted and slightly sweet in flavor so the temperature rarely goes above 160.
The roasting only takes 11 - 16 minutes, and the roaster is checking the beans every minute or so for color and smell. The first step of the roasting process is to lose the remaining moisture in the beans, then the beans start to caramelize (hence the sweet flavor), and the final step is when the beans start to open and nearly double in size. When they are opening, it sounds like popcorn just beginning to pop. This is when the roaster knows the coffee is ready. He then turns off the roaster and the beans immediately drop into a cooling bin where they are stirred constantly until they have cooled enough to stop roasting. The five kilos he started with has now nearly doubled in size, but weighs only 4 kilos without all the extra moisture.
And finally, we get to try some of this delicious coffee. We walk to the Cafe Jesus Martin where we are treated to a “Latte art experience”. We first get to taste all their different quality levels and roasts. There is a clear distinction between the low-quality “local” coffee, the mid-quality mass-exported coffee (think Starbucks), and the high-quality coffee they sell in their cafe. Needless to say, I bought the high-quality stuff. The bartender not only made us all delicious lattes, she also created fun art in our foam. She made a cute puppy face in mine, very fitting. We were then presented with certificates for going through the complete process from flower to cup of coffee!