As you probably know, Andrew and I just returned from our trip to Colombia. We visited Hacienda El Boton, where our Maduro coffee is grown and dry-processed, expressly for the DoubleShot. We also stopped to visit several other farms, some proudly tended and pristine; others wildly unkempt. On this trip I ate tripe soup – or tried to anyway. I broke in a pair of new boots by running through forested hillsides above the coffee farms. I fell asleep to Latin hip-hop floating through my window. I stopped to smell the coffee flowers.
When we returned to Medellin on the last day of our trip, traffic was worse than usual. We ended up on a path next to the main street, which was just a muddy, potholed, rocky parking lot. The shuttle driver said it was supposed to be a paved road but the city had never paved it. It appeared we were trying to cut through parking lots. Of semi tractors. Eventually the driver got back on the pavement and then told us we should get out at the train station because it would be faster. There was a protest in the road and traffic was at a standstill. So we jumped out and got directions for the light rail. Purchased our tickets and entered the turnstile. We went to the train platform amongst many other people. When the doors of the train opened, a few people gushed out, and it appeared there was no room for any more. But everyone on the platform pushed inside. Andrew almost didn't make it, as the doors tried to close on him. But we shoved our way deeper inside, and he got in. This was the most crowded train I've ever seen. No need to hold onto anything because there was nowhere to go.
We needed to get out two stops later at El Poblado. As soon as the doors opened we began to push and shove, leaning into the people around us until we escaped through the open doors.
And then I noticed the noxious fumes. In the Poblado terminal was a gas that was choking me and making my eyes burn. Clint stopped to talk to a man about how to get to the dry mill where Cristina was waiting for us. I called for Clint to come on. People around us had handkerchiefs over their noses and mouths. I headed for the stairs up and out. A protest was going on nearby and the police were shooting tear gas. Boom! Another round of tear gas.
My eyes were burning and tears were coming from them. It was working, though I wasn't protesting anything. Once outside, I called Cristina. We tried to orient ourselves, but there were no distinctive landmarks. We thought we had gone the wrong way and crossed back over the bridge from the terminal. Tear gas again. Boom! Boom! The police had fired off well over a dozen canisters of tear gas since we arrived. People stood on the bridge and on balconies overlooking the road, watching the protest. We just tried to get out of the way.
Once we finally crossed six lanes of heavy traffic to get to the mill, we had some water and prepared to cup coffees. At El Boton, we had pulled samples from three lots of natural Maragogipes and one special washed Maragogipe (by my order). Cristina also put a lot from the farm Santa Monica on the table. Cupping is difficult in foreign environments. The water tastes different. I’m unacquainted with the roast style. The grind size is not the same. And the unfamiliarity of the environment is distracting. I made notes, but also brought samples home.
We never found out what the protest was about. Colombian protesters need help with marketing.
I travel to learn. To experience. To see the contrasts at the origin of our coffees. To better understand the people who produce the coffee, and thus, to better understand the coffee itself. There’s no way to predict what will happen when I go; it’s not an organized tour. I show up and events unfold. And ultimately the unfolding results in a unique coffee in your DoubleShot cup.