Meet the Real Juan Valdez | Photos of Colombian Coffee and Petroleum

Sunday, October 17, 2010

colombian coffee photo by dennis drenner

After a couple of recents shoots in Colombia for Bloomberg News, I now know a lot more about what is involved in fueling my car and waking up my body. 

My first shoot took me to Ecopetrol’s refinery in Barrancabermeja, a fascinating place to visit (and a great place for a fashion shoot!)  but I wouldn’t want to work there. The place is hot, loud, smells like noxious fumes and is a juicy target for guerillas.  On the other hand, the refinery is also the engine of the town’s economy, providing jobs to hundreds of workers.

My second shoot had me photographing shade grown coffee plantations in Santander Province.  From a distance, this type of plantation looks like natural forest, as the coffee plants are grown under the cover of larger trees. You don’t even realize you are in a coffee growing area until you are standing 10 feet away from coffee plants heavy with red berries.

The process to convert these berries into a cup of joe is complicated. In brief, you remove the outer husk to reveal a coffee bean covered in gelatinous goo. You allow this bean to ferment for 8-10 hours and then wash off the goo,  and then let the beans dry for a few days. At that point, there is another papery covering over the bean which must be removed before the bean is finally ready to be roasted. All throughout this process, the beans are continually sorted with unripe or insect-damaged beans being removed and discarded -- or sold to the local market. (There’s a cruel irony for you: The Colombian coffee farmer who does all this work is often drinking the cheap stuff).

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Posted by Dennis on 10/17 at 08:16 PM
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