Early morning routine…Life of retirees…More photos from cultural coffee farm tour…

Tom was holding the broom (escoba) made of vegetation at El Toledo Coffee Tour.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

Layers of clouds rolling into the valley.

As candid as we are regarding how we live our daily lives, we’re also curious about how other retirees may spend their time. Is it so unusual it’s Tuesday at 8:00 am, and we’re sitting in the screening room while Tom is watching last night’s Minnesota Vikings game while I busily peck away at my laptop?

The items throughout the cafe each had their own story to tell.

Probably not. We haven’t spent any of our retirement years living near friends and family, which would give us a better perspective of what other retirees may be doing in their spare time, as compared to us.

The El Toledo Coffee Farm’s coffee is nicely packaged.

It’s not a desire to emulate the activities of others. More so, it’s simple curiosity, the same curiosity bringing some of you back, again and again, to see “what we’re up to” from one day to the next.

An old-fashioned cart.

A significant difference for us, besides living in a new country every few months, is the reality of living without a car at specific points, often without easy access to public transportation. It’s the price we pay for choosing to live in more remote locations.

Every corner of the area was filled with family treasures.

Many world travelers with whom we’ve communicated chose to live in apartments and condos in big cities, heading out each day for sightseeing, dining, and tours. 

Gabriel was educating us while we sat at the long table.  We were entranced by his manner of speaking and expertise.

The big city life is far removed from our reality, except on occasions such as our upcoming one-month stay in Buenos Aires beginning on December 23rd (Tom’s birthday). Indeed during those 31 days, we’ll be dining out (no kitchen), using public transportation for tours and sightseeing, and getting out of the hotel room each day to wander about.

Handmade wood boat.

Even us, who don’t mind staying in, don’t enjoy sitting in a hotel room all day and night.  This period will give us an excellent opportunity to get out walking, something we’ve missed here in the villa in Atenas. The hills are too steep to navigate for an enjoyable leisurely walk.

The coffee cafe, with its cultural decor, was fascinating.

Luckily, in the weeks we’ve had a car (every other at this point), we’ve chosen various types of sightseeing, all of which have required extensive walking. Although these “hikes” aren’t frequent enough to build the level of fitness we’d like to restore, at least these tours, thus far, have kept us on the move.

The clutter was oddly appealing.

As for a day like today…once the football game ends and I’ve uploaded the post, most likely, we’ll spend time out by the pool. The past three days have been cloudy and rainy by the time I’ve finished the post. We’re both anxious to get our token 20 to 30 minutes of sun time and spend time in the pool. Rain or shine, we spend the better part of each day on the veranda with the roof protecting us from the rain.

Once we embarked on the tour, we entered this working area.

We discuss our dreams for the future during those pool times, where we’d like to go after revisiting the US in 2019. At this point, we’re tossing around some ideas, considering which countries we’ve yet to visit and those we long to see.

Gabriel was explaining the use of the space.

Our typical day-to-day lives may not be too different than yours, except for a few factors; we don’t do any household repairs and maintenance; we don’t do yard work, and we don’t go to Home Depot. 

Wine-making area.

We don’t “jump in the car” to drive short distances to visit with friends and family; we rarely go to the doctor; we don’t go to Costco for a fun shopping trip loading up large quantities of food and supplies; we don’t head over the Walgreen’s or CVS for a few items, using these little rewards cards for discounts hanging on our keyring.

Drying racks for the coffee beans.

Then again, most peculiarly…we don’t have a keyring! How odd is that?

Have a pleasant day!

Photo from one year ago today, September 12, 2016:

When we watched this activity on the river, we had no idea what was transpiring until we saw they were cleaning the carcass of a cow in the river. Yikes! For more photos, please click here.

Part 2…El Toledo Coffee Tour…A farming experience unlike any other…

 Our video of roasting coffee beans at El Toledo Coffee Tour.
As a result of the end of the roasting cycle, these dark beans created the darkest roast, which, much to our surprise, contained the least caffeine. The light roast produced at the beginning of the roasting cycle includes the highest levels of caffeine. (See our above video) Who knew?
“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”
Yesterday afternoon this visitor came to call.  This lizard, most likely a Chameleon, was bright green near the vegetation and gray to blend it with the rocks and stone on the veranda.  Fascinating!

When we met farmer/owner Gabriel his warmth, openness, and innate desire to provide each visitor with an exceptional experience were highly evidenced in his welcoming demeanor. 

Arriving earlier than the scheduled 2:00 pm tour, as mentioned in yesterday’s post, we had an opportunity to “pick his brain” about his farming techniques coupled with his passion for the farm, which has been in his family for 85-years.

Bananas/plantains are growly abundantly in the coffee fields.
Over the years, they’ve changed his farm from growing beans to be marketed to other manufacturers to working and producing their beans, packaging their product, and bringing it to market to local citizens and visitors.
Each Friday, he and his dad each take up residence at each of two local farmers’ markets, one in Atenas and the other in La Garita (which we’ve yet to visit but will do so soon).  
Coffee beans, not ready for the harvest until they turn red.
They each set up a display of their fine coffee beans, both ground, and the whole bean, along with their delicious coffee wines, the red of which both Tom and I tasted and found to be of excellent red wine quality, somewhat similar to a Port wine. The white was considerably drier and reminded me of a quality Sauterne.
A type of Heliconia plant growing wild in the coffee fields.
There were four major elements to El Toledo Coffee Tour:
1.  The introduction and discussion about organic versus traditional farming and our misconceptions; how diversity in growing a wide array of other fruits and plants along with the coffee beans may eventually impact the quality of the flavor of the coffee beans; how he sees the growth of the farm in years to come; the introduction of other coffee bean products such as the “juice” and the two varieties of wine.
2.  The trek through the hilly terrain, up and down steep and muddy inclines due to recent rains, lasted almost two hours.  We stopped many times along the way as Gabriel explained the value and use of various other crops he’s begun to harvest and, of course, all about coffee bean growing. (It was a vigorous hike. At one point, Tom mumbled “The Queen’s Bath,” and although it was nowhere near as dangerous, at many points, it was pretty tricky.  Click here for the most challenging trek in our travels in Kauai, Hawaii).
3.  A return to the cafe for the coffee tasting, wine tasting, and more educational discussion during which we asked questions.
4.  The actual roasting process for which we’ve included the above video.
Many varieties of flowering plants grow prolifically in the fields attracting insects used as a deterrent to keep the insects off of the coffee beans instead of using toxic pesticides.
Here are a few notes from El Toledo Coffee Tour’s website that further exemplifies the nature of the above discussions:

“Welcome to El Toledo!Toledo coffee is a project that features coffee production in harmony with the environment. Here on the farm, we try to use natural resources to produce our organic coffee to minimize the impact on nature! To reach this objective, it is necessary to make a lot of changes to a typical coffee plantation-changes that we have implemented over the years and are glad we did.

First of all, an organic coffee plantation requires a different way of living and thinking about life. We cannot believe that the most important thing is money, because our health, future, and the environment are priceless!

Gabriel’s father was sorting black beans, frijoles negros which also are grown on the farm.

Once we achieved this change in our thinking, the next step was understanding and opening our eyes to everything we do to preserve our future and our health. In other words, we had to avoid using chemicals and damaging the environment in a way that could harm our health and put our future at risk! It is essential to understand its nature, as simple and as complicated as it is! Nature acts wisely. It can make everything grow in harmony; however, when we try to control everything in our way, we break all those functions using techniques that would make more problems instead of doing better!

Did you know people can grow organic products and still be against the environment?

We’ve learned so many things in our 20 years of experience that we want to share with you! Now, our production method is not only compliant with all the standards of organic farming by the certification we have. It’s more than that. It’s using the means of nature to work with and not against it, and that is the principle by which we live and operate our plantation!”

Check out the size of these plantains, a type of banana.  Gabriel in the hat in this photo kept us all educated and entertained during the tour.

During our five years of world travel (as of upcoming October 31st), we’ve visited many farms and agricultural businesses, which provided us with an education that has enhanced our lives and travels. But, Thursday’s tour with Gabriel at El Toledo Coffee Tour will always remain one of our favorites.

While the coffee roaster was working, Gabriel removed some of the beans at varying stages to illustrate how the color and richness of the roast changes the more extended the beans are roasted.
Right now, I’m avoiding coffee due to its high acidity, but hopefully soon, while we’re still in Atenas, I’ll be able to enjoy a full cup of El Toledo’s light roast. Tom will continue to enjoy the bag of light roast we purchased at the farm in the interim.

Enjoy a cup of locally grown coffee this weekend, wherever you may be!
Photo from one year ago today, September 10, 2016:
Beautiful beach scene from a stop halfway through the four to five-hour harrowing drive from the airport in Denpasar Bali to the villa in Sumbersari.  For more photos, please click here.

Part 1…El Toledo Coffee Tour…A farming experience unlike any other…

Purple flowers on white vines located on the El Toledo Coffee Farm.

“Sightings from the Veranda in Costa Rica”

An identical or similar Woodpecker stopped by again for a visit.

Today, there are just not enough hours in the day to present our entire story and photos from our tour of the El Toledo Coffee Tour. As a result, we’ll share photos of this tour over the next few days, explaining the informational and educational experience we had with Gabriel, the coffee plantation’s owner.

While Gabriel spoke to the eight of us on his passion for coffee farming, his mother brewed three roasts for us, each a mystery from which we chose our favorite; light, medium and dark. Tom and I both chose the light roast, which ultimately, explained Gabriel, contains the most significant amount of caffeine, much to our surprise.

Shortly, we’re leaving for the village to return the rental car and do our weekly grocery shopping.  Tom will hang out in the cafe to wrap up the rental car return with Edgar and later chat with locals who stop by for coffee and easy morning chatter.

With this morning’s late start and many distractions, I’m behind a total of two hours from my usual starting-to-post time. What a busy week we’ve had while making the most of every moment while we’ve had the rental car.

We were served coffee in these tiny cups, perfect for sipping the fine coffee.

Having spent the bulk of the five days out and about sightseeing, we have enough photos and stories to keep us going through the next nine days until we have a rental car again to repeat the same process over and again.

Tom’s eye widened when plates of these vanilla wafers were placed on the table.  Politely, he ate only three or four.

The highlight of the week’s activities, although all were worthwhile, was Thursday’s tour of the El Toledo Coffee farm located on a mountainous road about 25 minutes from the villa. 

Gabriel explained the different roasts, which attribute to the varying degrees of flavor and caffeine. Again, we were shocked to discover that dark roast, although possessing a more robust taste, has the least caffeine, contrary to what most of us believe.

According to “maps,” the drive to El Toledo, as the crow flies, appears to be only about 15 to 20 minutes. But once on the steep winding mountain roads, often behind trucks and slow-moving vehicles, the travel time is considerably greater.

We all had an opportunity to sample his delicious coffee “wine,” one white and the other a deep red. The red was delicious, tasting like an OK port.  How surprising.

Finding this location is tricky. It’s only by using “maps” with “her” saying, “You’ve arrived at your destination,” we found the rough rocky, muddy road necessary to navigate to enter the farm. There’s no off-site parking, so it’s that particular driveway or none. 

During the daily rainstorms, the driveway was muddy and challenging to maneuver, even for the most adept of drivers like Tom. He took him time, fearing he’d damage the rental car. He did fine, and we arrived and left unscathed.

In the lush canopy, even the simplest of plants are stunning.

We’d arrived 40 minutes earlier than the scheduled tour at 2:00 pm, allowing us ample time to interview Gabriel. This gave us an excellent opportunity to learn about his family (we met his mother, father, and aunt). At the same time, we quickly grasped his dedication to healthful, ecologically, and environmentally friendly farming. We’ll discuss more on this in tomorrow’s follow-up story.

A-frame containing various butterflies.

Six other tourists joined us a short time later for the scheduled tour, all of whom were 20-somethings, three young women from Arizona and another woman, and two men from Germany and the Netherlands.

Here again, another yellow Lollipop flower.

Not only did Gabriel (who speaks excellent English) share his unique take on organic vs. non-organic farming, but he explained many aspects of his family farm differing regarding most coffee farming in Costa Rica and throughout the world. 

Tucked away in the deep vegetation, I spotted this pretty pink flower.

With my and Tom’s mutual interest in farming and agriculture throughout the world, Gabriel’s perspective left us reeling over an entirely new spectrum of education we had yet to pursue.  Tomorrow we’ll be posting a coffee roasting video we took during the roasting process.

We encountered a wide array of plants and flowers on the steep and muddy path through the coffee farm.

As time has marched on this morning, it’s time for me to wrap this up and get dressed in street clothes for our trip into the village. It is easy to spend the better part of each day wearing a swimsuit, but a journey into town requires a bit of added coverage.

A creek was running along the narrow road up into the mountains where El Toledo Coffee Tour is located.

We hope your weekend is filled with pleasant surprises!

Photo from one year ago today, September 9, 2016:

Balinese food truck. For more photos from Bali, please click here.