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The Best Cup of Coffee I Ever Had (Along the Inca Trail Peru)

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I’ve definitely fallen into the camp at times of those overusing the adage that ‘the journey is the destination’.

And starting a post off with it is probably the second worst way to commit this offense.

The worst way would be just posting a photo where the description is nothing more than this saying in quotes.

Cast iron pot over open flame fire
The story behind the best cup of coffee I ever had

But it’s just too applicable here not to roll with it. So, I’m going to! The journey is the destination!

In this specific situation it’s really about meeting an amazing local farmer who took us through all of the steps to make our own coffee from scratch.

From picking the coffee cherries to roasting them in a cast iron pot atop an open wood burning flame.

On the 3rd day of our 5-day Salkantay Trek we traveled along part of the Inca Trail to our campsite near Llactapata that overlooks Machu Picchu. Near the beginning of the ascent, just off the trail, lives a local family that runs a small coffee farm.

Also, once you’re done reading this post be sure to check out my Peru Video Travel Guide that will highlight some of my favorite activities to do around the Cusco area.

You’ll notice some links and advertisements from partner or affiliate sites throughout this post. I typically earn a small commission on any purchases made through those links at no additional cost to you. If you check those out, great. If not, I’m still happy you’re here!

Inca Trail Coffee Farm Experience

Our guide Alpaca Expeditions had arranged us a visit with the Matriarch of this small operation, Paolina.

During our stay we had an opportunity to pick ripe coffee cherries, separate the coffee beans from the exterior fruit, roast, grind and finally drink our finished product!

One thing that really stood out to me about Peru was how friendly, warm and welcoming all of the people are.

Being from the Midwestern United States I’ve had countless people (often New Yorkers) compliment my demeanor for similar reasons.

So I guess for me this is the equivalent of that? With that said I’m officially dubbing Peru the ‘Midwestern USA’ of South America. Or how about Peru, The Ohio of Latin America? The possibilities are endless really.

So what all did we get to do during our Peruvian coffee farm visit?

Step 1 – Pick ripe coffee beans

Woman picking coffee cherries in Peru
Picking coffee cherries with Paolina

If you’re a coffee lover then working an entire cup from start to finish needs to be on your bucket list!

For our first step, Paolina led our group of four down into the forest where her coffee trees hung out. There we wandered through the trees looking for branches covered in ripe red fruits like those shown here.

Step 2 – Extract the beans

After picking a sufficient amount of coffee cherries Paolina led us over to a large machine used for extracting the beans from the fruit.

Woman filling coffee bean machine in Peru
Tossing coffee cherries into a machine that extracts the beans

After loading up the machine we each had an opportunity to crank the wheel which pushed the cherries through a press that removed the fruity exterior and exposed what we were really after.. a giant blue tub full of coffee beans!

Coffee beans being extracted from the cherries
The machine effortlessly extracts the coffee beans

While we spent a good 30+ minutes picking coffee cherries, this machine made short work of extracting the beans. From loading the machine to walking away with our blue tub of coffee treasure this part of the process probably took no more than a minute or two.

Step 3 – Dry the beans

Okay so technically we didn’t partake in this part of the process. After we extracted our beans Paolina whisked them away to be laid out in the sun for several days. This process dries them out in preparation for roasting.

Dried coffee beans on a table in Peru
Dried out coffee beans ready for roasting

While we didn’t have days to wait for our beans to dry, Paolina of course had some dried beans ready for us that she had started preparing days prior. Presumably the beans we picked would experience the same fate in a few days when another group of hikers passes through.

Step 4 – Roast the beans

This was by far my favorite part of the process (well, short of actually drinking it)!

Woman roasting coffee beans over an open flame in Peru
The actual roasting process was the funnest part!

In a small cast iron pot set over an open fire, we slowly stirred the beans while they roasted. As they roast the beans turn from a very light yellowish-brown to a deep dark chocolate brown color.

Woman stirring a hot pot of coffee beans
The aromas coming off the freshly roasted beans were heavenly

If you like the smell of freshly brewed coffee, then you’ll love the smell of freshly roasted coffee beans over an open wood fire. This is something that everyone’s nose should experience at least once!

Step 5 – Grind your beans

Once the freshly roasted beans have had an opportunity to cool off, into the grinder they go!

Man using a grinder to grind fresh coffee by hand
Nothing beats freshly ground coffee beans!

Step 6 – Brew and enjoy!

It was hands down the best cup of coffee I’ve ever had. For starters it literally couldn’t have been any fresher.

The beans went from roasting to brewing with just enough time to cool off for grinding in between.

It only gets better when you consider Paolina’s skillfulness in the craft of coffee making. Lastly, the setting.

Peru is well regarded for their coffee and to experience the entire process with Paolina and her family made the experience much more special.

Four red coffee cups being filled by hand
It will take a lot to beat this coffee experience!

If you’re considering a trip to Peru then I’d recommend giving Alpaca Expeditions a look when deciding on local guide options.

They were easy to work with, made the logistics of navigating Peru a breeze and our guide Robinzon was amazing!

Man drinking cup of handmade coffee in Peru
The journey is the destination also applies to making cups of coffee!

They can arrange shorter excursions from Cusco such as visits to Pisac, Moray and the Maras Salt Mines in addition to longer adventures such as the Salkantay Trek or Inca Trail.

We spent a day with them visiting the first three places I mentioned followed by the 5-Day Salkantay Trek to Machu Picchu.

If you do end up visiting Paolina and her farm, be sure to bring cash! We were able to purchase some packaged coffee beans to take with us as a souvenir.

Check out these activities available in the area

Looking for more ways to fill out your trip itinerary? Be sure to check out the list of activities below from GetYourGuide.

Interested in learning more about Pisac?

If you’re traveling to Peru then there’s a good chance that your list of must see places includes Machu Picchu and Cusco.

These two destinations are a great starting point for your Peru travel plans. Cusco serves as an excellent jumping off point for exploring Peru’s mountainous regions and many Inca ruin sites. That’s where the beautiful ruins of Pisac come into play!

Ruins of Pisac farming terraces near Cusco Peru
The farming terraces at Pisac are impressive to see first hand

The Peruvian town of Pisac sits at the base of well preserved Inca ruins complete with an incredible amount of farming terraces like those shown here.

A journey to Pisac is a great way to transition from the hustle and bustle of Cusco to experience what the more mountainous regions of Peru have to offer.

If you’re interested in learning about other activities in Peru be sure to read my full Peru Travel Guide!

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