I feel like I’m in some kind of TV game show.
One after another in rapid succession, Victor hands us leaves to smell and identify; oregano, basil, lemon grass, thyme. I manage to identify just two out of the four. I’m tired after seven hours of hiking in the Tamadaba National Park, well that’s my excuse anyway. Still, at least I got some right. Jack just looks bewildered.
After the leaves come the beans, first the green ones that smell like a summer meadow, then the freshly picked ruddy cherry ones and finally the dried, brown/black ones that smell like dark chocolate. These are Arabica beans, the oldest known variety of cultivated coffee beans and they’re being grown here, on la finca de La Laja in Agaete, Gran Canaria, at the world’s most northerly coffee plantation.
At the foot of the Tamadaba Mountains in the shade of 200 year old pines, la finca de La Laja has been in the Jorge family for five generations and 150 years. From the flat roof of one of the outbuildings, Victor Lugo Jorge shows us the extent of his family’s business which spreads across the valley floor of the fertile Barranco de Agaete. Coffee plants, vines, fruit trees and 1,100 orange trees which in spring fill the valley with their intoxicating perfume and in summer produce huge fruits with thick skin and sweet juice that runs down your arms.
Strolling along the lines of coffee plants beneath the dappled shade of a vine-covered terrace, Victor points out the coffee plants, from young saplings to mature producers. It takes three years for the plants to begin to produce berries and another two years for the yield to be ready for use. Cared for and protected, the plants will continue to yield crops for up to 20 years.
“At five years of age the plants are very delicate,” Victor explains. “They have to be protected from direct sunlight and from strong winds. That’s why the conditions here in the Valley de Agaete are perfect for them.”
Agaete coffee is organically produced and is marketed as gourmet coffee. At €70 a kilo, it has a price tag to match its reputation.
“Seven kilos of berries produce one kilo of coffee,” Victor tells me. “One worker will pick 14 kilos a day and that will only yield two kilos of coffee.”
On a shady terrace alongside the bodega, Victor lays out plates of goats’ cheese, orange blossom honey and slices of fairy-light sponge topped in vanilla icing. The stage is set for us to sample the award winning products of his family home.
Apart from their exclusive coffee, succulent oranges, their mangoes and avocados, la finca de La Laja annually produces 20,000 bottles of award winning wines under the label Los Berrazales. First up is the white, Los Berrazales Seco. An even blend of moscatel and malvasía, its soft, jasmine and orange blossom tones give way to lingering tropical fruit flavours. Accompanied by the sponge cake, its flavours soar.
Next up is the sweet white, Los Berrazales Dulce which is 90% moscatel and 10% malvasia and has been matured in wooden barrels for four months. Its silky smooth, jasmine tones form the perfect companion to the orange blossom honey and goats cheese. After the sweet comes the red, Los Berrazales Tinto, 80% negromoll and 20% tintilla, its light, fruity freshness having an almost sparkling quality to it and inviting generous refills.
The cake, cheese and honey dimished, what better way could there be to round off a tasting as rich in flavours and bursting with Gran Canaria sunshine as this one? Why with a cup of one of the world’s best, chocolate and fruit flavoured Agaete coffee – naturally.
La Laja gives guided tours and tastings by prior arrangement. Telephone or email Victor (above) on +34 628 922 588; firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange. Wines and coffees are available to buy at the finca, in branches of El Corte Inglés and in selected Canary Islands stores and supermarkets such as Al Campo.
Andrea (Andy) Montgomery is a freelance travel writer and co-owner of Buzz Trips and The Real Tenerife series of travel websites. Published in The Telegraph, The Independent, Wexas Traveller, Thomas Cook Travel Magazine, EasyJet Traveller Magazine, you can read her latest content on Google+