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Think of coffee and countries like Columbia and Brazil immediately come to mind. You can now add Gran Canaria, one of the Canary Islands, found in the Atlantic Ocean some 1000 kilometres south of mainland Europe and about 250 kilometres west of Morocco, to the list.

Heading Gran Canaria’s coffee production is the plantation La Finca la Laja located just outside the small village of Agaete on the north of the island.  Local farmer Victor Jorge is the fifth generation to work the land and grow coffee and is justifiably proud of his product which is causing a stir with gourmands due to its exceptionally high quality.

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Victor stands before me with a handful of ripe, red coffee berries plucked straight from a bush on his 12-hectare plantation. As he crushes the juicy Arabica coffee berry between his fingers, the subtle aromas of date and ripe kiwi drift upwards. “We’re only producing Arabica beans here,” he explains, as we continue our stroll through the verdant vegetation, past grape vines, orange and avocado trees which provide much needed shade to the somewhat delicate coffee plants.

Amazingly, they have been cultivating coffee in Gran Canaria since the 18th century. Planting in the area began when specimens where brought back from the botanical gardens in the village of La Orotava on the neighbouring island of Tenerife where they had been used for ornamental purposes.

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Holding the title of most northerly coffee plantation in the world, La Finca la Laja’s location is perfect for growing coffee. It would be quite easy to imagine that you are in Brazil or Indonesia as the Agaete Valley is hot and humid year round due to its particular microclimate. While the temperature and rainfall are perfect, the lower altitude of the plantation – at about 100 metres above sea level – means that the Gran Canarian coffee doesn’t have the acidic aftertaste of its South American counterparts which are normally grown at heights of over 1000 metres.

Around December each year, the coffee plants begin to flower and that delicate white flower becomes the red coffee berry. By spring each year the fruit is ready to be harvested – a task that is done by hand.

Once collected the fruit is placed on open drying racks for 25 to 30 days and the bright Canary Island sun goes to work to desiccate the berries turning them hard and brown. Once dried, the fruit is split open and the two coffee beans are extracted.

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At this stage the beans are pale green and need to be roasted for about ten minutes to bring out the much prized aroma and make them possible to grind. Using a machine, which was built by his father Inocencio, Victor pours the roasted beans through the grinder. The final product is now ready to be used.

With its fame spreading, the plantation is now attracting both local and international tourists. Victor is a keen guide and loves walking the inquisitive visitors through the trees and explaining in detail the production process from berry to cup. At the end of the visit it’s time to sit on the open veranda and enjoy a cup of coffee served with some homemade biscuits. Packets of Agaete Coffee are available for sale at the La Finca la Laja for around €17. You’ll also find them in the gourmet section of El Corte Ingles supermarkets and in specialty shops selling Canary Island produce (www.madeincanaryislands.com)  To organise a visit, Victor can be contacted via his mobile +34-628 922 588 or by e-mail lugojorge3@hotmail.com