Tuesday, 29 August 2017

What a load of (Colombian) buffalo

Colombia's coffee region, the Eje Cafetero. Home to coffee (we kid you not), beautiful landscapes, quaint colonial-style towns with friendly, easy-going folk (*LINK). It's why it tends to be on most tourists' must-visit lists.

One thing, however, we don't tend to associate with this part of Colombia, nay any part in fairness, is buffalo. Yet midway between the towns of Marsella and Chinchiná, tucked away among the spectacular mountains that define this region, you'll find a herd of 70-odd of the animals.

Buffalo from the Bufalera Gibraltar farm, located between the towns of Marsella & Chinchiná on Colombia's Caldas-Risaralda border.
Buffalo enjoying the environs of Colombia's famed coffee region.
To the uninitiated or if you're just not paying much attention, you mightn't notice them at all; these Indian-style buffalo could pass as cattle. (For the record most of the 'buffalo' beasts roaming the North American plains are bison.)

Nonetheless, buffalo they are and they've found a nice home for themselves on the Caldas-Risaralda border. They belong to Luis Fernando Sanint and his father, the latter being the man who first brought this particular breed of buffalo to Colombia in the 1960s.

While Luis Fernando and his wife's main focus has been on producing artisanal, organic cheese (the farm is considered fully organic), with the help of another few locals they're now expanding into offering farm tours. Considering the facilities they already have to hand -- an impressive, let's call it rural-style convention centre, a swimming pool and guest accommodation -- together with the growing, passing tourism trade, they might just be on to a winner.

Visitors are given the opportunity to get up close and personal with the buffalo during milking as well as having a wander among them in their pastures. There's a PowerPoint presentation on the animals, which gives an insight into the history of the breed farmed and also explains the health benefits of buffalo meat and milk (for the record, buffalo milk is suitable for those who are lactose intolerant and apparently it contains more Omega 3 than cow's milk while its meat tends to have more protein).

A highlight for many is getting to taste the cheese. The mozzarella -- do remember that the original, traditional Italian type is made from buffalo milk -- is a Colombian favourite, but European cheese lovers will probably find the quality mature cheeses they have on offer a treat (the typical Colombian doesn't tend to go for them, so finding a quality cheddar in these parts is usually a challenge).

While Luis Fernando doesn't specifically raise his own animals for slaughter, buffalo steak is, appropriately enough we could say considering the setting, served on the tour. If meat's not your thing, they also farm and sell fish, so you can catch your own lunch right on the spot.

Whatever the case, a visit to Bufelera Gibraltar should leave you satisfied food wise, if nothing else. The setting is pretty agreeable as well.
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