Finca La Laja reflects the generous and diverse landscape of Agaete Valley, in Gran Canaria.
High up, in Tamadaba Crag, the pine forest juts out, and the water oozing from the Stone shines like a mirror or a silver sheet under the sun. About one thousand metres below, at the foot of the ridge, in Finca La Laja, deep in the heart of Agaete Valley (Gran Canaria), Víctor Lugo Jorge, fifth generation of a family whose history intertwines with the roots of centenary trees, offers in his hands the fruits just harvested from the coffee plants that grow under the shade of orange trees and vines, escorted by a tropical garden of mangoes, avocados and guayabos.
His eyes glinting like the magician waiting for the audience reaction to his trick, Víctor watches while you open the coffee cherry, taste the pulp and discover an unexpected sweet flavour, like that of a pomegranate or even apricot, depending on your own palate’s memory. But the true magic unfolds from the two beans inside, of the Arabica Typica variety, original from Ethiopia and one of the oldest and most appreciated in the world.
This travelling variety settled over two centuries ago in the Agaete Valley, where it takes advantage of optimum conditions, three hundred and fifty metres high in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean: a temperate and stable climate, sunny and wet. And of course here it stayed. In exchange, the plants produce an exclusive kind of coffee, with hints of chocolate, liquorice and fruit under a certain level of acidity and bitterness.
Víctor, following the family tradition, is just like another plant in the luscious natural stage, and know every secret of the area, from the soil to the sky. Thus, he is able to tell the visitors that the spectacular rocks to left and right are the result of volcanic eruptions of millions of years ago. They, the Lugo-Jorges, are integral part of this prodigious Agaete Valley.
They worked endlessly on an estate whose ownership eventually acquired, preserving the promenade where his aunties and uncles used to walk along on their first dates, amongst the white coffee flowers, similar to orange blossoms. His mother, María del Carmen Jorge Cruz, who used to be known as 'the Laja girl’ and his father, Inocencio Lugo García, are “the souls” of this vital project, that is still under daily development between crags and banks. Stories of ‘sautiles’ or ‘subtle’ lemons, used by grandmother Leonor Cruz to heal her eyes and those of the new-borns, sail the sea of memories, with those of three decades of walks up and down to Teror to sell the Valley’s jewels. The charming chapel dedicated to Virgen del Pino honours Gran Canaria’s Holy Patron between guayabos and coffee plants.
In between the orange trees you can see the drying and husking rooms where parchment and mucilage are extracted, to be used in cosmetics and even in smoked foods. Finca La Laja is, indeed, a constant invitation to the senses, and immersion not only in the aromatic world of coffee, but also of wine, another indication of the bottomless cup of Agaete Valley.
We take one last sip from our coffee and wine glasses are at the ready. But before, we cross the door leading on to Bodegas Los Berrazales. The impressive basalt stone frontispiece, the Laja that gives its name to the state, seems to be suspended in the air. This colossal stone broke from the neighbouring slopes ages ago, and slid over the rugged terrain just to this point. The sliding marks can still be appreciated on one of the stone’s sides. Here, even stones have a life and a story to tell.
“We believe that every bottle is a work of art”, says Víctor. This philosophy is also applied to the label, which is sometimes inspired by the rugged mountains’ silhouette, or by the work of the renowned artist Pepe Dámaso. An allegorical painting by Cristóbal Guerra hangs on one of the walls. And the art continues after opening the bottles of reds, muscats or malvasias that declare their origins in their mineral notes, their clean and sparkling notes, like the first morning sun on the Valley, or the notes of jasmine, green tobacco, passion fruit, figs or tropical fruit. These wines match the environment. Part of the grapes are harvested at night, in order to achieve a distinct freshness and aroma. It’s nearly like putting the Valley’s night time peace and quiet into a bottle.
Suddenly, you are thirsty. Víctor offers a glass of spring, ferruginous water, with just a hint of gas to shake up your senses. Further above, like the skeleton of some extinct animal, lies the structure of the old spa, famous for its healing waters. Meanwhile, at Finca La Laja, the moment has come to put an end to the day with a brooch of jet and gold, near some of the oldest pine trees in Gran Canaria. The tasting includes different wines, a variety of local cheese, a home-made cake and, of course, coffee. Víctor has just started a new guided visit. Five generations later, life goes on in this unique place of baptismal stones, plants that travelled from the end of the world and men and women who walked their dreams along the orange grove.