A green coffee wrap in Bogotá at 8,600 feet above sea level anoints a traveler on a homecoming.
I am the American daughter of a Colombian-born father. When it comes to most anything coffee, I’m a devotee and believer. Coffee was a sacrament in my family. Early on in my childhood, coffee beans marked the passing of beloved pets, bestowing honor and blessings to backyard burial sites. Over the years, coffee beans found their way into flutes of Veuve Clicquot raised to birthdays and graduations and engagements, and stood in for lucky pennies tucked into bridal bouquets. Coffee beans also served as rose petals conferring love and respect and safe passage to the departed at funerals.
So it was by design that, within hours of setting foot in Colombia, on my first stay in my belated father’s hometown of Bogotá, I found myself in a candle-lit room, anointed neck to toe in a gommage of unroasted arabica beans, deep into a spa ritual based on the healing properties of coffee at the Four Seasons Casa Medina.
I should add that Bogotá, tucked in the Andes at 8,600 feet, is right up there with Machu Picchu in neighboring Peru for travelers facing the likelihood of altitude sickness. Which was a bit daunting, given the hotel presides in the Colombian capital’s Zona G district, famed for gastronomy. I hoped to indulge. I had arrived to this liminal space after a seven-hour red-eye from Los Angeles. Never mind the joys of spontaneity and in-the-moment travel. Sometimes you need your first 24 hours in a place to be seamless, to speak solely to comfort and family tropes and personal mythology. I’d planned accordingly. Along with its mocha-walled Spa, Casa Medina was as promised: at once welcoming, sweet, sophisticated, decorously Four Seasons, and rich in story and tradition.
Sometimes you need your first 24 hours in a place to be seamless, to speak solely to comfort and family tropes and personal mythology.
My introductory home away from home had originated in 1946 as an apartment building for artists, the vision of Santiago Medina Mejía, a Medellín-born, Paris-educated architect and painter with evident affection for birds, flowers, whimsical stained glass and ornamental iron work, and stone columns and wood beams salvaged from bygone 16th-century convents. By the 1980s, Casa Medina had achieved cultural landmark status. Soon after, the Medina family renovated and reopened it as a boutique hotel that drew an international patronage.
Four Seasons took the reins in 2016 with a faithful restoration that, among other enhancements, brought a Botero sculpture to the courtyard, an expanded art collection, and added emphasis on wellness with four treatment rooms in the Spa. Passing through the foyer en route to mine, I beheld shelves laden with products from French staple Biologique Recherche as well as the latest Colombian favorite, Loto Del Sur, an organic line derived from plants of the Americas, founded by a Bogotána cold-pressed soapmaker, now part of the Barcelona-based Puig (Carolina Herrera, Charlotte Tilsbury) fashion and beauty empire.
Not surprisingly, it was Loto Del Sur that figured exclusively in Casa Medina’s signature Colombian Green Coffee Wrap, during which Catherine Linares, the deft therapist, employed a host of elixirs aimed at deep cleansing, oxygenating, and hydrating.
For the body, a scrub of La Guajira salt from northern Colombia; an exfoliant of green coffee and cocoa (Café Arábigo y Cacao Marmelade Polish) blended with ground passion-fruit seeds, and shea, almond, and jojoba oils; plus an aromatic dry oil as a finishing touch. And for the face, neck, and décolletage, no less than a mask of charcoal derived from seared coconut shells followed by a powdery mask of ground salt and freshwater pearls. It was an odyssey worthy of a coronation. Over the course of two hours, I was scrubbed, buffed, slathered, wrapped, cocooned in a plastic blanket, and steeped in nonpareil Latin American minerals and botanicals. I showered twice during the process and, for the last 30 minutes, melted into blissful oblivion with Linares’s hypnotic massage.
As to healing properties, green coffee is rich in antioxidant enzymes said to ease inflammation and fluid retention, which in turn can firm and tone the skin. Casa Medina recommends a course of six treatments. Given the brevity of my stay, I took my body’s word for it, attributing the coffee wrap with my energy for an après-spa walking tour of Bogotá’s historical center and its burgeoning street-art scene before dinner. I was happy enough to have no trace of jet lag nor altitude sickness.
That evening, at a corner table in Castanyoles, Casa Medina’s atrium-style restaurant, I celebrated my arrival to Bogotá with a feast of seafood paella, leafy greens with vinaigrette, one perfect beef empanada with ají casero (my father’s favorite), and a beautiful glass of tempranillo raised to family and my adventures in Colombia to come. And why stop there? I topped it all off with a divine cafecito and crema Catalana, a Spanish custard akin to crème brûlée, laced, of course, with Colombian coffee.
Editor’s Note: Four Seasons Casa Medina is offering a complimentary third night with a two-night stay through December 31, as is the nearby Four Seasons Bogotá, Casa Medina’s contemporary sister property with gemstone-theme spa.