November 30, 2012
In Early November 2012 I had the opportunity to go back to Colombia. This was a great trip, again in Huila, where we focused our attention in the micro-regions of Acevedo and San Agustin (You can view photos on our Facebook page). This was my 5th trip to Colombia and am finally confident in working in these two areas for the foreseeable future. Colombia has always been a challenging country for me to work in for a few reasons.
Reason 1 – Colombia is a huge country and the distances between the coffee growing regions is great. A lot of our past trips have been in cars/planes/buses traveling from one region to the next. Each region is unique in standardized flavor profiles, and It was important for us to know that Huila was our most desired region (Tolima is second for us).
Reason 2 – Even the region (or province) Huila is huge and very diverse with MANY micro-regions, each giving you a different elevations, land scape and coffee culture. The past 2 trips before this one were all focused in Huila as well. Within Huila we traveled to these following micro-regions (keep in mind, this isn’t all of the micro-regions in Huila, but the main ones we visited):
Each of these regions offer a “unique profile”, let alone how each coffee producer with in these micro-regions grow different varietals, different elevations and different processing techniques all of which achieve unique cup profiles.
Reason 3 – The average farm size in Colombia has 3 hectares of land. From this, you can typically harvest 20-40 exportable sacks of coffee (152 lbs per sack), twice per year. Colombia and Kenya are unique in the world for having 2 harvests per year due to their proximity to the equator and many microclimates with in their countries.
Our challenge has been finding a coffee producer who is able to consistently produce enough high quality coffee each harvest for us to partner with. The risk with Direct Trade in Colombia is that you do not have much flexibility in choosing different Lots from a single producer. Ideally when working with coffee producers year over year, is the ability to pick and choose specific Lots (areas within a farm) that you want to buy that harvest. Each harvest produces new challenges to the coffee producers, and you are never guaranteed to get the same quality as you did before. Being able to choose different Lots from a single coffee producer creates more certainty in finding the specific quality we desire year over year.
These challenges are also what makes Colombia rewarding for us. Because this isn’t an easy country to source from, a lot of roasters do not go, or have yet to try and establish Direct Trade with any coffee producers. Due to the relationships we have established over the years, we have been able to find some amazing producers who we are confident to work with.
Our newest Direct Trade partnership is going to be with Elias Roa who has 2 farms. One in El Pital called Finca Tamana. Fratello Coffee Roasters purchased 1 Lot of coffee from him last year from Finca Tamana and our goal was to continue to work there moving forward. Unfortunately for us, but starting this year, 100% of all his production is going to Tim Wendelboe now. However; Elias’s other farm is located in Acevedo which continues to be my favorite region for cup quality in Colombia. This farm is called Finca Recuerdo (Translates to “The Memory”) and is located in the micro-region Primavera in Acevedo. I will have a separate blog post on Elias later.
Another very special lot of coffee we are bringing in is from Arnulfo Leguisamo. We are fortunate to be getting Lot #1 which is grown in San Agustin. Arnulfo holds the record in Colombia for highest ranking coffee, as well as most expensive Colombian coffee when he won first place in the 2011 Colombian Cup of Excellence competition getting $45.00 / lb. This is among the best coffee I’ve ever cupped in my life, and we will have this in early 2013.
We are proud to say that we are making big progress in Colombia, and are happy that our hard work is finally paying off. The producers we are going to be working with are 100% dedicated to achieving top quality lots harvest over harvest, so you can be assured that the quality of our micro-lots are only going to improve moving forward.