Colombia, Huila Coffee Sourcing Trip - 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):

  1. El Pital
  2. Quituro
  3. Gigante
  4. Garzon
  5. Suaza
  6. Guadalupe
  7. Tarqui
  8. Agrado
  9. Acevedo
  10. San Augustin

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.

Christmas gift ideas for the coffee lover in your family.

Happy Holidays from Fratello Coffee Roasters!  At Christmas time why not pay special attention to the coffee lover on your list (that is usually most people on the list) and treat them to some great gift ideas from Fratello.  We offer all of these items at our roastery, as well as at Fratello Analog Cafe at the Calgary Farmers Market and our new store Analog Coffee 17th Ave.  Come by for a demonstration on how to use these items to their full potential.

Here is our list for you.  Lots of great coffee, some popular and really neat by-the-cup brew methods and tools for the home or professional Barista are all great options! Any questions call or email us and we would love to help.

Chemex, Hario, EsproPress and Aeropress:

Fratello Coffee Roasters has a fantastic coffee brewing packages for the coffee lover on your list, or for you!  By the Cup Brewing is becoming more and more popular in the top cafes around the world.  It is also our preferred method at our Analog Coffee locations.

Not sure what this is?  Here is a brewing video guide for the Chemex.

Breville Dual Boiler espresso machine, full line of Baratza coffee grinders and Bona Vita coffee brewer:

If your are looking for a espresso machines, coffee grinders and automatic coffee brewers than we those products as well.  We are fanatical about brewing amazing coffee, and we only carry coffee equipment that we would also use in our own homes.  This equipment truly brews coffee to the quality you find in your local cafes.

Fresh Roasted seasonal coffee, delivered directly to your door!:

We roast every order fresh when you order from us on-line.  We want to ensure that you and your coffee lover get the absolute freshest coffee possible.  Choose from a wide selection of Direct Trade micro-lots that each have a unique flavor and story.  We are proud of our coffee and work extremely hard at developing each roast profile to bring out the natural flavors found in each bean.

Sure a bottle of wine is the customary host gift during the holiday season, but why not give a bag of coffee this season! Amazing Espresso blends,  top tier single origin coffee and Cup of Excellence selections are all in store for you!

Tools for the home or professional Barista:

Fratello has a great selection of espresso tampers, milk steaming pitchers, cleaning solutions and knock boxes for the home espresso enthusiest or the professional Barista alike! If you are looking for that particular product give us a call or come in to see us! We don't have these items online, but would be happy to help you choose.

Happy Holidays from Fratello! Enjoy your coffee and enjoy your time with family and friends this season.   We look forward to helping find that perfect gift!

Bolivian Coffee Sourcing Trip

Well it’s been a couple weeks since I got back from Bolivia on my first origin trip, I went down with a company called Invalsa who sources and exports coffee from Bolivia. The trip was a real eye opening experience, From seeing the coffee farms and their incredibly steep hills, being shown the incredibly labour intensive procedure that goes into milling the coffee after it has been picked and talking to the farmers and hearing how passionate they are about their coffee and how much they invest into making it a better product year after year.

Bolivian mountain range

The first few days we were in La Paz, which is the legislative capital of Bolivia. This is where we did the cupping of the top coffees that Invalsa had. After narrowing it down over 3 days we ranked the top coffees 1 through 20. The top lot came from Gregorian Gonza Mamani from the San Ignacio Co-op who we later got to meet.

Bolivian cupping

Once we were done with the cupping’s it was off to the Caranavi region, which is one of the largest coffee growing regions in Bolivia. (Also where our current offering of Bolivian coffee is from) After five or six hours of the scariest roads I have ever been on we arrived in the city of Caranavi, surrounded by palm trees, parrots and mangos! This was a very nice contrast to the rocky and dry area of La Paz.

Bolivian flowers

The next morning we headed off to the Seven Star Group Co-op, though it took us a lot longer to get there than expected, due to a construction company blowing up the road, the farmers were still very excited to see us. They decorated us with wreaths of flowers and then fed us as they spoke about how they were constantly improving their coffee due to people buying their coffee. Once we ate they took us down to a few of their farms and showed us how they pick the coffee and what they do with it after it has been picked. At this particular Co-op everything is de pulped washed and then dried on Raised African beds.

Raised African Beds

After we left the Seven Star Group Co-op we went to Cima del Jaguar which was the biggest farm we went to on our trip, just over 5 hectares. After following the farmer up his fields it really hit me how much work would go into just picking the coffee, I was exhausted half way up and that was without carrying any coffee cherries on my back! After a quick tour of the rest of his farm we took us back to his house and fed us supper. I found their generosity amazing from people who have so little to feed these 12 strangers, who come and look around their farms.

Bolivian culture

The next day we went to the San Ignacio Co-op, which was a very unique experience. As we pulled up we could see an arch way decorated with flowers and the Bolivian flag. As we stepped out of the vehicles we heard a band start playing and many of the families that lived there started heading towards us with wreaths of flowers and confetti. We were then pulled into a large dance number and danced up to an open field with tables and chairs set up. After what seemed to be 20 minutes of dancing (it was probably only 5 but I’m a terrible dancer so it seems to take longer to me) we were escorted to our seats and were promptly served a meal as the farmers once again spoke their speeches. After lunch a few of us went to tour the farms of this Co-op with Oscar? Mamani, the top ranking farmer’s brother, he showed us how they stump the trees (chop them down) so that new trees can grow out of the stumps, they do this after the trees have gotten to old, usually around 6 or 7 years, so they no longer produce as much. He also showed us they new way he was pruning his trees, he said that now that he has this new technique he gets almost 3 times as much as he used to before pruning. The thing I found most interesting about what he said was it was more valuable to have this kind of information and training than it would be to just have more money per pound and not be improving his crop. After another long climb back to the top of his farm we headed back to the Co-op and then were danced back to our vehicles.

Bolivian people

Once we left the San Ignacio Co-op we headed towards Coroico, where we stayed for the night. The next morning we headed out to the infamous “Death Road”. Though the road is still open very few people use it now because there is now another less dangerous road which goes from La Paz to the Caranavi region now. As we started up this very narrow road it was amazing to think that this one lane dirt road with 100+ foot drops on it was once the main two way highway. Being empty now it was very easy to take in all the beauty of the country side and the waterfalls that come down right on the road. It was an incredible experience and far less scary than some of the other roads we had been on!

Once we got back into La Paz it was time to say Goodbye to all the amazing people I toured around with on my trip and then head to bed.  I had to be at the airport at 3 am the next morning!

I had a great time touring around the country and was amazed how much I learned and continue to learn even back at home about sourcing coffee. I always figured you just went down there and came back with some amazing coffees, but it’s so much more than that. It’s about building relationships with people so when you go back you can keep getting better and better coffees every year. I feel I’ve only scratched the surface with what I know about sourcing coffee and I am very excited to continue learning more!

I would also like to thank Fratello for giving me this chance to go down and see what its really like, it is amazing and I would encourage everyone if they have the chance to go and see it, it is definitely worth it!

Written by: David Schindel, Lead Coffee Roaster for Fratello Coffee