Colombia Las Rosas Coffee Coop

Las Rosas Women's Cooperative

Recently, our President Russ Prefontaine had the opportunity to visit La Plata, located in Huila Colombia. He went to visit Las Rosas (formerly Las Marias) the women’s cooperative that we have been working with for some time.

Las Rosas was founded in September 2010 by women in the region, overwhelmed by the lack of credit available to them to use as working capital for their farms. This lack of critical credit combined with traditional household roles and duties, was weakening their families. So, they sought to change it

The major objectives are:

  1. Gender equality and the importance of an inclusive family
  2. Revolving credit to finance their farms
  3. Economic education
  4. Overall cup quality and farming processes
  5. Overall infrastructure improvements to their homes and coffee process equipment.

Las Rosas Family Training MeetingFratello started working with this cooperative in 2014. We are the majority supporter in this project. We have committed to continue working with them and are working on further incentives to improve cup quality and reward the top producers.

While there, Russ joined a family training day in the village of Monserrate located in La Plata. This lesson focused on the value and roles of women and the importance of gender equality. 40 members of Las Rosas were involved and that was inclusive of their entire family. At the end, they shared stories of how this program has literally changed their lives and transformed their village.

Nelly, the president of this cooperative just received her high school diploma at the age of 50 through this program!

Today, Fratello and Analog Coffee purchase 30% of their total production, however could reach 50% by the end of this year.

We take great pride and joy in knowing that we are making strategic decisions like this to improve the areas we are working in.

Our goal is to do a similar program in Brazil, starting in 2019.

Colombia - Elias Roa - Acevedo, Huila - Direct Trade

Elias Roa and his family have been producing coffee for 25 years.  Elias has 2 farms, this one in the Acevedo region called Finca El Recuerdo and the other is in El Pital called Finca Tamana, giving him the ability to harvest coffee all year long.  Elias will be able to send his 3 children to University through producing high quality coffees.  Elias is the president of the coffee growers association called Primavenal in Acevedo and is leading the other members to produce higher quality coffees through his examples. There are 8 people who are employed on his farm all year long, and 25 people during the harvest season.

Acevedo is on the southern side of Colombia in the department of Huila.  Huila is one of our favorite regions within Colombia--the cups have lots of tropical fruit, citric notes, have pleasing acidity and are extremely sweet.

The average farm in Acevedo region is about 3 hectares of land with traditional varietals of Caturra, Typica and now more and more Castillo as this is a Roya/Rust resistant plant.   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.

Elias uses a small traditional pulpers on his farm along with small fermentation tanks.   There is ample spring water coming down the mountains that producers use to ferment and wash their coffee.  An overnight fermentation of 10-13 hours is followed by hand test in the morning to determine if the sugars are off the beans.  Should the fermentation be complete, coffee is then brought to his small parabolic drier with a bamboo floor and domed poly roof to keep the afternoons rain off.

Elias is one of the rare coffee producers leading the way in his drying techniques.  He understands the importance of drying his coffee slowly and evenly to ensure consistency and longevity of his coffee.   Elias ensures that the temperatures in the parabolic dries are calibrated.  He has 3 layers of African beds.  2 layers of beds are calibrated at 30 degress, and a lower layer at 20 degrees.  READ THIS for more information on drying coffee.  Once dried it goes to the communal warehouse Primavenal in town where it is catalogued and cupped.

Our challenge over the past 5 years working in Colombia 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 make 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.

Colombia - Arnulfo Leguizamo, San Agustin, Huila - Direct Trade Coffee

We are extremely excited and proud to be introducing you to not only one of, or THE BEST Colombian coffee in the world, but also one of the best coffees we have tasted in a very long time.  Arnulfo Leguizamo, a coffee producer in San Agustin, a micro region of the Huila district broke records when he finished 1st place in the 2011 Colombian Cup of Excellence competion.  He not only was one of the highest ranked Colombian Coffee in history scoring a 94.05 (2nd highest) but he also recieved the highest price paid at any Colombian auction in history when bids reached $45.10 / lb green, FOB Colombia (with the average amount paid at that time being around $2.75 / lb).  We purchased this coffee in November of 2012 on our last trip to Colombia.

Fratello Coffee has a very small amount of this coffee availalbe, only 300 lbs, but we are the only roasters in Canada to have access to it.  There was only 900 lbs of this #1 Lot available world wide so we are happy to offer what we got.

Finca Primavera Overview:

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>Producer:

Mr. Arnulfo Leguizamo is 46 years old, son of a coffee farmer born in the municipality of Teruel, Huila. In his youth he studied several mechanical activities and after doing a lot of work in an urban environment, he decided that his future was in the field - dedicated to work with coffee.

He started by planting half of a hectare in the property of his father in Teruel. He traveled to the municipality of San Agustin 23 years ago, in order to know the mystical sculptures at the Archeological Park. Nevertheless, the climate, the warm people and mainly the wealth of earth caused him to fall in love with this municipality where he met Mrs. Aura Rita Bolanos his wife and the mother of his four children: Mayeli, Joh Edison, Diego Felipe and Hamer Duvan.

He began with 1 hectare, an inheritance of his wife, and after a while he bought 3 more hectares that he planted little by little with coffee. His farm is called “Primavera” and it is located in the village “El Tabor” at the municipality of “San Agustin”. Is cultivated with Caturra varietal and is being renovated to integrate the variety Castillo. He has been a Rainforest Alliance Certified farmer for 4 years, and he is committed to the protection to the environment. He is protecting springs and birds, he is recycling trash, and he doesn’t spray out chemical products. These principles are because of his sons - he wants to keep his place at least without contamination or pollution so they can live and eat there in the future in a healthy way.

His principals for the production of coffee are based on the quality; he says “I have to do things with love, dedication and with the support of my wife and my children. The advantages of this land where my farm is located are a secret but mainly because of the high altitude and the right temperatures we produce coffee with the best attributes for its taste. It is important for us to harvest only ripe-red cherries and process on time. We have to wash coffee well with clean water and dry it under sun and air for that we use the system: ‘Casa Elda’.”

Colombian Huila Coffee buying trip

colombian huila fratello coffee direct trade

At the end of February 2011, John and I got home from touring coffee estates throughout Central America with one stop in South America to Colombia. I always get excited about going to Colombia.   The culture, the diverse landscape, the food and the excitement around coffee is contagious.   To top it off, I just love what it takes to get to the farms.  They are much more remote and smaller in size then other growing countries, so it isn’t an easy task.  It takes work.  Due to this, we decided to focus on only one region located in the South of Colombia called Huila; however; within Huila are many micro-regions (and micro-climates).   Huila is generally known as the region that produces the highest quality coffees, and are typically ranked high in the Cup of Excellence competitions.

The first thing you notice when visiting a farm is how small they are.  Typically a farm in Colombia will produce 30-40 bags (152 lbs per bag) of high quality coffee per harvest.  In Colombia, unlike other regions, they produce 2 harvests per year due to their climate and proximity to the equator.  The main crop called Principal will happen in the North, while the smaller Mitaca crop will occur in the South (and visa-versa).

colombian huila suaza sauza fratello coffee direct tradeOur first visits occurred in the Northern Huila micro-region Suaza.  The average farm size is 3 hectares with an average of 5000 trees per hectare.  Typical elevation is 1300 1800 meters. In the past 2-3 years, Suaza like most regions in Huila were affected by a coffee tree disease/fungus called Leaf Rust.  This Leaf Rust severally damaged the crop sizes in Colombia by primarily attacking the coffee varietal Caturra.  Caturra and Colombia have been the two most commonly planted varietals in Colombia until recently.  What we witnessed was the mass planting of a new Leaf Rust resistant varietal called Castillo.  Castillo isn’t as sweet as Caturra, but it is a large producer of coffee cherries.  Colombia is at a time when they need to correct the coffee shortages, and fix it fast.  For the past 3 years Colombia has had bad crops, which affected most farmers/families in Colombia, as well as the worlds coffee pricing due to the shortages of high quality washed coffees.

colombian huila suaza sauza fratello coffee direct tradeFratello will be offering two coffees from Suaza in March 2011.  Both have been purchased through our new partners CooCentral, a cooperative located in Garzon Huila.  Working with a cooperative seems to be necessary in Colombia due to the small farm sizes and logistical nightmares.   Finding a good cooperative to partner with is just as important as finding the great farms.  They are vital as they are the people on the ground every day.  They are the people who coach/teach technical issues, who have agronomists who analyze soil conditions for customized fertilization and basically insure the health and yields of the overall farms.   Over & above this, CooCentral has impressive social benefits for the 332 farms in Suaza that have partnered with them.

coffee cupping coocentral huila colombia direct tradeCooCentral starts by paying more money per lb than any of the other cooperative.  Because of this they get to be more selective with who they work with and ensure that only the farms producing the highest quality of coffee are associated.  Above this, they pay for 50% of the health care needs as well as 100% of any funeral expenses for their immediate families.   Also impressive is the fact that they offer lines of credit to the farms in order to buy fertilizer and other products they need at 0% interest rates.

Currently CooCentral is in the process of re-building 110 new homes, including new kitchen installations for the farms that have been the most loyal.  Next year, they will work on more.

The two lots we are bringing in have been chosen for their unique cup quality and characteristics.  The farms associated with these lots were paid an additional premium for this quality.

colombian huila suaza sauza fratello coffee direct trade

Our first lot is a blend made up of 14 different families in the Suaza region.  This was a special preparation of green coffee, which had extra attention in the dry mill to ensure a much more consistent bean size.  What we found was approximately 15% of the green beans were not used.  These families were:

  1. Isauro Burgos, from the Cerritos-Galladro hamlet of Suaza.
  2. Sigifredo Giraldo, from the Esmeralda hamlet of Suaza.
  3. Pedro Jose Girald, from the Esmeralda hamlet of Suaza.
  4. Jesus Antonio Mojo, from the Esnarlda hamlet of Suaza.
  5. Ariel Pulido, from the Galladro hamlet of Suaza.
  6. Sinforoso Cruz, from the Gallardo hamlet of Suaza.
  7. Omar Antonio Realpe, from the Horizonte hamlet of Suaza.
  8. Luz Mari Hurtado, from the Horizonte hamlet of Suaza.
  9. Placido Espitia, from the Toribio hamlet of Suaza.
  10. Jose Yadir Munoz, from the Toribio hamlet of Suaza.
  11. Dario Munoz, from the Union hamlet of Suaza.
  12. Roniro Duque, from the Vergel hamlet of Suaza.
  13. Juan Carlos Taborda, from the Vergel hamlet of Suaza.
  14. Jose Enrique Jordan, from the Vergel hamlet of Suaza.

Our second Lot is considered a Micro-Lot that is made up of only three tiny farms.  Together they made up a 22 bag lot of extraordinarily great quality coffee which showcases the profile of what Suaza is all about.   This Lot is from:

  1. Ariel Pulido, from the Gallardo hamlet of Suaza.
  2. Dario Nunoz, from the Union hamlet of Suaza.
  3. Juan Carlos Taborda, from the Vergel hamlet of Suaza.

We have some exciting plans for Colombia in the second half of this year, which includes a competition held at CooCentral for many of the farms we visited.  Our goal is to find the highest quality coffee from a Single Estate in either El Pital, Los Naranjos and Suaza regions from the harvest coming this May/June.  Our goal will be to continue supporting this farm year over year in a true Direct Trade partnership that will allow both parties to prosper.   We will continue to update you on this project as more details come our way.

Watch for these two exciting new Lots coming very soon.  For more photos from this trip please visit our Facebook Page or Flickr Page.