Off we go! This time I was off to Colombia. Together with Siruma Coffee (an exporter for Green Coffee, i.e. green coffee) and Falcon Coffees (one of my importers), I visited various stations in Colombia at the end of November 2022 to get to know and understand the origin of the coffees and their local production conditions even better.
The travel route in brief:
Day 1: Arrival in Bogota (coffeeshops & sightseeing), continue to Honda.
Day 2: Drive to Manizales, before visiting coffee farmer Mario Duque in Montebonito, plus a buying point (cooperative),then cupping at exporter Siruma in Manizales
Day 3: Visit to coffee producers Elkin and Gloria in San Lorenzo, plus an association and two dry mills.
Day 4: Drive to Cali, visit Inmaculada Coffee Farms, cupping and visit Drying Tables and Nurseries
Day 5: Drive to Cauca including road block and visit to Diego Bermudez and his Finca El Paraiso
Day 6: Drive to Inza, visit a farm, visit Asorcafe incl. cupping
Day 7: Visit to ACC (Association of farmers) cupping with the producers and visit to one of their organic farms.
Or in other words: Four small farmers, two big coffee farms, one cooperative and one association, two dry mills, four big cuppings and three buying points in six days. Plus a bit of sightseeing, roasting on site, fresh passion fruit and a city run in Papillon.
Based on the motto: I can sleep on the plane, or when I get back home! (Spoiler: I couldn't. Thank you very much, jet lag...).
I don't really know where to start. Maybe here: I am extremely grateful for the many impressions I was able to gain in Colombia - this trip gave me not only an insight, but direct contact with the local people. It was impressive to see how the beans that pass through the roaster in our country are cared for and harvested by the small farmers in their fields; how they process the cherries and which stations the beans go through before they are shipped all over the world.
Colombian coffee farmers know exactly what they are doing.
The exporters in the specialty sector (such as Siruma Coffee) are very interested in bringing coffees of special quality to market in order to position Colombia accordingly in the world market. And the best way to do that is for farmers to know how specialty coffee should taste and be produced according to international standards. If you're curious, you can try it here – as a filter or as an espresso roast.
In this respect – and this is perhaps the biggest difference to my previous Origin Trips – a lot of emphasis is placed on the knowledge and experience of the farmers. Those who know a lot and have a corresponding understanding of quality about it can grow and process their cherries according to certain conditions.
This often happens directly on the farm itself. For example, Elkin and Gloria dry their cherries in a raised foil tunnel that he built himself. This does not increase his yield, but he can deliver higher quality and get a better price for his produce. In addition, he makes life a little easier for himself and his back. Before, the coffee was dried on the ground on mats – in the past the beans had to be covered up during the rain. This is no longer necessary thanks to the tunnel.
From very small to huge
But of course, coffee cultivation in Colombia is not the exclusive domain of small indigenous farmers. To give the smaller producers better opportunities on the market, they organize themselves into cooperatives (supported by a national federation FNC) and associations (only the farmers, without support) to negotiate better conditions for their green coffee through joint action and to gain easier access to trade. In addition, these institutions promote training and knowledge transfer.
A heart for coffee
But all the people we met on this trip have one thing in common: they are fully committed and put their hearts into their work, no matter how simple or technically sophisticated their equipment. For these people, coffee is not simply a source of income, but a product of hard work of which they are justifiably proud.
To roast and cup the coffees on site with the farmers and in the cooperatives was a whole different ball game. Traveling to the origin of coffee is more than just flying to another continent and standing in a field. Much, much more important were the encounters with the people to whom their coffee means so much. As a roaster, I process raw materials that are shaped not only by the soil and weather, but especially by their producers. To be welcomed so warmly by them and to exchange experiences made a lasting impression on me.
Now this has become much longer than planned... and there would be much more to tell. But one thing is really very important at the end: THANK YOU! Thanks to Siruma Coffee and Falcon Speciality, who took over the organization of this Origin Trip and really drove with us to the last corner of the Andes. Thank you Valentina, Gabriel and Matt! Thanks to Barb and Luca from Gold Box Roastery for discovering a part of Colombia this way with me. And a huge thank you to Diego, Mario, Gloria & Elkin, the teams at ACC and Asorcafé for making us feel so welcome!