Exhausted from all the partying and socialising in Atlanta, we jumped on a plane to Bogota and from Bogota to Neiva the following day. Our main goal on this trip was to visit Finca la Lomita to help pick some coffee and experiment with some processing techniques in order to develope Mr. Alvaro Diaz’ coffee. It turns out Alvaro has left the farm and his wife for his wife’s sister. A huge disappointment for us as we have been trying to establish a relationship to this farm in order to develope the quality of coffee we want and improve the quality of life of Mr. Alvaro and his family. Sadly Alvaro was more committed to his lovelife than his coffee. As we do not want to be marriage counsellors we decided to look for another farm to work with, and typically when one door closes other doors open.
Going straight from the Airport in Neiva we visited the Almacafe mill located near by. A huge dry mill that removes parchment, sticks, stones, defects and sorts the coffee before it is shipped. The mill was quite large and a bit too noisy to hear what our translater was saying.
In the Afternoon we tasted some coffees that we brought from Norway together with the cuppers at Coocentral. This was very educational for both them and us and it helped the cuppers understand more what kind of coffees we are looking for in Colombia. We also tasted some coffees from Huila, Colombia and found a great coffee from a farm located not far away from Finca la Lomita. It seems that the Pital area has some great coffees that are right up our alley.
In the evening we visited a smaller dry mill in Garzon, where we met the crazy Mr. Gilberto which was the head of the mill. We discussed the possibility of them investing in a vacuum packing machine with nitrogen flushing in order to preserve the coffee that we buy from huila better. His immediate answer was: “we will do whatever you want us to do.”
After talking with the cooperative (Coocentral) about developing coffees on different farms and sending us samples from various experiments in order to give them feedback, it seems that their attitude towards what we are trying to accomplish is very positive. In general it seems that a lot of farmers and the people at the cooperative and mill is willing to do what ever it takes for us to find and develope the coffee that we want. This seems a bit odd since we are an extremely small customer, buying only 40-60 bags per year. Compared to Illy or Starbucks who buy thousands of bags from the same area it does not make sense. It turns out that one of the reasons for their new attitude (it was not like this on my first visit 2 years ago) is because we have been paying good prices, way above the market price for the Lomita coffee 2 years in a row. This has gotten a lot of attention in the area and a lot of farmers have been trying to improve their quality and looking at Finca La Lomita as a benchmark for quality in the area. It is very rewarding to see that the big co-operatives and many of the farmers are willing to listen to small customers and that we can go forward as a good example for what quality can do to improve the lives of the farmers as well as the taste of the coffee. This is one of the biggest reasons why we are focusing on Colombia as our first development project. (not to forget that the Huila area has great coffees. The winning coffee of the year award on the SCAA show in Atlanta only a week ago was from Huila.)
Early in the morning don Mario and our translator Sonia picked us up to go to Pital and to visit some farms in the mountains near Pital. As usual our first stop was at Grupo Renacer which is a group of a couple of farmers that we have visited on the previous colombia visits. It was good to see that they had been improving their pulping and washing station since my previous visit where I commented on the fermentation tanks being dirty and difficult to clean which will affect the coffee in a negative way during the washing and fermentation process.
Instead of going horse riding (like we normally do) Jairo and his wife Amparo and their friend Ovideo (picture) insisted on going on the back of their truck in order to be able to visit more farms in shorter time. We covered over 6 farms and got to see some processing and had great discussions about how to raise the quality of their coffee. In fact Ovideo, the farmer at Finca la Porcellana, decided to run an experiment for us with different fermentation times. He will also be hiring a couple of extra workers that will select only the ripest cherries before they are pulped. Samples will be coming in by the end of may and we will for sure invite some of you to tatse the results.
Day 2 was indeed an exhausting day, but very educational and constructive, especially for Tim V as this was his first trip to a producing country and there was a lot of impressions to digest. (I have never ever seen him so quiet before. )
Again it is very nice to see that the farmers are open minded and are willing to work with us to improve the quality of their coffee.
Tim and I are currently in Colombia celebrating my 30th birthday in Bogota. Therefore a report from day 3 & 4 will follow later on. Some more pictures from our trip below: