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Monday, 27 June 2016

Finca La Esperanza – Microlot Producer (Gigante, Huila, Colombia)

Farmer: Edilfonso Yara
Date Visited: 29 Apr 2016

Finca La Eperanza is high in the mountains near Gigante, in Huila. The drive up there was an interesting experience and when it rained while we were on the farm we wondered how we would get down, but our driver Javier once again got us safely home. See  video of the road trip up here:

Once we got there, we actually had to walk up a narrow path for about 500m before we actually got to the farm that is almost 2000 masl.

Edilfonso was a passionate coffee farmer we were keen to meet him. We still have some of his microlot coffee left and we bought him some of his own coffee to taste (which we left there) - see it in his left hand while he greets from Quaffer in he Coffee collective shirt.
Finca La Esperanza, farmer Edilfonso Yara, Gigante, Huila, Colombia

He inherited the farm from his Dad. His wife drew the map below, but he only really has map for reference, since he knows where every thing is planted:

Finca La Esperanza, farmer Edilfonso Yara, Gigante, Huila, Colombia
All planning is in his head, he has Caturra, Typica and Columbia (which was the last variety he planted). He wants to plant more Caturra.

The farm is  a family affair. He works as a team with his wife who is a pillar. She is very fast picking and sorting. He and his wife do most of the picking and processing, with a little help from his one brother. He does also hire 3-4 other pickers when needed. He has another brother, that he and his brother bought out, and he wants to buy his other brother out as soon as he has paid off the other brother. He feels he and his wife and family (he has three girls) can cope with the farm of 4 hectors, which he believes is big enough. His children get rewarded for helping when they want, and he and his wife love them being involved.

Finca La Esperanza, farmer Edilfonso Yara, Gigante, Huila, Colombia

The Caravela microlot project has helped him as an incentive to improve the farm and also his family. His goal is to always have microlot lots from his crop, and hope to achieve this by being very specific and accurate in his process and hopes will always produce good coffee.

When then went to take a look at his Beneficiario and the drying beds and he had a chat with Johanna who is the QC for Caravela in Gigante.
Finca La Esperanza, farmer Edilfonso Yara, Gigante, Huila, Colombia

She told me that in blind cupping he normally recognizes his coffee, which is very impressive. He currently does 5 days pre-dry (shade drying, straight after washing), then 15-30 dry to dry thereafter, until he knows the moisture level is around 11%. I noticed his drying racks have plastic under the drying screens. They check the drying coffee for bora / broca and the bad coffees fall through to the plastics collection, which they then sell as pesa (over grade coffee,  or C Grade).

Interesting to note is that Edilfonso is on of the producers that are consistently producing high grade parchment and so for him and other producers like him Caravela actually provide grain pro bags to store the parchment in, and deliver to the QC. Caravela believes that these assists in retaining the quality coffee the coffee.

We then went to take a look at the de-pulper and the washing and fermentation tanks. They de-pulp and then ferment 24 to 36. He checks at 24 (like the pic) and may the add a few hours. He checks by removing a sample then washes it. If there is only parchment then removes the coffee for drying otherwise he extends the fermentation.

Finca La Esperanza, farmer Edilfonso Yara, Gigante, Huila, Colombia
Pana view from the top of the Benefecio

Finca La Esperanza, farmer Edilfonso Yara, Gigante, Huila, ColombiaFinca La Esperanza, farmer Edilfonso Yara, Gigante, Huila, ColombiaFinca La Esperanza, farmer Edilfonso Yara, Gigante, Huila, Colombia

Edilfonso used to be a picker before. He is now 38 and he has been working with Caravela for 6 years, the premiums he received from them sustain his life and farm and he is able to live there comfortably.

The wife has written two poems to coffee which you can listen to/watch the second one here or view the words to both below:

The poems are attach to the walls near the coffee:
Finca La Esperanza, farmer Edilfonso Yara, Gigante, Huila, Colombia Finca La Esperanza, farmer Edilfonso Yara, Gigante, Huila, Colombia
When then went to take a look at the Caturra and Bourbon nursery.
Caturra and bourbon nursery at Finca la Esperanza
We went to the end of the rainbow and found microlot coffee.

Coffee on the farm La Esperanza

They roast their own coffee for consumption in an oven 15 mins. Below a pic of the roasting oven:
How Mrs Yara roasts her coffee
It started raining so we have another great cup of coffee and chatted some more about their lives. They go to town on Sunday's when they go to church, then they go to supermarket and buy ice cream for the girls. The Girls go from the farm to the road to go to school with transport that all the farmers pay for the school kids to take to school.
Edilfonso's middle daughter.
He got money to buy the farm by making the contract with Dad to buy farm and use produce to pay back. Three brothers bought it then one wanted to leave so they bought him out. There are only four hectares that the brother shares but may eventually also leave. Today per hectre a new farm would be around 20 million pesos in this area.

When he heard about Caravela they were not operating in Gigante yet. He drove through to La Plata to sell his coffee, since he heard he could be paid well. He took 4 tonnes but a lot was rejected. They then thought perhaps it was not a good idea to sell  to Virmax / now Caravela. Then they started to receive the premiums and decided to try again. Then with their help he was able to increase his quality, so he worked hard to do what they asked. Caravela pay base then extra for scoring more in the cup. He also found out that Virmax/Caravela pay much more than Nestle and give additional premiums.

Now coffee farmers are driven to make good quality coffee if they want to sell to Caravela. They then first try to sell to Caravela, by giving them a sample first. Only when rejected then do they try others.

The Government agents come to promote Castillo. The banks will not lend them money unless they have Castillo on the farm so they are forced to plant it. He has planted it and the results are poor so he is planning to remove it.

Other Plans: he wants to plant more Caturra and Bourbon. And also to separate these varieties into lots. At the moment they just concentrate on ripeness not varieties, so they combine varieties#FarmVist.

What a wonderful visit, and after many coffees and so courage we made our way down to the car and then down the mountain to Gigante.

Finca El Prado – Microlot Producer ( Gigante, Huila, Colombia)

Date of Visit: 29 Apr 2016
Farmer (Caficultor): Jaimie Casallas

While for some people meeting a great artist, a rock star or actress is a dream, for us who love coffee this is how excited we were to meet Jaimie Casallas. The coffee we had from him was very good. In our coffee world meeting the people that produce coffee of this quality is rare, very rare.
The Casallas Family
When we got there he greeted us his Caravela shirt and the traditional Jugo and aqua. In this case we were offered coffee straight up.

Once we were settled in I started asking questions.

So the first question we had to ask was why he was keen to do microlot coffee.

He told us that initially he grew other produce, tomatoes, onion, yuca, plantain and such. When he started to sell at the market people fought over his produce. So he though he has good land and perhaps he should start with coffee.

Initially the coffee was sold to the cooperatives, not Caravela but he believed he had good coffee. The cooperative had a monopoly, and did not reward quality. They did not seem to care that he has taking care in producing good coffee. Then his neighbour told him about Caravela and the premiums they paid. He did not qualify originally but then worked closely with Alejandro from Caravel (he is like THE coffee person at Caravela, we met him later in the week and I can say he is very knowledgeable) then Alahando and Caravela educated him and then he learnt about coffee. Growing, producing and drying coffee. Then slowly his quality improved with a lot of experimenting and had to teach how to pick. Pickers were frustrated with his demands.

So he started concentrating on quality picking and proper processing and drying and within 1 year he was producing microlots standard coffee. And so he produced AA, AAA and microlot coffee And this meant he we rewarded better  Especially for microlots (the farmer gets all the premium we pay Caravela).The extra money he got through Caravela helped provide stability for his family. His son then moved back to the farm.

He is very proud that they produced a microlot after a lot of experimenting and work. Last year they had 9 microlots.

The process they currently use is:
  • They first visually inspect the pickings, educate the pickers if required.
  • Then they use floating tanks if it is required after visual inspection.
  • Then they lay the coffee for 12 hours on cherry.
  • They then de-pulp and fermentation ferment for 24 hours
  • The then pre-dry 3 days (in shade).
  • Then dry.

The next thing will be playing with warehousing and selecting parchment. They are building a warehouse that will be separate from the house. The also need more drying space.

The son works with dad and they want to make the farm bigger, but want to keep the quality and want to enjoy the farm and life.

He told us that labour is hard to find. He has his pickers but they are not always reliable so sometimes he has to use seasonable workers, which means training them. Currently has five or 6 pickers as they pick every day. Picker are paid relatively well $8000 peso (other farmers $5000 peso) per 12.5 kgs. Typically it takes around 1 hr of quality picking to picked 12.5kgs of coffee (the standard coffee picking basket see). This relates to  a little less than 1kg green coffee. When I gave these numbers to Alejandro he calculated that it means about 80c USD per kilogram, I calculated it was closer to U$D 1.2 per kilogram, but I will go with Alejandro numbers.

We saw Geisha on the farm he has he planted to try it, there are 5 hectares Geisha. It is two years old. This year this will be his first crop.

We had some lunch and coffee afterwards, the local Caravela  QC offices, offer a service to the farmers to roast coffee for them. It is normally a blend of coffees of the region. He loves trying coffees as he lives coffee.
  Lunch At El Prado

Quality focus improved his life will not sell his farm.

Caravela told me that only 12 out of 110 farmers that they buy from in the region have done microlot.

Wonderful to visit the farm and meet the mind and family behind the coffee. Panaview from the Beneficio

Finca Pedreros – La Piramide Contributor 3 (Cauca, Colombia)

Date visited: 28 Apr 2016
Farmer (Caficultor):  Horta and Lucilia Medina
On his farm he has been experimenting with different fermentation times. We saw the raised beds drying the Caturra which were being used as an experiment of a fermentation time of only 18hrs. It was collected from 1950 masl.

The pickers pick coffee during the day and then leave the cherries in the bin until de-pulping. Typically this is done at 12:00 and 18:00

Cherries in bin been there since 12:00 now 16:25.
While we were there Caravela explained the advantages of using a floating tank. Thank de-pulper is under the tank but the valve is closed. The fill the tank with water which then results in the unripe, overripe and damaged beans floating. These are then skimmed off the top to be processed as a C Grade coffee so that it does not affect the good coffees that are ripe and ready and sink.

After de-pulping the de-pulped beans are washed.

His wife has her own farm, that is part of the La Piramide taste profile blend and has RFA certification. Her farm has 2000 caturra trees, 1000 bourbon and 2000 heritage yellow bourbon trees and 2 hectares is Rain-forest. They process all coffee at Pedreros. They have achieved one star in the Caravela program and are very proud to have:

Met son and son in law. He has moved back to the farm after trying the the army (there is a lot of army every where in Colombia) and has decided there is more potential as a farmer in a market recognizing quality.

We asked him what does he think about people drinking coffee far from the home it is picked and processed?

He said he loves that the coffee is convincing people to visit his farm and he appreciates that people come to the farm and give feed back. He wants to work harder to improve the coffee.

He has realized that trying to improve quality each year to get rewarded for caring it exited him to see the increased interest from the rest of the world and this translates to the him and his pocket.They have found that the higher coffee grows, especially Caturra,  the higher the cupping score. Also to improve cup quality they are planning to plant trees to have shade grown coffee.

Also grow plantain (a very popular long relative to the banana, that they eat at every meal) , corn and sugar cane.

The inherited their farms, and hope to keep it in the family.

We asked them what their typically work day is? The told us they wake up at 5am then have some coffee then go and check the farm. Wife wakes up early and goes to be late, she makes the coffee and gets everything ready in the morning and at night.

I asked about their children. They have six sons and want the children to study but not to loose their roots. They are 4th generation coffee people.

Great people and once again very hospitable.

Finca La Cumbre – La Piramide contributor (Cauca, Colombia)

Date visited: 28 Apr 2016
Farmer (Caficultor):   Nilson Ucue ColombiaTrip 28 May2016 Finca La Cumbre (2) He has been working with Caravela for 2 years. His quality has been improving and so is his financial reward, since the beter the quality the higher the premium. He has just completed his new covered raised beds, has three levels bottom for pre-drying top for end drying rack is very well aired He has a semi auto de-pulper.

 He only has Caturra, his  farm is a total of 3 hectres. Although El Niño did affect the quality he did a lot of prep work on the coffee, pruning fertilizer (you need rain to fertilize when it has rained he could). It has hurt him his first 135 kgs picked 100kgs of it did not make the Caravela grade and had to be sold a C grade. He has been finding it hard to find quality pickers since it is hard work to pick only ripe. Easier to work on gold mines.

He has hires 15 during peak season. He ensures that they pick in lots. We tasted red Caturra tasted likely papaya. Tasted yellow Caturra tasted like sweet orange. He also grows corn and sugars to supplement his income. We had some coffee that his wife roasts their coffee at home in a clay pot takes around 40 mins roast and the Nilson grinds it in the old grinder. It was very nice, and it is wonderful to see people this passionate about coffee.

Farm soil is very rich and strong colour looks healthy the top part of farm is at an altitude 1940m and that produces the best coffee. Once again such friendly and happy people was a privilege to meet them. Although El Niño did affect the quality he did a lot of prep work on the coffee, pruning fertilizer.

Summary of Caravela QC process we witnessed 29/30 Apr

While traveling with Caravela we were fortunate to get an insiders view into the Quality Control assessment they do, for coffees to be selected by them. What follow  is what we witnessed at Gigante, near the home of Edilfonso Yara and Jaimie Casallas. We then did the process ourselves in Pitalito near San Augstin. Farmers bring the bags of parchment it is weighed. Then they take a sample, that silver lance Salome is holding is how they get the sample from the bag. They use a cross section sample.

They then de-partch 300g to calc yield.

  1.  First they measure:
  2. Then they remove parchment.
  3. They then calculate the weight loss from parchment.
    The result of the loss must be less than 20%, otherwise it fails the quality control.
  4. Then they screen sort. Either with a manual sorter or an automatic one. Seperated into screen 15+; Screen 13/14 and reflects which are sorted into group 1, (if only one bean of that group is in a coffee it will affect the cup), and group 2 ( 10 beans will affect the cup. 
  5. Then they manually remove damaged coffee from broca etc. They then weight each component after separating And calc percentage reject if above maximum broca 1.5%, AA as AAA 1% etc The do moisture test, it must be must be 11%.  
  6. Then they test water activity should be about 0.6 which tests the internal humidity. 
  7. Then they roast and cup in the afternoon. Then score and reject or accept. And the form is saved and feedback is given to the farmer / producer. img_0760-1The one above had no cupping score since it was rejected before roasting.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Day 1 (Pedregal) Colombia & La Piramide farmer Jesus Angel

After leaving Bogota without seeing a single sight (we got through customs and o our hotel by 22:00 after a day of traveling) then left for the airport at 04:30, we arrived at Neiva, and Javier collected us and off we went past magnificent Colombia vistas to La Plata.
Frog Quaffer above poking at the La Piramide mountains. We stopped at Caravela's la Plata warehouse and QC and were introduced to the team there. Wilmer and Fabián
The area is actually Pedregal we call (actually Caravela do) the coffee from the region La Piramide a collection of a particular taste profile from around 30 farmers. La Piramide is in Cauca but it is on the border of Huila. In fact to get to most of Cauca you need to go around the mountains, you cannot get there from here. Then off we went to the first from on their list of farms that contribute to La Piramide, which is a total of 20 farmers. The farm was short hike from the main road. Fabiana and Javier hiking up to the farm[/caption] Jesus Angel, whose farm is Finca La Albania, was an extremely welcoming man. After the customary sit down and greet (this is the standard, or at least was at most of the Fincas we visited)  we had some Jugo and then we saw his farm. This farm is 2 hectares and he grows Caturra and Colombia F6. He also has another farm that he grows Caturra, F6 and Castillo (more on this later, but Caravela do not accept any coffee of this variety).

The other farms is 2 hours away and he brings coffee after de-pulp to this farm. He is enjoying working with Caravela, it has changed his life earring the extra money.

This farm is called La Albania. His Moms' name is Alba, his other farm is El Danubio. One of his coffees got an 86 at the local QC. He typically hires 5 pickers for 2 hector. Has issues getting pickers (I think this will be covered in the general post about Colombia to come later).

Caturra above. The tress where pruned 4 years ago the trees are 10 yrs old.

The Caravela team looked around the farm and made some suggestions about natural compost and replacing his berry feeding tank with a plastic one then he can do a floating tank and remove unrepentant, damaged or bad coffees. (Fernando is the one bending down)

We then were invited for lunch, and had a traditional soup and meal of chicken with rice:

After the lunch we said goodbye and headed to the next farmer that forms part of the La Piramide offering.

Below a pic of the Angel's house, Jesus and his wife and the de-pulping station behind.


Rust, broca and fumagina – 3 coffee damages

During our travels in Colombia we saw visually how coffee can get damaged by pests and fungus. So though we would document the ones we saw. During the past dry season, that was quite bad because of the El Niño there was more of this.

Broca / Borra

This is a common and very damaging pest, we saw one (see pic) and also saw the damage it can do. the little beetle love caffeine so it bores into the cheery and eats the inside of the seed. If you pic this coffee and open it the beabs are there but have nothing inside.

Roja / coffe rust

This is very dominant and the reason many varieties are made. This fungus forms on the back of the leaf and weekens the plant cause low yield and affect this and the next crop.

Ant fungus / Fumagina

This can be devastating on the crop. The any promote the fungus, even feed it since it feeds them, it is a parasite and it prevents the cherries forming properly.