Producer visit to Colombia, Caldas
Posted on March 16 2022
We recently made the trip to visit some of the coffee producers we work with in Colombia in the region Caldas.
As a specialty coffee importer and roaster we don't very often have the time to visit the farms in person and so normally we communicate by email, samples are sent and after tasting and approving we agree to what coffee we want to offer our customers for the year.
This is what made this trip so special as we were completing the coffee chain seeing and speaking with the people who care meticulously; growing and sorting all of this amazing coffee before it is finally bagged and weighed and sent on trucks to ships and finally it making its voyage to Europe.
One of the most incredible and misunderstood aspects of why this type of coffee is so good is it is ALL hand picked! High in the coffee mountains people arrive during the harvest months of September - December and help the farms pick the thousands and thousands of coffee bushes all carefully choosing only the ripe coffee cherries, taking care not to damage the plant. It is also amazing to note that each coffee plant only supplies 500g of coffee beans.
Yellow Cattura -
At Mistral we like to always talk and explain to our customers what makes incredible tasting coffee and it is the care and very high quality control standards that are used from the farmers all the way to how we roast the coffee and finally prepare it to drink.
During this visit we spent our time with two brothers Jean (OPCE) and Juan Felipe (Finca Chambakú). The finca they have is intwined with banana trees, avocados and mangos. It is almost like a natural oasis of green and its a thriving natural environment. The soil is red; rich in nutrients and this is an extremely important basis to grow these sweet and flavourful coffee cherries and other fruits.
The climate is around 20-28c all year round and quite wet.
Coffee after being picked goes through a processing facility where it is washed and then dried. For a pure washed process coffee this would mean that the outer later of the coffee bean is removed in a depulping machine and the green bean is then fermented, washed and dried until it reaches the correct moisture content and then bagged.
For a natural processed coffee the coffee cherry is air dried to allow the coffee fruit to reduce its moisture content but it also ferments the natural sugars and this penetrates inside the green coffee bean.
A new generation of producers are playing with this process and combining the natural fermentation of the coffee cherry with the fermentation of pineapple or blackberries and experimenting with what added flavours this can add into the coffee.
(see below blackberry fermented coffee cherries)
The smell of the coffee cherries in these tubs fermenting is incredible, its a funky, fruity and very sweet mix and after the fruit has been left like this for a few days it is transferred to drying wracks and dried to bring down the moisture content to what is needed for bagging. Finally it is milled and the cascara (the dried skin) is removed and you are left with the coffee bean.
Cascara is also a delicious part of the coffee cherry and some cultures make tea with it. Jean was explaining to us that instead of wasting it this instead is used as fertiliser on the farms and as it is highly nutritious full of natural sugars it is great for the soil and ensures that every harvest is replenished.
To see people behind the growing and farming side of our coffee world is impressive, being so passionate and interested in what they can do to improve the quality of the coffee cherries. It highlights how much work goes into coffee long before its loaded onto ships and sent to Europe. They care just as much as we do but on the other end of the coffee chain and you realise how many people are involved to make this happen.
Many thanks to Jean from OPCE coffee and Juan Felipe and their father for hosting us!