Farm: Various Farmers from San Antonio, Tolima
Varietal: Castillo, Caturra & Colombia
Processing: Fully washed & sun dried
Altitude: 1,600 to 2,000 metres above sea level
Owner: Various small holder farmers from the region around Playarrica, San Antonio
Town / City: Playarrica, San Antonio
Tolima has historically been difficult to travel in. In recent years, the area was heavily infiltrated by the Colombian leftist army, the FARC. FARC presence contributed to the region’s isolation and gave the area a reputation as being unsafe and violent. Only since about 2012, as the Colombian government maintains peace talks with the rebels, has it been safe enough to travel to the region.
Coffee is the leading agricultural activity here, followed by the production of beans and the raising of cattle. These small scale farming activities provide the largest percentage of employment by a large margin. The importance of coffee to the local economy and to livelihoods cannot be over stated.
The coffee is selectively hand harvested, with most labour being provided by the farmers and their families. It is then pulped on the farmer’s own farm using a small mechanical pulper or hand pulper. It is fermented for between 12 and 24 hours and washed 2 to 4 times to remove remaining mucilage. Coffee will then be spread to dry on covered or open patios before being bagged for sale.
Condor, our exporting partner for this lot has helped to promote commercialization of specialty coffee throughout the region, resulting in some stunning coffees from this area of optimal natural conditions for coffee farming. However, coyotes can disrupt these efforts significantly.
For this reason, Condor works with a trusted “acopiador” (collector) who collects the coffee from some of the most remote villages, such as Playarrica, and brings it down to their warehouse in Chaparral (about 2 hours drive). Upon arrival, the parchment coffee is analysed both with regards to physical and cup quality. Premiums are then paid (and returned to the producer by the acopiador) if the quality meets specialty standards.
The purchasing centre and program was only started in 2015, so it has been key to have a very good team in place. Responsible for running the program is Pilar, who makes sure to that farmers have access to information about pricing well in advance. Farmers often call in to ask about the price being offered, which will always be higher than the price being offered by coyotes.
In addition to incentivisation for quality, Pilar has a team of two technicians who execute a variety of quality improvement and agricultural extension programs. One of the most significant is SMS (sistema de manejo sostenible), which focuses on technical assistance, productive projects and consultancy with the farmers to help them produce better coffee and to improve efficiency at the farm level. The technicians conduct regular meetings in the villages, help farmers achieve certifications, and advocate with various local organisations and NGOs, all in effort to enable producers to achieve higher prices by gaining access to speciality markets.
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