Colombia is a wonderful place to visit and source coffee from. We've been going to the South of Huila for the last three years. Our friend and exporting partner, Alejandro Renjifo, has several purchasing stations in Huila and Tolima which serve as a base for visiting farmers and cupping their coffees. Huila sits within the Southern most branch of the Andes where this South American mountain chain splits into three branches. The area we work in is remote. Farmers live in a rural setting in the steep, green foothills in the shadow of the Andes and produce some of the finest coffees in Colombia.
We've seen that the most powerful thing you can give the best producers is hope. You don't need to dangle incentives in front of them to convince them to improve. Good farmers want to produce the best coffee possible, and all they ask is a commensurate view of its value from buyers. The farmers we work with here don't need top down projects pushed on them for quality. They know what improvements they need for their farms. Our goal is to break them out of the cycle of only making enough to live hand to mouth. A great price for great coffee is like fuel on fire for quality coffee, powerful change occurs.
We visited one producer in Tarqui who stood out this year in particular. Christian Osorio farms at the very top of the hills of Tarqui. An area with indescribably steep and green slopes and some of the most vibrant coffee and people in Colombia. He harvests late in the season because of the altitude (altitude = temperature; cooler temperatures equal longer and better maturation). His family is getting their feet under them, and unable to even hire pickers for their coffee. The immediate family members harvest themselves, and Christian stressed how much attention to detail they pay to the ripeness of cherries as they harvest. Even without having their own drying facilities, they float cherries to remove defects and un-ripe coffee before taking the steep a precarious path down the mountain to a relatives wet mill. This is a crucial and often skipped step in some of the most advanced wet mills, and shows how much of themselves they put into their coffee.
When we told him that his coffee was the top lot on several of the tables we cupped this year, he was visibly moved. His family puts everything they have into this product and have not had any guarantee on how it will be received. It's an honor to be able to bring this coffee on as one of the best coffees we've sourced, and we are confident in this being a successful relationship into the future. We are excited to return next year and see what improvements have happened on this farm and cup the coming crop. There's hope on both sides of this supply chain, and that is the most powerful instrument for change.
La Vega will be launching as one of our Hills of Tarqui series coffees. We will have this coffee available sometime around July 2018. We purchased several lots from Tarqui and coffee from Ciro & Abiero Lugo again this year.