Ferney Cruz, Washed, Huila, Colombia (350g)
Ferney Cruz, Washed, Huila, Colombia (350g)
Layered, sweet and complex - look for apricot and passion fruit acidity
Tarqui is one of our main focus areas in Huila. It is in the Central Cordillera of the Andes Mountains, with coffee growing in altitudes up to 2000 masl, and with rich and varied micro climates. In the northern part the main harvest is in July-August and the mitaka or mid-harvest is in November-December. In the southern parts this is reversed. This means it is possible to have fresh coffee in from Tarqui all year. The farmers are small, having 1-3 hectares each, and are often organized in groups. We have two major producer groups of 10-20 farmers that we work with, as well as individual producers in different areas.
Tarqui is dense with coffee growers, and together with our exporter we have been working to identify the best farmers in the region. We are now at the point where we have a stable and committed group of supreme farmers that we are following up with and who wants to work with us. And every season there are new farmers that are approaching us because they have heard good things, which is a fantastic position to be in. At the purchasing point in the city of Tarqui, Ana Beatriz is doing a strict quality on all coffee that comes in, and only the ones that pass this are being bought. She is also communicating with all of the farmers who comes in, and gives them feedback and gathers information. This way we can keep improving, discover new farmers and areas, and raise the general level of production in Tarqui.
We have been arranging a micro lot competition for coffee producers in Tarqui annually since December 2015. Basically, we announce the competition for the farmers in advance, so that they can be extra careful when picking and processing the coffee. We set certain parameters that the farmers should fulfill (moisture content, yield factor, harvest period, lot size, and so on). Then, when all the entered lots have been approved, we gather a panel of professionals and cup and score the coffee blindly. We have set fixed prizes for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd-5th, 6th to 10th, and 11th to 20th place, and we commit to buying these. The standard price in Colombia was in August 2017 approx. 820.000 pesos per 125 kg of parchment coffee. For the 1st prize we paid more than three times that.
A competition like this is a way of incentivising farmers and paying them great premiums for great coffees. It also gives us the opportunity to meet and get to know the farmers in that specific area, and explore the true potential there. Several of these lots was featured in the Nordic Roaster Forum competition the same year, placing 1st, 3rd, 4th, 8th, and 9th in the Colombia category.
Coffees are picked in 3-4 passes. Meaning the producers/workers pick the more or less ripe cherries in one block. Then they might wait a few weeks until it’s again a descent amount of ripe cherries to pick in that same place. Generally the first and last pass is of lower quality, and the second and third will be considered as the best, with more ripe cherries and uniform quality. When we can, we try to buy parchment harvested in these two passes.
The coffee from Huila is generally fully washed, meaning pulped and fermented the traditional way. There is a few exceptions where farmers are using eco-pulpers with mechanical removal of mucilage, and/or are doing honeys, but it’s still not to common.
This is the most common and widely used method. The farmer will have a small beneficio, a small manual or electric pulper and a fermentation tank. They pulp the cherries in the afternoon. The coffees are going straight from the pulper in to the fermentation tank. It can sit there from one to two days, depending on the temperature. Higher temperature will speed up the fermentation process, and lower temperature will slow it down. Some producers do intermediate rinsing with water, that can also help them control the process.
Washing and grading
They normally stir the coffees in tanks or small channels before they remove the floaters. For the ones without channels it’s common to wash the coffees in the fermentation tank and skim off the floaters before it goes to the drying.
For the smallholders in regions like Huila the coffees are commonly sun dried in parabolic dryers that almost works as green houses. The better producers have well ventilated facilities. There are many different variations and constructions, but generally they are all systems that is able to protect the coffee from rain. We have generally seen that the producers that have constructions with good ventilation and manage to dry the coffee down to below 11% in 10 – 18 days often have very good and consistent coffees. Drying in Huila is a big challenge due to rain and high humidity. During drying the producers hand sort the parchment coffee for impurities and defects. By receiving premium payments, the producers can improve their facilities, by building new or reconstruct the dryers to increase ventilation and potentially add shade nets to slower drying, and hence improve the quality and longevity of the coffee.