Last October we headed back to Colombia, both to reconnect with producers from whom we’ve purchased coffee in the past, and to seek out new relationships. Spending time in Huila region with Nordic Approach and Azahar, we were able to cup some really delicious coffees from smallholders growing coffee in Huila’s Oporapa region (fun to say, fun to drink). Two lots that stood out as particularly sweet and clean turned out to be from the same farmer, Pedro Nel Trujillo, one of which was a 100% Caturra selection which we’ve earmarked for a short filter run this year, and this lot which is a blended variety selection, which we’re thoroughly enjoying roasted for and brewed as espresso.
Pedro Nel has owned his farm, Finca El Jardín, for 35 years. It is technically two plots, divided by a road running through Oporapa. In his youth he remembers far fewer roads in the town when he used the Magdalena river’s tributaries to paddle by canoe when travelling between towns. He worked with his father when they first moved to Oporapa, and now his six children work with him on El Jardín. Initially he had planted Typica, but in an effort to better safeguard the entirety of his crop against the threat of leaf rust he has branched out, growing Tabí, Yellow Caturra, Variedad Colombia and Castillo. He learnt the hard way, going bankrupt when his previous farm situated lower down the mountainside was decimated by rust. This forced him to reinvest in a new plot at a higher elevation, where the fungus did not have quite such a drastic impact, where he now tends to 80,000 coffee trees planted on his 36 hectares. They take up around 70% of the farm, with the remaining portion allocated to grow fruits and vegetables for his family to eat. Working in harmony with nature and being invested in preserving the bountiful wildlife of the area, Pedro Nel is a self-professed “Guardian of the soil”, embracing more sustainable and sympathetic farming techniques.
When the coffee trees are ripening there will be four passes around the trees, to enable the pickers to select solely ripe fruit, leaving unripe and semi-ripe fruit on the tree until it is ready. The pickers are paid far better than is typical for the region, the equivalent of $12 a day. The selections we have from El Jardín are comprised of fruit from the middle two passes, which tend to create higher quality lots, when there is more sweet and ripe coffee to pick and produce a lot. The coffee cherries are floated to remove the less dense seeds, which can taste nutty and immature. They are then depulped and the sugary parchment is left to dry ferment in a tank for between 32 and 36 hours. The climate here is very cool, especially at night, which means the longer fermentation time is necessary to break down the fruit sugars and create more complex flavours in the coffee. Once the parchment is then fully washed and scrubbed it is soaked for 24 hours in clean water before being dried for up to 20 days under shade. The cool climate has a twofold benefit, in that the fruit matures slowly, creating more sweetness and intensity of flavour, and it makes for a very slow and controlled drying process, which better preserves the coffee.
Oporapa, Huila, Colombia
A creamy, velvety espresso with a brown sugar and praline sweetness. Delicate notes of elderflower and passionfruit add complexity and brightness to the cup.