Wide Awake opened in October 2019. From the start we planned to travel to origin and visit farms that we worked with. Then covid hit and travel was impossible. We were quite excited to finally plan a trip to Colombia with our importing partner Sucafina last November. We wanted to share with you some of our experience about the farms and how coffee is approached in these areas and Colombia.
Coffee is cultivated all along the Andes mountain range in Colombia. We visited the Caldas region in the center of the country. Coffee production here is spread across 3 departments (Caldas, Risaralda and Quindío). Together they form the so-called Eje Cafetero, known for its steep mountain ranges and longstanding dedication to the coffee trade.
We visited 3 very different producer operations. The first was Embrujo Cafe in Anserma where Ignacio and his team grow and process geisha, colombia and pink bourbon on 3 large plots. It’s an operation at scale that follows a holistic and scientific approach. Every parameter (from soil to sorting to processing) is optimized and controlled to achieve quality and consistency from year to year. It’s an impressive operation where craft meets science.
Next we visited Eduardo and his family at Finca La Granja in Manizales. A smaller family farm that is transitioning to 100% specialty production. For Eduardo’s this is the only way for Colombian farmers. The mountainous landscape means farmers can’t compete on efficiency and cost with Brazil. Eduardo started an experimental garden where he’s testing the quality and yield of different varieties. He invested in a floating machine, an ecomill depulper, sun drying beds and a mechanical dryer. The farm is implementing protocols for picking, lot separation and processing. It was eye-opening to see the enormous practical work that goes into producing high quality coffee.
Our last stop was the well known Finca Puerto Alegro from Jairo Lopez and his family. They produce some of Colombia’s finest Gesha and Java and developed pruning techniques that allow the farm to be in constant production (rather than 1 or 2 seasonal harvests). It’s a hugely labor intensive work that requires constant pruning and picking of over 100,000 trees. Jairo’s cousin Manuel is in charge of an elaborate processing operation that involves density and color sorting, cold anaerobic fermentation, further anaerobic or carbonic fermentation with added mosto juice and sun drying in an inventive greenhouse constructed by Jairo. They are one of the few farms to do their own milling (removing parchment from dried green beans, screen size sorting and density sorting). The dedication to quality was inspiring and it showed very clearly on the cupping table.
It was an absolute blast visiting and experiencing these farms. It reinforces the fact there are certain things about coffee you can only learn by more being on ground at origin meeting producers, walking through coffee fields, seeing their reality. This trip was an inspiring point for us at Wide Awake. We went back home with a lot of ideas and intentions with regards to our sourcing and communication. Expect to read more about that soon.