This week I picked up a couple of bags of La Maria, a Colombian coffee (NTS: have a separate future post of Colombian coffee in general) from the farm of Maria Luzmila Ramirez. It is a dark chocolatey, sweet stone fruit joy to drink, a coffee that I will be happy to come back to time and time again. The farm is in the Antioquia department/region at about 1800 meters above sea level (MASL), and located to the North West of Bogota with the main city being Medellin. This part of the country is dominated by the dramatic landscapes of The Andes, which provides the perfect combination of high altitude and fertile soils that prove to be optimal for growing specialty coffee.
This is one of the biggest coffee producing departments in Colombia, so if you have enjoyed (or otherwise) a number of cups of Colombian coffees in the past, chances are you have tried a coffee from this department. What I really like about this coffee, in addition to the amazing taste and aroma is the investment and community building efforts going on to foster sustainability, growth and future development to increase the chances of us enjoying coffee from this part of the world for the foreseeable future.
So, what do I mean by all this you may be thinking? I tend to look into the coffees that I drink, but more couch/online explorer, rather than gentleman explorer (So no, J Verne was not thinking about me when he came up with P Fogg). So on my usual online coffee jaunts looking into this wonderful coffee (while drinking it) I came across the amazing work of Cooperative Andes (2) which are based in this department. They are working hard towards improving the quality of coffees in the region, and helping to encourage the next generation of coffee farmers.
They connect local coffee farmers whom they work with, such as Maria Luzmila Ramirez, with international green coffee importers and various other actors in the specialty coffee industry, for example specialty coffee roasters that source directly from origin. A number of these farmers have plots between 1 to 5 hectares, who together with the co op have been able to reach their potential and are now able to create micro-lots of specialty grade coffee.
The Cooperative has a number of training programs, such as the Delos Andes, which has helped them significantly improve their systems, enabling them to create better composting systems, make regular soil analyses to assist with targeted fertilizer application, increase yield and improve quality. Plus they have been able to educate around problems such as drying, something that could make or break a season in this region, as they can experience high humidity and rainfall during the harvest and drying periods.
They also run a New Generation of Coffee Growers Program, where farmers between 18 and 35 receive further training in areas such as administration, managerial decisions, economics, record keeping, environment, infrastructure and co-financing. The aim here is to empower and encourage the next generation of coffee farmers by giving them the tools to succeed and to provide a sustainable and profitable future for themselves and their families. I don't know about the rest of you, but I am yet to find an 18-35 year old who couldn't use more empowerment and encouragement regardless of who they are or where they're from. This is not a specifically Colombian coffee issue but a general agricultural issue, throughout the world, young people are leaving rural areas. They’re heading to the large towns and cities for what they see as better, or perhaps their only options for a future hurtling at an ever quicker pace toward technological advancement, and thus towards locations where investment in these advancements are prevalent and hence more jobs, better paying jobs are located. This devastates not just coffee farms, when no one remains to do the demanding work, but also the communities that depend on income from the farms. So programs such as this are a great way to show young people that not only is there a future for them, and their communities, through coffee, but specifically specialty coffee can increase their earnings, build strong relationships, and make farming a truly sustainable future.
So let us all collectively raise our coffee cups and praise La Maria and her cohort for sticking around when things got tough, and all the support they got along the way, allowing us to enjoy amazing coffee for years to come!
1. Image downloaded from http://www.coffee-resources.com
Enter your details to get updates and offers straight to your inbox!