A few weeks ago I got to spend a couple of days in San Agustín in south Huila, right near the Ecuador boarder. Huila is a spectacular region, virtually incomparable for its quality in Colombia. Over the past five years, Huila has grown from being an area strife with cartel activity and cocaine running into the best and most productive coffee region in Colombia, and possibly the Latin Americas. San Agustín, a tiny region at the base of the Colombian Andes is no exception to this rule.
The trip was focused on quality development rather than buying. The real aim was to understand the challenges and successes on the ground at a farm level. I wanted to meet up with our in-origin partners, Condor Coffee to really work out ways we, as a roaster, can develop sustainable quality incentives for the farmers.
I normally travel alone, but this trip I got privilege of sharing the experience with Manny, a barista from Long Shot, one of our amazing accounts based in Docklands. Having a partner in crime was an excellent opportunity for me to give back to our clients and achieve my ultimate aim of bringing the experience of origin to all our customers. In my mind, the more people out there telling the story the better it gets.
After arriving in the bustling capital of Bogota, we gathered the team and quickly headed out to a nearby airbase. Huila is a long way from Bogota so we had to grab a small plane down the Magdelana river valley, between the Colombian Andes mountain ranges, to our final destination of Pitalito. The scenery as you cross through Tolima into Huila is some of the most spectacular in the country and really shows just how lush the landscape is.
For those of you familiar with the coffee we feature regularly will be likely know and love Pitalito and San Agustín. We have been buying these lots for some years now and really enjoy the juicy character of coffee from this area. Pitalito is a both a town and a region; San Agustín, (a small town) is located just to the west of Pitalito.
I spent two days on the ground visiting the farmers in both Pitalito and San Agustin, cupping at Condor warehouses and getting a feel for how we can help improve quality and add value in the production chain. The coffee I tasted was truly spectacular; clean, crisp and juicy. But despite this evident quality, many of the farmers are struggling.
More on this issue in my next post.