Ally Coffee’s 2nd Producer to Producer Exchange Trip

Ally Coffee Producer to Producer Exchange Trip 2.0 — Huila, Colombia

Group from Brazil visits Colombia!

This is the second year Ally Coffee hosted the Producer to Producer Exchange trip in Colombia. See full album. Minas Gerais agronomy extension organization EMATER holds an annual cup quality competition open to growers in the four coffee regions of the state, and our sister company, exporter Atlantica Coffee in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, sponsored the prize trip for the four winning producers to travel to Colombia.

· Edson Tamekuni — Fazenda Vargem Grande in Campos Altos, Cerrado Mineiro.
· Joaquim Adolfo Pinto Noronha — Fazenda Boa Vista in Municipio Dom Viçoso Serra da Mantiqueira, Sul de Minas.
· Marcelo Flanzer — Fazenda Ecoagricola — in Serra do Cabral, Chapada de Minas.
· Antonio Cezar Junior, with the top scoring coffee from his twenty hectare family farm in Espera Feliz, Caparao/Matas de Minas.

The top producers were joined by two EMATER agronomists, Guaxupe Regional Director Willem Guilherme de Araujo and field engineer Regivaldo Moreira Dias, Thiago Franco of Atlantica Coffee, and Ruggero Pisa, one of last year’s winners who returned this year of his own accord for the chance to learn more about production in a new region of Colombia.

Regivaldo, Ruggero, and Marcelo in the field on Finca Monteblanco in San Adolfo de Pitalito, Huila.

Last year, the trip visited Ally’s partner farms in Nariño. This year, the Producer to Producer Exchange Trip traveled to the department of Huila. We started our journey to the Colombia’s southern department in Bogota, at Ally’s new office. We cupped at table of variously processed coffee with Elena, Ally’s Colombia buyer. This was an apt intro into the varietals — from Red Caturra to Pink Bourbon — and the processes, from classically Colombian fully washed to experimental honey, we would see growing and drying on the farms.

Cupping at the Ally office in Bogota

Our first coffee experience in Huila was in the town of Garzon, at the Coocentral Cooperative. With over 3,000 members from the municipalities surrounding Garzon, the cooperative purchases both dry coffee in parchment and wet depulped coffee to process at its mill, one of the largest in Colombia.

Ruggero, Edson, and Joaquim discuss Coocentral’s solar patio drying system.

The group was able to see the administrative offices, coffee purchasing and receiving area, cupping lab, specialty coffee microlot warehouse, and travel to the three-hectare Finca Lusitania in the municipality of Gigante, belonging to Don Victor, whose coffee won attention in the Colombia Cup of Excellence.

The group from Brazil was surprised to see the seed germination bed, steps from the planted coffee trees, for growing seedlings to sell. In Brazil, producers can save and germinate seeds for their own farms, but it is illegal to sell nursery grown seedlings to another farm because there is no way to guarantee the phytosanitary state of the seeds or the variety. Brazil’s farmers purchase certified seeds from approved vendors.

This also happens in Colombia, where the Colombia Coffee Growers Federation’s research organization, Cenicafe, recently released the new varietal Cenicafe 1, which Don Victor had recently planted on Finca Lusitania.

Antonio Cezar Junior checks out Lusitania’s coffee cherries

The following day we headed South from Pitalito to the municipality of San Adolfo, where producer Rodrigo Sanchez has his farm Finca Monteblanco. Rodrigo won the cup competition held by the Colombian division of the Norwegian fertilizer and agricultural product company Yara. In addition to his competitive success, Rodrigo and Finca Monteblanco are regionally recognized in Huila as the genesis of the Pink Bourbon varietal, a mutation that is not in fact a Bourbon (named as such in a marketing moment that stuck), but more closely resembles a Geisha and does in fact ripen to a light pinkish-orange blush.

Monteblanco’s variety selection

Finca Monteblanco is Rodrigo’s experimental farm, where he monitors many different coffee varieties culled from his family’s properties and remaining from the seeds his grandfather acquired from a regional research farm in the 1980’s. Monteblanco also plays with processing possibilities, including cold fermentation, honey processes, natural process, solar drying and shaded raised beds.

Changes in Colombia’s harvest patterns

Seeing the quality and quantity produced on Monteblanco was impressive. Colombia now has a year-round harvest, meaning that trees must be fertilized and tended differently. Yara representative Rocio, who acts as a consultant to Rodrigo, commented that this change in Colombia’s coffee maturation patterns has taken place in the last eight years.

“It didn’t used to be this way, but it is now so we have to work with what we have,” she said. Most trees had flowers, green cherries, and ripe cherries all on the same branch, a phenomenon not seen in Brazil, where farms in all regions of Minas still have one concentrated harvest per year.

Rodrigo Sanchez and Claudia Samboni on Moneblanco

The final day in Huila the group traveled to the SENA National Coffee Quality School, the epitome of coffee education at origin. SENA is Colombia’s free learning service, with physical locations and mobile professors who bring education to the people and offer classes from financial management to green coffee grading in the country’s numerous rural regions.

The SENA Coffee Quality School is open to anyone who is a coffee producer or family of and trains students in a series of forty-hour courses, from milling and storage to roasting, cupping and — everyone’s favorite — barismo. The entire supply chain is represented on the campus, part of Colombia’s initiative to produce coffee of competitive quality and raise globally competitive coffee producers. EMATER’s agronomists were especially interested in the way physical sciences — chemistry, physics, biology — are integrated into classes on roasting and brewing.

Agronomist Reigvaldo cups coffee at SENA from four of Pitalito’s producing municipalities

Our group was sad to part even after a short week. The group from Brazil was able to learn as much from each other as from Colombia’s coffee communities. Minas Gerais is a massive state, and producers from the larger estates in the north of Cerrado Mineiro and Chapada de Minas do not often have the chance to talk and share with smaller landholders from Caparao and Sul de Minas. For many, this was the first trip out of Brazil and the first time in Colombia. As buyers, roasters, and baristas also know, the chance to travel gives contexts to all the buzzwords we hear and use about varietals, drying time, farm size, and names of places that too often are just dots on a map.

SENA students and teachers were full of questions for those from Brazil!

Through much Portunhol, Spanglish, hand gestures, shared meals, and laughter, people with four native languages (Spanish, Portuguese, English, and Italian) all made it work and proved, again, that coffee is a truly global industry, where the people and the fruits they produce defy categorization.

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