Variety: Caturra & Colombia
Altitude: 1,650 metres above sea level
Processing: Extended fermentation
Owner: Echavarria family
In the cup: Intensely sweet and fruit driven, with winey acdity and notes of stewed rhubarb, hot strawberry jam and a chocolate mousse finish.
This is one of two very special Colombian lots from this years harvest. We only have a small quantity of this (see below for the tiny size of this mircolot), so it won’t last long.
Background: Finca Veracruz was established by Sr. Pedro Echavarria, who recognised from the start that selecting the right location for his farms was critical. It was for this reason, that Pedro chose to grow coffee high up in the Andes in the Antioquia region, which he recognised had the perfect conditions to produce exceptional coffee, with a unique microclimate, rich volcanic soil and high altitude. By marrying these conditions with hard work and efficiency, he quickly grew both the area under cultivation and his reputation.
Finca Veracruz is one of 5 sister farms that are owned by Pedro and his family, which come under the banner of Santa Barbara Estate. The Echavarria family purchased the 16 hectare farm in the 90s. It sits at 1650m above sea level, and has its own small mill located on the property, allowing the Echavarria family to control quality on the farm from picking through to drying.
In the last five years, Pedro’s son – Pedro Jr. – has become more deeply involved in the workings of his family’s farm. Pedro Jr., who was educated at Tufts University, is taking the already high quality of the coffee to new heights through experimentation in processing and increased monitoring and control of every stage of production. Pedro Jr. works with the Director of Quality, Leonardo Henao Triana to manage their wet mill with a blend of art, industrial rigour and scientific curiosity. Leo, an agronomist, is also in the midst of completing his masters degree in fermentation processing at the National University’s Medellin branch.
In addition to their quality control team, the Echavarria family employ 4 people all year round to work on La Joyeria, and an additional 20 – 30 seasonal pickers during the harvest, comprised mainly of farmers from around region who pick coffee to supplement their income. The workers are generally long-term employees and have been with the company for more than 10 years. The Echavarria family run an extensive scholarship and financial aid programs for their worker’s children as well as helping long-standing employees to acquire their own piece of land upon retirement.
To ensure workers only pick the very ripest cherries, the Echavarria family use a mix of education and economic incentives. They explain ‘We are working with our pickers to teach them why it is so important that they pick the fully ripened beans, as most of them have no idea of the effects of their job on the final product. We also complement this with a set of collective incentives. Throughout the day, we are taking constant measures of the quality of the picking, measuring what percentage of unripen beans we have. When this percentage reaches a certain point a bonus kicks in, and then next day picking will be paid with a bonus. So far we have seen great results, and the mentality of the pickers has changed drastically.’
This particular micro lot from Finca Veracruz was 10 bags in size (20 cartons) and is comprised of coffee from five consecutive days’ picking. Pedro and Leo have developed a unique method of processing the coffee known as extended fermentation. Each day (over a period of 5 consecutive days), freshly picked, pulped beans are added to a fermentation tank with the previous days’ pickings. In this method of ‘extended’ fermentation, each batch raises the pH levelof the fermentation tank (i.e. makes it more alkaline), permitting longer fermentation times that will produce a fruit-forward cup but without the acetic acid produced by bacteria at a low pH. In this way, Pedro is able to maintain the correct pH level and avoid very low pH levels during processing that can lead to over-fermentation. In addition to giving more control over pH levels, this method also gives more control over yeast and bacteria activity. Interestingly, the inspiration for the process was taken from small farmers throughout Antioquia and Huila, who often have two or three day fermentation as their farms are so small that one day’s picking is often not sufficient to make up an entire lot. Pedro and Leo have worked to perfect the process and adapt it for larger-scale production.
After fermentation, the coffee is then washed and dried on parabolic beds under the sun. These parabolic beds, known locally as ‘marquesinas’, are constructed a bit like ‘hoop house’ greenhouses, with airflow ensured through openings in both ends. The covering both protects the parchment from rain and mist as it is dried and also prevents condensation from dripping back on the drying beans. After the parchment is fully dried to the optimal humidity, it is delivered to Santa Barbara’s dry mill for assessment and storage.