ALTITUDE: 1782m above sea level
VARIETY: Caturra, Colombia
PROCESSING: Fully washed
OWNER: Albeiro Muñoz Gonzales
In the cup: Full body, with juicy orange acidity, sugar cane sweetness and notes of blackcurrant, dark chocolate, lemon and cherry.
Whilst Huila is naturally blessed with optimal specialty coffee growing conditions, the key to great quality coffees from the region (such as this lot) are the growers themselves. Coffee farming within the region is overwhelmingly small-scale, with most farmers owning fewer than three hectares of land. These small farms are tended by individual families with labour only very rarely contracted out, which leads to more thorough and intensive management practices and great pride in the final product—which becomes, itself, an extension of the family.
Finca La Ciénaga is a 3 hectare farm sitting at 1,782 metres above sea level near the town of Pitalito in Huila and is owned and managed by farmer Albeiro Muñoz Gonzales. Albeiro is regarded as an influential leader in his community and plays an important role in the Asobombo producer group where he oversees environmental projects including key sustainability initiatives for the group.
Asobombo is a young association founded by experienced producers in the municipality of Pitalito, located in Huila’s Southwest. The organization was formed by 50 like-minded coffee producers who banded together in order to attain—as a group—what most of them had tried but failed to accomplish independently for a very long time: economic sustainability through long-term specialty programs.
This is not to say that the potential for high quality coffee wasn’t there! Many producer members of Asobombo had participated and finished as finalists in local and national competitions. Many had sold one or two lots at higher prices, demonstrating that they had the potential to produce high quality coffee and that the market existed. However, none of them had been able to set up long-term projects that really worked to transform their lives and livelihoods.
Asobombo farms in Huila
In 2015, Pedro Miguel Echavarria, a coffee grower and exporter based in Antioquia, began to work with Asobombo to help them achieve this goal. Echavarria had previously established similar projects with other small producer organizations in Antioquia, Huila, and Cauca, all of which have been hugely successful in identifying high-quality lots from small producers and helping producers place these coffees at market for a higher price. In this essential first stage of the quality improvement program, Pedro is working with Asobombo in order to understand better the profiles and quality range that the members produce. This involves cupping with the group frequently during the harvest season and providing lots of feedback.
The results of this program are incredibly encouraging, and the group is already investing a portion of the initial premiums they have received in establishing a warehouse and cupping lab in order to improve traceability and perform the first ‘filter’ for quality control.
Indeed, Asobombo seems to be a cooperative with huge potential, and the natural surroundings certainly provide massive opportunities for quality coffee production. The region where most of the members live is located at 1,700 metres above sea level, around two hours away from the urban area of Pitalito. Their land is high but not as steep as other areas of Huila: most of the farms are located in a plateau above the main Valley of Laboyos, so the geography is mostly gentle rolling hills that are much easier to farm than the steep cliffs common in most Colombian coffee regions.
PROCESSING OF ASOBOMBO
Asobombo’s producers are located near the Salto de Bordones, a beautiful 400 metre high waterfall that is the origin of many local myths and stories. The growers here plant mostly Caturra and Colombia varieties of coffee. After pulping the carefully hand-picked ripe cherries, they ferment the beans for 24 hours before moving the coffee to dry in parabolic beds or patios.
(Information courtesy of Melbourne Coffee Merchants)