Farm: Various Farmers from Nariño Dept.
Varietal: Caturra (40%), Castillo (40%), Colombia (20%)
Processing: Fermented for between 14 to 48 hours and sun dried
Altitude: 1,700 to 2,300 metres above sea level
Owner: Various small holder farmers
Town / City: Consaca
Overall: Plum, apricot, brown sugar.
Consaca, Narino - Colombia
The Department of Nariño is located in the southwest of Colombia, just above the equator and on the border with Ecuador. The region is strikingly mountainous and boasts no fewer than five volcanoes: Chiles (4,718 metres), Cumbal (4,764 metres), Azufral (4,070 metres), Doña Juana (4,250 metres) and Galeras (4,276 metres). This coffee was, indeed, grown on the slopes of the latter.
Las Galeras, as a volcano, has an interesting peculiarity: it had been active for at least a million years before going through a period of 10 years of dormancy up until 1988, when it became active again. Since then it has been fairly active, with the last eruption in 2013, when it affected some of the settlements at the base of the volcano. It sits looming over the region’s main city of Pasto, and coffee is grown on all of the surrounding hillsides, in which the soils have benefited from the volcanic compounds that have been produced over time.
The town of Consaca, around which this lot was grown, is located on the Western skirts of Galeras. As well as being known as an important coffee-growing town in the region, Consaca was witness to the famous ‘Battle of Bombona’ between the liberating army of Simon Bolivar and the royalist Spanish army in Colombia’s fight for independence.
On April 7, 1822 the liberalist army left Consaca on their route towards the city of Pasto, when they were met by the royalist army in Bombona. Bolivar and his army were successful in the battle and continued on to liberate Colombia as well as Ecuador. The battle was an important clash in the fight for independence and remains an important part of the history of the people of Consaca. However, Pasto in Nariño is famously known for being one of the few cities of the time that was against the fight for independence, and Bolivar was met by hostility when he arrived there.
Living at the skirts of the Galeras Volcano, the people of Consaca declare a strong affiliation to the volcano that looms above. In many ways they are very much at its mercy and regard it as their silent and perennial witness to their history.
Around 500 hectares are planted with coffee in Consaca, with someareas reaching up to 2,300 metres in altitude. The predominant varieties planted are Caturra and Castillo, with most farmers diversifying between 2 or 3 varieties on their farm.
Producers in this region are overwhelmingly small-holders, who manage their own self-sufficient wet-mills and patios (open or covered) for drying. Every family does their own harvesting - usually with the help of neighbours. After the red and ripe cherries are picked, they are pulped by passing them through a manual pulper at the family farm (usually located close to the main house). The waste from this process will be used later as a natural fertilizer for the coffee trees. Depending on the conditions fermentation can range between 12 up to 48 hours. Some producers will add several layers of wet parchment over the course of a few days, which is thought to add complexity to the fermentation process and final cup profile. Luckily, Nariño is blessed with some of the best drying conditions in the country due to the micro-climate and high altitude of the region, providing lower relative humidity, more wind and more sunny days than other areas of the country.
Mercanta’s exporting partner for this lot works in this area in an effort to pioneer the commercialization of specialty coffee throughout the region, resulting in some stunning coffees from this area of optimal natural conditions for coffee farming and making the most of the group’s efforts to improve quality. Feedback on the coffee is provided by an expert team of cuppers, with producers receiving higher prices for higher scoring coffees. A second ‘re-liquidation’ payment (sort of a ‘top up’) is made at the end of the harvest season if the producer’s coffee is sold at a higher margin. Support also is given with regards to social well-being.
Every family does their own harvesting - usually with the help of neighbours. After the red and ripe cherries are picked, they are pulped by passing them through a manual pulper at the family farm (usually located close to the main house). The waste from this process will be used later as a natural fertilizer for the coffee trees. Coffee is then fermented anywhere from 14 to 48 hours, depending on the weather and the farm’s location, and then washed using cold, clean water.
Once this process is complete, many of the farmers sun-dry their parchment on patios or on the roofs of their houses (elbas) or in small greenhouse likes structures specifically made for this purpose. The parchment is delivered directly by the producer to our exporting partner’s warehouse, where it will eventually be dry milled. Once the coffee is received, it is carefully graded and cupped.