Farm: Finca El Indio
Varietal: Colombia & Castillo
Processing: Fully washed & dried in greenhouses or in guardiolas
Altitude: 1,850 metres above sea level
Owner: Jesús Alberto Úsuga
Town / City: Buritaca
Overall: Chocolate, wafer, nutty
El Indio Los Arados Buritaca - Colombia
In 1986 a group of organized coffee growers from Colombia’s department of Antioquia, tired of the vagaries of the coffee market in the region, took the first steps toward the formation of the Cooperativa de Caficultores de Occidente (Cooperative of Coffee Growers of the West), also known as CoopOccidente. This exceptional lot of coffee is an eventual outcome of their actions.
When it first began, the cooperative was based not far from the departmental capital of Medellín, in the municipality of Cañasgordas. The group incorporated coffee producers from 13 neighbouring municipalities: Santa Fe de Antioquia, Buritica, Cañasgordas, Dabeiba, Ebejico, Frontino, Giraldo, Liborina, Peque, Sabanalarga, San Jerónimo, Sopetrán, Uramita and the Corregimientos de Sevilla (Ebéjico) and Palmitas (itself a virtual suburb of Medellín). The main activities have been purchasing coffee (of course), and providing a range of services to members, including: technical assistance, pre-financing, social services and education and training. Today, CoopOccidente has grown to 3,414 active members and is present in 13 municipalities and 5 corregimientos in the West of Antioquia.
This particular lot is from the farm of Jesús Alberto Úsuga, a member of CoopOccidente. Around half of his small 10 hectare farm, El Indio, is reserved for grazing cattle, the primary economic activity for the family. Although Jesús, his wife, and their seven children have actually resided in Medellin City for the past two decades, their devotion to coffee is strong, as the quality of this lot illustrates.
The farm was named El Indio (The Indian/Indigenous) to pay homage to the very many indigenous groups that used to live in the area. In the region where the farm is located, indigenous tombs have been found, with pottery and various belongings of tribespeople.
Renovations and prunings are done at a rate of around 20% per year, with the aim of a fully renovated crop every 5 years or so without sacrificing in productivity or affecting finances prohibitively. This means that the average age of the trees is 5 years: young and healthy. Normally three annual fertilisations are sufficient, if applied according to cooperative best practices. Jesús sometimes goes as high as five.
Jesús has his own, independent washing and drying stations which are adjacent to the family home. During harvest season, most of the labour is conducted by Jesús and his wife, though sometimes other extended family lend a hand. Coffee is selectively hand picked and then pulped on the same day using the farm’s ecopulper, which helps reduce water consumption and waste during pulping. Coffee is fermented for around 16 hours before being fully washed and, then, is delivered to dry in greenhouses. The farm also has mechanical driers (guardiolas) and will use the two methods in combination from time to time.
Plans for the future involve adding new trees and improving the washing station and the drying surface. Above all, Jesús wants to continue to improve the quality of his coffee as well as increase his production.
Soon, the cooperative plans to invest in access to new varieties along with improving their members’ washing stations and drying facilities. They will, of course, continue to work to improve the productivity and quality of the coffee produced by their members. Their aim is to help farmers produce reliably high-quality lots, enabling their members to sell the majority of their production on higher value specialty markets.