Farm: Finca Angosturas
Varietal: Caturra and Colombia
Processing: Fermented for 48 hours and driedunder plasticon raised bed
Altitude: 2100 meters above sea level
Owner: Doña Amparo Zapata
Town / City: Buenos Aires Municipality of San Pedro de Cartago
Overall: Honey, lemon, strawberry cream, tropical, vanilla
Finca Angosturas, Amparo Zapata - Colombia
Having lost her husband to illness 20 years ago, Doña Amparo is a woman of spirit. Not only has she managed to bring up and support five children as a single parent, but she also produces some of the best coffee in the region. Today, two of Doña’s children are now supporting her, assisting with the day to day management of the farm.
Doña and his family live in the Municipality of San Pedro de Cartago, part of the state of Nariño. Known for its rich history, stunning landscapes and exceptional national park, Nariño is located in the southwest of Colombia; just above the equator and on the border with Ecuador. The mountainous region has excellent conditions both in terms of humidity and temperature to keep coffee in parchment for ongoing export shipments, preventing early signs of ageing. Coffee in the region is grown at altitudes that reach 2,200 metres, some of the highest elevations at which coffee is grown in the world. The high altitude of cultivation allows for the slow development of the coffee bean, which gives the cup profile of Nariño its unique characteristics.
Nariño initially became famous during Colombia’s independence in the early 1800s, as one of the few states in Colombia that sided heavily with the crown instead of the independence armies. Nearby Pasto was an important colonial town and was at the centre of commerce between Bogotá and Quito. Residents had every reason to side with peace and stability, not the change of the status quo that Simon Bolivar promoted.
After heavy fighting in different parts of Ecuador and Colombia, the Spaniards and revolutionaries eventually met in the Juanambú Canyon, a beautiful part of Buesaco, close to San Pedro de Cartago; where steep ridges come down to meet at a small river. The fight took place on top of a thin bridge and after heavy losses, the revolutionaries were able to drive back the Spaniards and continue their way south to complete the battle for independence.
Producers in this region are overwhelmingly small-holders, whose farms are often located in remote areas and who have traditionally found it difficult to break into markets for higher quality coffee. The game-changer came in 2010 and 2012 when two growers from the region of Buesaco (also in northern Nariño) won the Colombian Cup of Excellence. This huge win made it apparent to many growers from the region that their coffee had the potential to be sold and commercialised as true specialty coffee. This marked the end of meagre premiums they were receiving for certification schemes.
Crucial to sustaining the speciality efforts in this isolated region, is Mercanta’s Colombian partner, Pergamino Exporters. Pergamino has set up a structure whereby associated farm lots that score above an 84 on the SCA scale, are purchased at a premium in line with the quality of the lot; such as in the example of Doña Amparo Zapata. Pergamino has previously established similar projects with other small producer organisations in Antioquia, Huila and Cauca, all of which have been successful in identifying high-quality lots from small producers and helping place these coffees at market for a higher price.
Doña has produced this lot using the washed method. After the red and ripe cherries are picked, they are pulped by passing them through a pulper, before being fermented for 24 hours. It is very common in the region for individual farm to pulp and ferment their own cherry, rather than transporting their produce to a centralised hub to be processed. Some producers in the region 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. Finally, once fermented, the coffee is removed and placed on raised parabolic beds to dry, until moisture reaches below 12%. 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. This is something Doña Amparo greatly benefits from, as Finca Angosturas is located higher in altitude than most farms in this region. Finca Angosturas makes for a breathtaking visit, surrounded by natural forests and incredible wildlife.
It is worth noting that the violence that plagued the early independence of Colombia in Nariño continued into the 20th and 21st centuries. Conflict and war returned in the 1990s and early 2000s as FARC guerrillas took over northern Nariño. This region was ripe to serve as a centre of operations for illegal groups. The government did not have a heavy presence in the region and the altitude in much of the municipality was ideal for growing opium poppy plants and coca (and thus of great interest to the rebels).
Lucky for Pergamino and Mercanta, the guerrillas were forced out of the region almost 10 years ago, and the region is now completely safe to conduct normal economic activities such as growing and buying coffee. Both Mercanta and Pergamino deeply believe however that specialty coffee serves a special propose in making sure this region is prosperous and its future is one of peace and not of recurrent conflict.