Farm: Finca Bellavista
Varietal: Caturra & Colombia
Processing: 24 hours fermenation & dried on patios
Altitude: 2,170 metres above sea level
Owner: Ulpiano Rodrigues
Town / City: Naranjal Alto, Buesaco
Finca Bellavista – Ulpiano Rodríguez (Nariño) - 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). Nariño has excellent conditions both in terms of humidity and temperature to keep coffee in parchment for ongoing export shipments, and its location on the equatorial line provides a great angle of sun exposure for the extremely steep hills around the volcano.
Coffee 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 a slow, development of the coffee bean, which gives the cup profile of Nariño its unique characteristics.
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.
Ulpiano Rodrigues has a beautiful farm on Nariño’s eastern edge in the municipality of Buesaco. His small 3-hectare plot reaches as high as coffee can be planted in the steep hills surrounding the town, at 2,170 metres.
The ride to Bellavista (Beautiful View) consists of taking a 1970´s Land Cruiser, refitted with extra weight on the front in order to keep it stable on the way up hills that are steeper than most cars were ever meant to traverse. In fact, according to Mercanta’s export partner for the region, these are the steepest slopes that they have ever seen, and that is saying a lot! Wilson, the driver of this vehicle, will tell you stories gathered over the course of a lifetime of driving these roads, including one time he drove his car off the one of the ridges and miraculously survived. On another occasion, the FARC, a guerrilla group that occupied the area until about 10 years ago, forced him to play chauffer to members of the group that were heading into town to rob a bank during one of their raids on the municipal centre. We aren’t sure if he had to play getaway driver, as well.
Once one reaches the end of the road in the small town of Naranjal Alto, you will have to hike another 30 minutes to reach Ulpiano´s farm. The view is stunning, and Ulpiano`s family will be warm and welcoming.
Ulpiano shares a life story with many other coffee producers working in the region. Though he is originally from Nariño, he was forced to find a way to earn ensure his family’s livelihood in the 90´s. He moved everyone to the neighboring state of Putumayo, which at the time was experiencing an economic bonanza due burgeoning coca production. Ulpiano worked in Putumayo for several years as a “raspachin”, as coca pickers are called in Colombia. He and his family were again forced to move after a new gang took control of the area where he lived and worked, however. This meant that Ulpiano´s family was forced to move back to Nariño during one of the most violent times in Colombian´s history. Starting from scratch with what little he had been able to save, he built his farm from nothing, and now has 12,000 beautiful Caturra and Colombia trees over 3 hectares of prime coffee land. He sees specialty coffee production, finally, as a way of providing a sustainable income for his family.
Ulpiano has been helped along the way by his involvement with the association Buesaco con Altura (Buesaco with Altitude), a producer organization that Mercanta’s exporting partners for this coffee, Pergamino, has been working with to establish programs to improve coffee quality. The group is composed of coffee farmers from the municipality who seek to improve their quality of life by producing and selling coffee of the highest, specialty quality. Producer members have placed highly in Colombian Cup of Excellence competition and continue to strive towards producing ever better coffee. You can learn more here.