Farm: Finca La Esperanza
Varietal: Caturra & Colombia
Processing: Fermented for 24 Hours, washed & sun dried
Altitude: 2,050 metres above sea level
Owner: John Jairo De Jeus Quiroz Serna
Town / City: El Playon, Caicedo
Overall: Apricot, grape & honeycomb.
Finca La Esperanza - Colombia
John Jairo De Jeus Quiroz Serna inherited Finca La Esperanza from his father some 25 years ago. When he first began working the farm, there was not a coffee tree in sight. His father had used the farm’s entire 6 hectares for cattle grazing, though he had worked coffee on other parcels of land that the family owned. John Jairo had spent most of his life working in coffee and thought that he could make his newly inherited farm a stellar coffee farm.
He set about establishing plots of Caturra, to begin, and then followed with Castillo Rosario (one of the 7 locally adapted varieties of Castillo developed by Colombia’s Cenicafé) and Colombia varieties. He named the farm ‘La Esperanza’ (The Hope), because in coffee, the constant cycle from flower to green cherries to red, ripe cherries always brings hope, one phase leading to the next and always portending a beautiful future harvest.
John Jairo never purchases seedlings, as he only trusts himself to care for his trees, from seed through to harvest. His nursery is sown entirely with seeds from his own farm. He unconventionally transplants these into the field when the cotyledon (embryonic leaf) is not so is not too long - usually in the second month of growth rather than the third as is customary. He feels that this ensures better acclimation to the permanent growing position of the plant.
He cares for his three hectares of coffee with the utmost care and attention and plans to establish 8,000 new Castillo trees on a farm that he has recently purchased nearby to La Esperanza. He and the 7 workers he works with throughout the year fertilise carefully every 3 months, and always in response to soil analysis. They also adhere to a strict pruning schedule to maintain the health of plants.
Coffee at La Esperanza is selectively hand-picked and sorted to remove any under ripe or visibly damaged cherries. Around 12 workers are brought in annually particularly for the harvest. After sorting, the coffee is delivered to the wet mill where it is dry pulped and then fermented without water for between 14 and 16 hours. After being washed, the parchment is moved to parabolic beds to dry in the sun. Depending on volumes, some coffee may also be laid to dry on cement patios.
Antioquia, Origin of Specialty Coffee
The region of Antioquia has over 130,000 hectares planted in coffee, producing more than 1.8 million 70kg bags per year, which accounts for nearly 15% of Colombia’s total coffee production.
90,000 families, from 94 municipalities, have coffee as their main source of income. Most of them are small producers, with 3-5 hectares per family, normally combined with other crops such as beans, corn, banana and all kinds of vegetables used mostly for the consumption of the same families or if the production is important, they might sell it in the local market. Most of these families have been growing coffee for 3 or 4 generations.
For the last 3 years, Antioquia’s government has been carrying making great strides to both improve the quality of the coffee produced in the region and promote the consumption of specialty coffee in Colombia.
A great example of this is the Antioquia Best Cup Contest.
Previous competitions have seen a significant increase in the number of coffees submitted as well as quality and auction prices. In 2013, 504 producers submitted lots; in 2014 that number was 803 with samples from every municipality in Antioquia. The winning lot garnered $15.50 USD per pound in 2013; in 2014 this more than doubled to $31.50 USD per pound.
Coffee cuppers, composed of representatives of the 4 Coffee Cooperatives of Antioquia, the government and the FNC, selected the lots that will enter the contest called ‘Antioquia’s Best Cup’. For 2016, 703 lots were submitted to the contest, which were whittled down eventually through cupping at the cooperative leve to 296 lots. Only 60 lots emerged as the top lots to be selected at auction, with the top lots earning up to $15.60 USD per lb.