Farm: Finca La Falda del Centro
Varietal: Caturra & Castillo
Processing: Fully washed & sun dried
Altitude: 1,965 metres above sea level
Owner: Rubiel Alberto Higuita Manco
Town / City: Giraldo, La Sierrita
La Falda del Centro Best of Antioquia Competition - Colombia
Rubiel Alberto Higuita Manco has worked with coffee one way or the other for all of his life, mostly working with his father. However, it wasn’t until 15 years ago that he acquired his own farm, La Falda del Centro. A friend of Rubiel’s had inherited the farm from his own father, but the friend had no passion for coffee and wanted, instead, to migrate to the city to look for other opportunities. In this, Rubiel saw his own opportunity and made an offer which was accepted and that how he wound up with his own farm.
At the time, the farm didn’t have a name. Early on, as he was visited by an agricultural technician sent by his cooperative, he began discussing his difficulties in thinking of a good name for the farm. The technician responded, “Well, this farm is pretty steep and it is located in the centre of the village, between other farms, so why don’t we call it La Falda del Centro (The Steep Hill in the Centre).” This very literal name stuck.
Rubiel is best described as a traditionalist coffee grower – he very much relies on the knowledge that his parents passed on to him, tries not to get bogged down in the technical details and farms ‘from the heart’ with a pure love for growing coffee, constantly improving quality and providing for his family and their future.
Rubiel’s attitude can be encompassed in a phrase that he utters often: “Coffee is food and because of this I do everything as clean as I can.” He cares very much for the process, and this is reflected in the quality of his coffee, which has repeatedly won prizes.
Rubiel does all the work on the farm himself, though his wife occasionally gives him a hand with low intensity activities such as washing the coffee or raking it while it dries. He does between three and four fertilisations per year, depending on the weather and according, always, to soil analysis. He plants his nursery only using seeds from best lots on the farm, and renovates by stumping every 8 to 10 years depending on the health of the trees. He also ahs a small lot on the farm that has not yet been planted, and in 2016 he plans to sow 1,000 new Castillo trees here.
During the harvest, Rubiel brings in 4 to 5 additional workers to help. Coffee is selectively hand-picked and sorted to remove any under ripe or visibly damaged cherries. At the end of the day the coffee is pulped and then dry fermented in tanks for between 12 and 16 hours depending on the climate. Rubiel normally pulps around 5 pm and washes his coffee at 8 am the next morning.
After washing, the coffee is delivered to dry in parabolic beds (locally called marquesinas). It normally takes approximately three days to bring the coffee to the acceptable moisture content.
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.