Farm: Various Farmers from Tolima Dept.
Varietal: Castillo (60%), Colombia (25%), Caturra (10%) & Typica (5%)
Processing: Fermented for between 12 to 24 hours and dried on open or covered patios
Altitude: 1,500 to 2,000 metres above sea level
Owner: Various small holder farmers
Town / City: La Marina
Overall: Apricot, maple syrup, orange, lime acidity
La Marina (Tolima) - Colombia
The town of La Marina is around a 45 minute drive to the west of Chaparral, in the central-southern area of Tolima, Colombia. Tolima is well known in speciality coffee circles, and La Marina region benefits from some of its most advantageous qualities. It sits on the Cordillera Central, in the middle of the three mountain ranges that run from North to South through Colombia, which gives it a multitude of microclimates well-suited to high quality coffee production.
The wider area of which La Marina is a part of is known as Cañon de Las Hermosas, due to its proximity to the national park Las Hermosas that covers large areas in the departments of Tolima and Cauca. ‘Las Hermosas’ means ‘the Beautiful [women?]’, but the remote area’s beauty has long been inaccessible for many. In recent years the area was heavily infiltrated by the Colombian leftist army, the FARC. FARC presence contributed to the region’s isolation and gave the area a reputation as being unsafe and violent. Only in the last 5 years or so (since approximately 2012), as the Colombian government maintains peace talks with the rebels, has it been safe enough to travel to the region.
Coffee production in La Marina goes back to the early 20th Century, when Typica, Bourbon and Caturra trees were planted widely at altitudes ranging from 1,350 to 1,500 metres. Over the years, the region saw the effects of climate change and that of coffee leaf rust and coffee borer beetle (broca), which has seen farms climb higher up the mountains to altitudes of 1,600 to 1,900 metres. Climate change has also encouraged producers to establish the more rust-resistant varieties of Castillo and Colombia, which are increasingly more prevalent than traditional varieties today.
Today, the region collectively is planted with around 7,500 hectares of coffee spread across 1,617 producers. Average farm size hovers at 5 hectares (slightly above the country’s average), and cultivation and processing processes tend to be ‘traditional’. Fertilisation occurs three times a year, usually after manual weeding. Pesticides are rarely used, even to control against broca. Instead, most producers make an effort to remove all fallen cherries throughout the harvest and monitor their trees regularly for any sign of infection. Average production in the region is between 1,875 to 2,500 kg of parchment per hectare. This is just enough for most producer families to live on, though most farmers also grow yuca, poppy and avocado.
Coffee in the region is selectively hand harvested, with most labour being provided by the farmers and their families. Coffee is then pulped in a small mechanical pulper or hand pulper, fermented for between 12 and 24 hours and washed 2 to 4 times to remove remaining mucilage. Coffee will then be spread to dry on covered or open patios.
Mercanta’s exporting partner for this lot has helped to promote commercialization of specialty coffee throughout the region, resulting in some stunning coffees from this area of optimal natural conditions for coffee farming. Feedback on the coffee is provided by an expert team of cuppers and ‘liquidation’ payments (sort of ‘top up’ payments) are made if the producers’ coffee is sold at a higher margin.