Farm: Finca La Palma
Processing: Fully Washed
Altitude: 1,800 metres above sea level
Owner: Echavarria Family
Town / City: Santa Barbara
Overall: Sparkling Red Currant, Raspberry, Molasses, Fudge
La Palma Santa Barbara Estate - Colombia
Café de Santa Barbara is a family-owned company dedicated to the production and export of Colombian estate coffee. The family’s beginnings in the coffee business date from the early 20th century when Don Alejandro Angel (great grandfather to the current generation) became the first major exporter of Colombian coffee. Foreseeing the enormous potential for the Colombian crop, in the times when our country’s coffee did not have the reputation that it holds now, he sought to convince the European and American traders that the distinctive qualities of our Arabica coffee made it worthy of recognition and admiration by the coffee roasters of the world. He succeeded beyond his contemporaries’ imagination, opened new markets and became the largest Colombian coffee exporter of his time.
This legacy greatly inspired Pedro Echavarria (husband to one of Don Alejandro’s great grand-daughters) who ventured into growing coffee three decades ago. Mr. Echavarría understood that the most important step was choosing the region where to grow his coffee. After much deliberation he ended up deciding for Santa Barbara, a small county encroached into the Andean mountains in the state of Antioquia. Other than its picturesque charm, Santa Barbara offered a land with distinctive and crucial qualities, such as microclimates (do to the combination of altitude with warm air from the Cauca river valley), singular volcanic soils, perfect altitude, and a tradition of excellence in the production of coffee. Mr. Echavarria started then with a modest amount of land, but throughout the years he has constantly increased production capacity. By marrying these perfect natural conditions with hard work and efficiency, he quickly grew both the area under cultivation and his farms’ reputation. The Echavarria family began to consolidate the various lands he had purchased over the years during the 1980s.
Today, Santa Barbara Estate is composed of 5 sister farms (including La Palma, from where this lot hails) that lie within the Santa Barbara region. The family also owns farms in nearby Fredonia and Amagá. La Palma is the only farm in Santa Barbara Estate that is physically separated from the rest of the Santa Barbara farms. Located at the other side of the valley are Agualinda, Lomaverde and La Camelia, but La Palma is completely independent and has its own mill and drying silos. The farm also has a full dormitory for pickers that can serve around 40 people during harvest.
In the last five years, Pedro’s son – also Pedro – has become more deeply involved in the workings of the farm, taking the already high quality of the coffee to new heights through experimentation in processing and increased monitoring and control of every stage of production. Pedro Jr. and Santa Barbara’s Coffee Director, Leonardo Henao Triana, manage their wet mill with a blend of art, industrial rigor and scientific curiosity. They are committed to further developing the Estate’s capacity for the highest quality coffee possible and have even brought their offerings to Medellin, Colombia through their flagship coffee shop, Pergamino. They are also true innovators. Due to La Palma’s medium size and well-designed wet mill, many of Leo and Pedro’s fermentation experiments are carried out here. As well, the farm boasts several experimental plots of Geisha and SL28. Perhaps most importantly, in terms of house colours, it’s the family favourite!
Santa Barbara began working with Mercanta in 2011. In addition to supplying us with various astounding coffees, such as the ‘La Joyería’ microlot, San Pasqual Naturals and Finca Veracruz, Pedro and Leo have made Finca La Palma available to us for the first time in 2018.
La Palma’s coffee is selectively hand harvested and then delivered to the farm’s small but perfect wet mill. Each lot is composed of two days worth of picking; the coffee picked on the second day is added to the first after 24 hours fermentation and then left to ferment in the tanks for a further 24 hours. In this method of fermentation, the second batch raises the ph level of the fermentation tank, permitting longer fermentation times without the acetic acid produced by bacteria at a lower ph level.
After being fully washed, the coffee is dried in silos, where warm air is circulated throughout the coffee to provide show, even drying and optimal humidity.
Santa Bárbara Estate employs 60 people all year round, who on average earn 30% above the minimum wage. Half of these also receive free housing within the farm for themselves and their families. A further 1,200 pickers are hired during the main harvest, comprised mainly of farmers from around the Santa Bárbara Estate who pick coffee to supplement their income. Workers are generally long-term employees and have been with the company for more than 10 years.
The Santa Bárbara Estate also runs an extensive scholarship and financial aid program for worker’s children as well as helping long-standing employees to acquire their own piece of land upon retirement.