Farm: Inza Cauca Small farms
Varietal: Caturra, Colombia, Castillo
Processing: Fully washed
Altitude: 1,500 to 2,000 metres above sea level
Owner: 450+ in total; 52 small farmers of the Asociación de Productores de Café del Oriente Caucano (ASORCAFE)
Town / City: Inzá - Cauca
Region: Pedregal and San Antonio
Overall: Floral, berries, plums, jasmine, milk chocolate, medium body, nutty
Smallholders of Inzá, Cauca - Colombia
The municipality of Inzá is located in the corner of the Department of Cauca, bordering with Tolima and Huila and looking out to the west over the Pacific Ocean. Situated on the “Macizo Colombiano” (the Colombian Plateau), which surrounds the high peaks of Tolima and Huila, the region is an important source of water and wildlife, in addition to being prime coffee growing land.
This coffee was produced by 52 smallholder coffee producers hailing from the neighbouring sub-municipalities of Pedregal and San Antonio. Every single microlot delivered was cupped and reserved due to its scoring 85 points or above by the community cupping lab, funded by Mercanta Exporting Partners, Pergamino, who are based in the Department of Antioquia. These stringent standards result in very limited quantities of this exceptional blend of 70%+ Caturra and approx 30% Variedad Colombia being made available for export.
Cauca’s violent past, with a heavy presence of FARC guerrillas, had historically prevented the FNC (Colombia’s excellent national coffee board) and specialty-focused exporters from establishing a presence in the region. As violence has diminished, it has enabled the growers in the region to seek increased access to markets for quality, not only taking advantage of the region’s wonderful coffee-growing conditions but also the economic resource that nearby tourist destinations bring (for instance, the World Heritage Site “Parque Nacional Arqueológico de Tierradentro”).
We found out about this coffee through our good friends at Pergamino, who serve it in their own flagship specialty café in Medellin.
Like all producers in Colombia, Pergamino spent many years helplessly riding the roller coaster of international coffee prices. They had to invest, year after year, in their crops without knowing what price they would secure. As the saying goes in Colombia, there were years of lean cows and years of fat cows – the former being more common than the latter. They often sold their coffee to large exporters, never understanding its unique sensory coffees, nor in whose hands it ended up for what price. When they began selling their coffee directly to importers and roasters, everything changed. When they extended the model to small holder farmers in Antioquia, they also changed everything for them.
Today, Pergamino works with more than 600 smallholder farmers in four Departments (Cauca, Antioquia, Huila and Nariño), and their influence continues to grow. They have developed the relationship with the communities over time, providing invaluable feedback on quality and training in quality assessment. They are committed to transparency in their partnerships with these farmers, ensuring that profit margins are clear and that value added by quality goes directly to the producer. The premiums that Pergamino pays (and that Mercanta pays) range from 30-300% over market prices (depending on cupping score and volume). They also provide technical assistance so that farmers can continue to improve crop quality.
Specifically in Cauca, they have launched a new pilot project with the Pillimue family in San Antonio, from where this coffee was sourced. In order to offer up market access more widely in the region and to put more control in the hands of local people, the family (who has long supplied coffee to Pergamino from their various family member farms) has opened a small warehouse and cupping lab with funding from Pergamino. They act as logistics and sourcing partners and are able to provide quality assessment services for nearly 150 families in the area, which is far more impactful than any other regional association in the area, reaching not just San Antonio, but now also the towns of Belen, La Palmera, Aguablanca, Pedregal, Palmichal, San Jose and Santa Teresa. Most importantly, the Pillimue/Pergamino partnership enables more families than ever before to access higher prices by placing coffee on the specialty market.
During the harvest season, Pergamino has committed to monthly visits to the group in order to cup and advise on quality. All coffee produced by the group that cups at 85+ points will be purchased, and higher scoring lots may be held aside as microlots to be marketed under the farmer/family’s own name.