Varietal: Typica & Colombia
Processing: Fully washed & dried in guardiolas or patios
Altitude: 1,800 to 1,700 metres above sea level
Owner: Camilo Arguella
Town / City: Santa Marta
Tayronaca Organic Decaf - Colombia
The Tayronaca Cooperative (Asociación Tayronaca) was founded in 2014 by producers from primarily the municipalities of Aracataca and Fundación in Colombia’s far Northern coastal area. Their farms straddle the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, an isolated mountain range isolated from the Andes chain for which Colombia is so well known. With altitudes of 5,700 metres above sea level just 42 km from the Caribbean coast, the Sierra Nevada is one of the world’s highest costal ranges.
The region has also gained literary renowned as it is the birthplace of Gabriel García Márquez, who’s famous novel ‘100 Years of Solitude’ is set there. The central town of the novel – Macondo – is often said to draw from García Márquez's childhood town of Aracataca. In fact, in June 2006, there was a referendum to change the name of the town to Aracataca Macondo (quite a ‘magical realism’ inspired move, itself). Many of the producers contributing to this lot live in the hills high above the town, in fact. While we haven’t seen any Jose Arcadio Buendias on the list, there are, indeed, quite a number of Márquez!
Here, at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, lies the Magdalena coffee zone. The region is home to great biodiversity and boasts an ecosystem with the ideal environmental conditions for the production of specialty coffees. The department of Magdalena currently counts with 18,450 hectares of coffee distributed across 3,144 farms, sheltering some 2,820 families. Asociación Tayronaca (also known as Groupo Tayronaca) is comprised of just over 300 of these producers from around 10 communities. Most of these communities are Indigenous Aruhuaco, descendants of the Tairona civilisation, one of the most advanced pre-Colombian civilisations, dating from at least the 1st Century CE. The Arhuacos are well known for their dynamic organization and level of political awareness, and these priorities are very much brought into the activities of Asociación Tayronaca. The group has achieved USDA Organic, EU Organic and UTZ certifications.
Tayronaca producers are overwhelmingly small-holders who manage their own self-sufficient wet-mills and patios (open or covered) for drying. Currently composed of 316 producers farming a total of 3,007.2 total hectares (426.8 of which are under coffee), the average farm size is quite substantial compared to other departments in Colombia. The average member has around 9.5 hectares total, 1.35 of which is under coffee. Farmers cultivate their trees, primarily the traditional varieties of Typica and Bourbon, under shade with average densities of 4,800 plants per hectare. Coffee production in the region is characterised by large cherries and beans, thanks to the constant presence of rains between the flowering and the ripening periods. Cup quality also tends to be quite high due the level of technical assistance that many farming families receive from regional organisations.
Most families do their own harvesting - usually with the help of neighbours. After the red and ripe cherries are picked, they are pulped by passing them through a manual pulper at the family farm (usually located close to the main house). The waste from this process will be used later as a natural fertilizer for the coffee trees. Depending on the conditions fermentation can range between 12 up to 48 hours.
For most of Asociación Tayronaca, coffee cultivation is their main means of economic sustenance. Some also cultivate sugarcane, but other than these crops, all other agriculture and activities are for household consumption. For the most part, individual families live separately on their farms rather than clustered in the community centre. Houses vary in shape, size and construction material, which depends on the weather, but many have distinct roofs of woven grass that are ubiquitous in the region.
Mercanta’s exporting partner for this lot works in this area in an effort to pioneer the commercialization of specialty coffee throughout the region, resulting in some stunning coffees from this area of optimal natural conditions for coffee farming and making the most of the group’s efforts to improve quality. 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.
Asociación Tayronaca carries on Tairona/Aruhuaco traditions whilst employing modern, quality-driven methods for farming coffee. By searching for new markets for their unique coffee, our exporting partner in the region is helping them to ensure their way of life for generations to come.