Colombia Origin Trip: Sourcing Specialty Coffee

Colombia Origin Trip: Sourcing Speciality Coffee

Welcome to Steve's personal blog from his origin trip to Colombia, where he spent 10 days travelling the country sourcing speciality coffee. His blog covers his thought and feelings throughout and introduces you to some of the most amazing people/organisations that make up the coffee industry. We've also included Steve and Jake's video summary of their time in Colombia at Origin - scroll to the bottom to watch.

Day 1 – Sunday 8th May – Travel day

After a pretty hectic morning of trying to organise my stuff for the trip, I finally made it to Sheffield train station, first stop Doncaster, quick change and down to Kings Cross, onto the underground and over to Heathrow T2. Everything ran very smoothly and was at the airport with plenty of time to spare.
I met Jacob and in departures we go…

At this time I started to really think about the trip, how was it going to be different to Indonesia, how would I feel about not seeing my little boy for the longest time since he was born, I had a couple of nervous feelings towards safety, I’ve never been to Colombia and some stories are not great, however my main feeling was pure excitement, another opportunity to go to origin, a change to make some new great connections and also maintain our existing relationship with Cencoic, it really was going to be a trip of a lifetime.

The flight was great, nice and easy and the 10 hours 40 flew by, we landed in Bogota, collected our bags and started the wait for the rest of the group. A couple of hours in the airport, a couple of coffees later the rest of the group arrived. This tour is being hosted by Hernan from Racafe alongside Priscilla and David from DR Wakefield. We also have Roy and Milena from Java Republic and James from Wogan coffee.
After quick introductions we were back on a plane and a quick flight up to Medellin. One thing was clear from the quick intro’s, we are all coffee people with a passion for coffee at origin.

We were met at Medellin and off we headed to El Penol. First impressions were incredible, everywhere was so green, so lush, I could tell I would like Colombia. After a quick drive we stopped for breakfast, A local dish of ham and scrambled eggs.

The drive over to El Penol was about an hour, a beautiful trip up and up the mountains, around 1900 meters above sea level. El Penol itself was bigger and more affluent than I thought, It surrounds the wonderful Guatape lake, surprisingly, (to me at least) there was luxury looking properties on the edge of the water, I just wasn’t expecting that. We stopped at El Penol buying station and met Sonia, she buys wet and dry parchment coffee from around 150 small farms across the area. She then blends this to create the El Penol coffee. We actually tried a single origin Typica that Sonia had roasted on a frying pan, smooth, easy drinking, best coffee of the trip so far. After a brief insight into operations we headed to a small local farm and met head farmer, Jesus. We had an incredible tour and insight into a small farm operation. All coffee was picked and processed on site and then taken to Sonia for sale, normally on a Sunday. It was an amazing feeling being back amongst the coffee trees, this is the heart and soul of coffee, this is where it happens, it’s sometimes easy to forget this.

We spent a good hour with Jesus, a typical hard working but friendly Colombian, interestingly, two of the biggest obstacles he faces are cost of fertilizer and getting staff to pick coffee during harvest. Along the many coffee tress, there was also some of the biggest Avocados I have ever seen, incredible. Moving on from Jesus, we went to visit another farm within El Penol, this one was sitting at 1982 masl. A small farm on the banks of the Guatape, family operated and farmed by 88 years young Julio Garcia. Julio maintains the farm and completes the harvest with just one extra person helping, incredible. Julio was born and raised in a house a stones throw away from the current farm and has never left, I can certainly see why. This was a beautiful small farm and they were actually going to start the first pick on Monday 16th, Lots of ripe cherries ready to go. Again, similar to Jesus, they would pick and process the cherry to wet or dry parchment, then take to Sonia for sale.

From here we started to head back towards Medellin and towards are overnight accommodation in Bolivar. It was a long drive but felt longer, it is safe to say but I was feeling the effects of all the travel. A quick stop for something to eat in Bolivar and to the hotel, head down and lights out. Day one complete and what a first day it was, I can’t wait to see what the rest of the trip holds…

Day 2 - Tuesday 10th

After a solid nights sleep, I awoke earlier and thought I would have  a little look around, wowzers!! As we arrived in the dark, (and let me tell you, there is very little light pollution in rural Colombia so when its dark, its really dark) I couldn’t see the surroundings or the place itself. The hotel Fina El Roble was beautiful, nestled in the mountain region of Bolivar, still a cloud covering the mountains as the sun fought to break though, how lucky I am to watch this, nature at it’s finest. Marie, the hotel hostess prepared us a beautiful breakfast, local watermelon and mango, fried corn tortillas, scrambled eggs & rice and beans. Alongside a nice filter coffee, what a way to start a day. After a wonderful breakfast we headed up and further into the mountains. Like a scene from Jurassic park, such lush greenery, rolling hills as far as the eye can see, I kept expecting to see Jeff Goldblum getting chased by a T-Rex. The photos do not do this area justice.

We headed up to the Yarumal farm, ran by second generation coffee farmer, Jose Restrepo Perez his father Pedro Jose Restrepo Perez started growing coffee at Yarumal in 1968. Even with the language barrier, I could tell Pedro was passionate about his farm. At 1900masl, I could feel the air thinning but that didn’t stop me enjoying Pedro’s presentation. It was incredibly interesting to listen in (expertly translated by Hernan). It was fascinating to learn that Pedro, his mum and dad were all kidnapped for ransom in the early 1990’s by the Colombian guerrillas, his father held captive for 11 months. It really bought home the struggles of the Colombian people during this time, scary stuff. Sometimes we don’t realise quite how fortunate we are.

We then had a full tour of the farm & process plant. What a setup, some incredible innovations to assist with the picking, in essence drainpipes were installed from the mountains into the mill so the cherries pickers didn’t have to carry the loads back down. Just flush the cherries with a little water and let gravity do the rest. The trees were beautifully maintained, and so healthy looking. The ripe cherries were sweet, juicy, with a crisp red pepper flavour, I am in love with his place. Pedro is looking at using mechanical pickers to assist with harvest, if done correctly this can increase production but it can really help with the pickers physical health, its not easy being a coffee picker. I really could wax lyrical about the farm for days, the nursery was stunning, all the seedlings were in cased in a biodegradable bag rather than traditional plastic, and these little seedlings and new trees were stunning. The mill was a fantastic set up, well thought through, lots of investment in technology. Here, they use a mechanical system to get a washed process coffee (using water to remove the coffee mucilage), this way they are using 0.7 litres of water per kg of coffee washed compared to the usual 40 litres for a traditional washed coffee. Amazing stuff, this also helps with the environmental premium they need to pay to the Colombian Government. It’s safe to say I loved Yarumal, I will hopefully return on day.

No rest for the wicked though, from here we headed on a short drive to San Fernando Coffee farm, we were greeted by Davide, a third generation farmer. The farm was owned by his grandad, Umberto Gonzalez. The Gonzalez family were now proud to have around 135 hectares of farm. After a quick chat we headed to the first 4×4 experience of the trip. I love it when the Jeeps come out to play. Crammed in, we headed up. Its so much fun in the back of a 4×4 on a coffee farm, seeing the amazing terrine and feeling the path get worse and worse, such an experience. You are driving very close to the edge and it is not for the faint hearted. The views, the experience were breath-taking. We stopped at various points to talk about the coffee farm. Davide was very forward thinking and had actually stripped a piece of the farm bare in preparation of planting a new varietal of coffee, one that would be more robust against coffee rust. I have to say it was hard to take in what Davide was saying as each stopping point offered another view of the country side, it really is incredible and I know I’ve said it before, but the pictures do not do it justice. Another fantastic couple of hours on a farm.

From here we headed for lunch, Carlos and wife Silvia had put on a fantastic spread. Pork belly, plantain, rice and a bean and pork knuckle soup, so tasty, this also came with a raw milk and corn beverage, this was less so tasty. After lunch Carlos showed off his coffee roaster and I tried some of his locally farmed, locally processed and locally roasted coffee, what a rubbish day at work I’m having. after this the Racafe team did a short presentation on their business model and sustainability programme. It’s fascinating listening to them talk about coffee, Surprisingly to me, a lot of what they do is low grade commercial coffee, this is sold to the local market as most of the quality speciality graded coffee is exported outside of South America.

After a quick stop to look at a small purchasing station ran by Racafe in Bolivar, we headed back to Medellin for hotel and dinner. The hotel was great, Seven Inn. We wandered out to grab a bite to eat and the vibe of the city was amazing , vibrant, colourful, loud and felt very local, in a positive way. I would have loved to have stayed out and experienced a little more night life but after such a long but unbelievable day, it was time for bed. What a trip, what an experience, and its only day two…. Let’s see what tomorrow has in store

Day 3 – Wednesday 11th

Another early start for breakfast but even earlier for me as my brain has decided not to sleep past 4:30am during my time in Colombia,

A lovely breakfast at Seven Inns overlooking the amazing city of Medellin. A quick facetime with the team back in Sheffield and away we headed. This mornings agenda was a visit to Racafe’s dry mill in Medellin and some cupping. After a short drive we arrived at the mill. After being cleared by security, we were in. First impressions, wow, a huge facility with mountains of coffee. I’d never seen a dry mill and was fascinated on how they process the parchment coffee into the green beans I know and love. The set up was incredible and well thought out each stage was mechanically automated but still incredible. The parchment goes into silos and then through a machine which removes the bean from the parchment, then it gets sorted by density, screen size and even colour to make sure he beans are consistent and uniformed. Once the beans were ready they were then weighed out into 70kg’s sacks and sewed up ready to head to port. It was great to see this whole process as it was the last thing in the coffee journey I’d not really witnessed.

After the mill tour the Racafe team put on a coffee cupping, at last, my first proper cupping in Colombia. Unfortunately, due to covid we used takeaway cups rather then straight off the spoon a la traditional cuppings but this didn’t stop it being a great experience. We cupped coffees from the local area and all were delicious , another tough morning in the office.

From the mill we headed to the airport to take our internal flight down to Neiva. We got to the airport in good time and breezed through check in and security, domestic airports are fantastic. After a short wait wwe were called to board and then I saw our plane. It wasn’t tiny but it was a twin propeller, I’ve never flown in anything quite this small so I was rather excited. The flight was a little bumpy but the views out the window were once again magical, so much lush, thick greenery.  The flight was only just over an hour so once we were up, it was time to come back down.

From the airport we picked up two hire cars and headed on a short (whe n I say short I really mean 7 hours) drive to Tolima. With Hernan and Ivan from Racafe behind the wheels, water and snacks in hand we set off. After a lovely 2 hour stint on straight smooth quick highways we stopped at a roadside restaurant for lunch. Rice, beans and a tasty bit of flank steak, at least I think it was steak, could have been anything really but it tasted great. We set off again and continued our journey. We exited the highway and went towards the mountains, these roads were not quite as well maintained as the highway. For the next 5 hours, I honestly don’t know if we got above 30 kph. Pot holes, rubble tracks, sand tracks, parts of road missing, subsidence, boulders in the way and not to mention driving round the side of a mountain with 1000 meter falls if you mess up, this drive was intense. Its tough going in the back as you are jolted about constantly but with all that being said, the scenery, the views are just incredible. What a beautiful country. I have to give a massive shout out to both Hernan & Ivan, the way they handled the cars in such difficult driving conditions, bravo gents, bravo.

After the 7 and a bit drive, we arrived in Tolima and met the Head of the Asopep cooperative Camille for dinner. Fried plantain and chicken salad followed by slowly smoked then seared belly pork. Salty, juicy, full of flavour, beautiful. I loved the way the meat looked hanging over the wood fired bbq, but I think if you were a more delicate soul, you may not have fancied it. Camille then introduced us Santiago, a young 17 year old who was learning to become a barista. We brewed us up a blend of Cold brew and drip filter coffee, this is not something I’ve tried before but I was delighted with the result. Locally grown, locally roasted, locally brewed specialty coffee, mega!!

After this we left Camille and headed a short drive into Planadas and to our hotel for the next two nights. I have to say, Hotel Coffee, Planadas, I was very pleased to see you.

Off to bed as its another early start tomorrow…

Day 4 – Thursday 12th

Once again my Colombian brain did not want to sleep past 4:30, so a nice early stary again.

This did work in my favour today as I got to facetime home and speak to the better half and my little boy. This is now the longest I’ve gone without seeing Seth, so it was lovely to see him and his wonderful mummy.

The first outing this morning was to see a small Cooperative group called Acedga, based in the “near” by town of Gaitania. I think my definition of near and Hernans is slightly different. After another dicey 90 mins in the car up the steepest, bumpy, road/no road, out of nowhere popped up Gaitania. A decent sized town but I find it incredible how they have developed this place with the access routes they have, its crazy. The pictures and my words do not do this justice, honestly, it is insane. We were greeted by Virginia Suarez, legal and head of sales for the Acedga group, she took us to a small place for breakfast, it is actually a woman’s house who uses it as a restaurant, incredible. After breakie we had a tour of their provisional buying station and QC lab. They are currently renovating their own warehouse using monies received from the Fair Trade premiums. Here we met Acedga founder, Uriel Huerfia and local QC expert Madri Sanchez. After a small tour we were met by Cup of Excellence winner Astrid Medina, Astrid won the CoE in 2015 and is well revered as a farmer in Colombia. I had a great conversation (vis Hernan) with Astrid about World Champion barista Diego Campos. I was intrigued if the farmer was interested in the final barista level of coffee, it turns out they are, and even more incredible, Diego & Astrid are friends and do some work together. It was such a lovely feeling to be involved in this conversation as you could see the joy in Astrid’s face when talking about coffee (even via a translator).

I better mention know at this point we had some S&D within the group, luckily both Jacob and myself were unaffected but for some, last night was rough. Anyway, as a smaller group we ventured out and back in a 4×4 and headed towards farm Café Leona and La Esperanza. We had a walk around Café Leona’s processing plant, amazing seeing the different styles farmers use. Here, they actually pulp the cherries on a Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, these are then all mixed and left for a further two days before being washed and then either mechanically or air dried. Both Jacob and myself had a go at raking the drying parchment coffee, harder than it looks : ) We were then treated to some fried halloumi, hot Chocolate and sweet bread, the hosting levels of these farmers in incredible. From Café Leona we were back in 4×4 and off to La Esperanza, owned and farmed by Carlos Enrique Osorio, after a short drive we hopped out and had the most incredible 20 minute walk through the rainforest to get to the farm. What an experience, I honestly felt like an explorer on an expedition. Truly breath-taking. To make this even more exciting, the heavens opened and the rain came in. Thick heavy rain, it really didn’t matter though, nothing could dampen my mood. Crossing the river on a wet wooden log bridge was great fun if not a little dangerous. If this wasn’t enough, the farm was incredible, the base was at 1600 masl but went up to around 1950 masl. They had many different varietals on the farm, Typica, Pink bourbon, yellow Cattura, Geisha plus more. It was such an experience to taste the difference in cherries so close to one another, a coffee geeks dream come true. On La Esperanza they also grew lemon/mandarin hybrids and bananas. The fruit was incredible, so different to anything we have in the UK, so sweet, so fresh, beautiful. After a brew at 1600 masl, and a little tour of the farm we headed back towards Gaitania. On the walk back to the 4×4, the sun came out and again the experience was amazing.

Back at Gaitania, we were treated to a rice and chicken dinner, lovely fresh flavours, exceptional.

From Gaitania we said our goodbyes to Acedga and headed out to meet Camille from Asopep at Asopep HQ. A tour of the mill and interestingly a tour of their own fertilizer facility. They create organic fertilizers from waste products from the coffee process and then use them across the 304 farms on their estates. After a look at the process we headed up to the auditorium where the local kids put on a small musical performance for our benefit. Part of the Asopep social commitment is to try and engage with the local children and give them things to do after school, at Asopep they offer music, sports, dance and cooking classes for the children. This helps engage the world of coffee with the children and helps to keeps away from gang recruitment. The children performed 4 traditional Tolima songs, it was great to watch and to listen to. A lot of effort had gone into these and it was very much appreciated. During the concert we were treated to some lovely coffees from different brew methods by the kids in the barista school After the concert, Camillia gave a small presentation on the coop and what they do in the area. They have safe places for children and woman to learn, they have educational classes for all, they really do seem to give back to the community. In 2017 Diego Campos had been up to run some barista classes for the kids. As well as the societal side, Asopep seem to be experts in reaching out for donations to help fund things like the building of the QC lab, warehouse, 4G football pitch, barista equipment, auditorium, demo kitchen, soil analysis station, and much more. They have been gifted donations from small companies all the way up to the European Space Agency, Fair Trade foundation and even the Vatican City. Keep doing what you are doing Asopep, I was blown away…

From here we headed back to the hotel, with a lot of the group flagging, a brave bunch of 4 headed into Planadas for dinner, a couple of cerveza and a local pizza type dish topped off the most remarkable day.

Bravo Tolima, Bravo

Day 5 – Friday 13th

Good news bad news start to the day today, good news, I managed to sleep until 5am, a new Colombia record, bad news, the farm visit we had planned had to be cancelled due the road being damaged due to the rains.

Silver lining from this is we had a slightly more leisurely start before heading back to Asopep HQ for a coffee cupping. The team had planned an 18 cup session, 11 washed from the area and 7 naturals. This was a happy moment for me, on the washed section, we had;  Pink Bourbon, Tabi, Cattura, Castillo and three Geisha’s. All wonderful cups, clean, balanced, fruity, just amazing to taste and what a place to do it. I was fascinated listening to the groups tastings notes of the coffees, what an industry to work in. To be surrounded by likeminded people on the other side of the world, terrific. All the coffees on the table were from the farms associated with Asopep and each one had a unique flavour and all were very good indeed. On the Naturals, there was three that had unusual processing methods; One had used the fermentation water from a batch of geisha and the used this to help ferment  typica varietal. The other two had fermented oranges and then added the liquid extract from this into their fermentation process. Amazing to hear and taste these innovated techniques and what results they give us. This has been a brilliant morning, I love Colombian coffee and I also love trying new coffees, I got to do them with farmers in Colombia, brilliant.

After such an amazing morning we headed back to the cars and on the long drive back to Neiva, This journey felt a little quicker than on the way here but still bumpy windy roads. After a good 5 hours or so in the car, we arrived back at our hotel. We didn’t see anything of Neiva as the group is tired but we went to the next door restaurant, had dinner and a few local pints of Cerzeza Artesanals Blanca, really good Colombian craft beer.

Back to the hotel and bed now.

Heading to Inza & Popayan tomorrow…

Day 6 – Saturday 14th

Another early start and another delicious broth for breakfast, the GHL hotel in Neiva was fantastic, very new and very comfy.

A big drive ahead of us and its off towards Cauca, first stop Inza. After a good three and a half hours in the car we arrived and the bustling town of Inza. Saturday is market day and wozers, what a place. The hustle and bustle, the noise, the people, amazing to be part of this. The local community would all come into town and but what they needed, sell what they could and from what I could gather, have a niece cerveza or two after.

We were greeted in Inza by Jesus, the local coffee buyer. We watched some of the farmers bring the parchment coffee, get it weighed and checked before being paid. It was really awesome watching this happen in real time. Jesus would but dry, wet and Pasilia (very low grade for the domestic market) coffee, each price was cleary marked and seems an incredibly fair and transparent way of buying coffee. After 20 minutes or so, with Jesus in tow we headed up to the first farm of the day, owned and farmed by Freddie Pacue. Once again (and unsurprisingly) the views on this farm were incredible, with a river running through the bottom, the mountains in the backdrop, just jaw droppingly beautiful. It really is impossible to put into words the beauty of this country and these coffee farms, I just hope I’m doing them justice. Freddie had only bought this land 5 years ago and has done an incredible job transforming the land into a thriving coffee plantation. With many different varietals on display, a truly lovely farm. Freddie seemed delighted to be showing us around, he took genuine pleasure in showing off his farm and rightly so. He particularly enjoyed it when most of the group (including Jacob and myself) took a tumble of the plantation, there was some serious chuckles going on. As well as coffee, Freddie also kept Cattle and the occasional orange tree. As we walk past a healthy looking tree, like a cat Freddie was up the tree and it was raining oranges. I manged to get my hands on a really juicy looking bad boy. First thing that took me by surprise was how hard and thick the peel was, however, once I got into it, the juiciest, sweetest, most orangey orange I have ever had. The quality of the produce on this trip was been just wonderful. We had a look at Freddie’s processing methods, a really clean and modern processing area.

From here, we hopped back into the cars and did a short drive to Feddie’s home. The family had put on lunch for us. I was now becoming quite the connoisseur of broth’s and this one won “broth of the trip”, a really flavoursome veg broth with potatoes, plantain and yuca. The vegetables all had a really great texture and full of flavour. Alongside this we had; salad, rice, the biggest avocado I’ve ever seen and some chicken. Unfortunately, due to the groups earlier tummy issues, we were all a little more cautious about what we ate, so a lot of the chicken was left. We felt terrible as the farmers hospitality was incredible but most of the group didn’t want to take the chance. I however gave it a real good go. I still can’t quite get over how kind and welcoming all the farmers have been, such warmth and generosity from people. Eating lunch and having coffee at 1650 masl, on a coffee farm, in Colombia will NEVER get old, I’m running out of adjectives to describe this place. After lunch, Freddie showed us the famous Coca plant. I was blown away, the lives lost, the money spent and the danger the off product from this plant brings is scary. It looked like any normal shrub, but really was not. It’s such a shame that this naturally occurring plant has bought so much devastation to a wonderful country. Enough said for now about this, such a shame as it’s a very pretty plant.

From lunch it was back into the cars and headed back into Inza to drop Jesus off and then the drive to Popayan. The drive took about two and a half hours and was a wonderful drive over the mountains, at the highest point we reached 3300 masl, the air was thin and dare I say it, it was cold! The views from this point were again incredible, but the landscape started to change, it was still lush thick green but the types of shrubbery and tress are different. As we first entered the area of Cauca a, we were ‘greeted’ at the border by the indigenous group CRIC. The CRIC make up members from all the indigenous groups of Cauca and monitor and ‘police’ the area. There is an agreement with local law enforcement that the CRIC have powers to stop and detain. I was grateful to be in the car with Ivan, as it was not like a traditional border and if travelling solo would have been somewhat strange and a little terrifying. The CRIC are very cautious on who they let into Cauca. There is still a lot of trouble within the area on drug cartels, gangs and still some rebel FARC guerrillas within the area. This trip actually had to change itinerary due to the safety issues in the North and West of Cauca, terrifying stuff. A lot of sign posts still had FARC gratify on them.

We passed through with no issues but enough talking points for days and headed into Popayan. We were staying at an old 1600’s Spanish monastery in the centre, Dann Monasterio. A beautiful place for our last few nights. If was here that we said our goodbyes to Hernan and Ivan from Racafe. What a shift these chaps had put in, incredible hosts, such warmth and knowledge, some long hours behind the wheel but were never to busy to stop for a question or help out where ever they could. Thanks you gents.

After sorrow came great joy as when the Racafe guys left Elisabeth and Hernan from CENCOIC came to join us. We headed out for a bite to eat. It was great to see Elisabeth again and even more so, was really touching that she remembered me from her visit to Sheffield, such a lovely friendly person.

After a couple of cerveza and a lovely meal it was time for bed…

A big day of CENCOIC farms tomorrow!

Day 7 - Sunday 15th

For those who have read this so far you will be very surprised to learn that today was another early start. The hotel is an old monastery but is still attached to an active church, in Popayan, they enjoy starting the o’clock chimes at 5am.

I was awake.

The team gathered and were met by CENCOIC (Central Cooperativa Indígena del Cauca) Hernan Castellanos, Lucia Becoche and two drivers. Into the cars we went and away we go. We stopped off at a roadside café and had breakfast, I decided to follow the locals so had Broth (you know I love a good broth), eggs, rice and arepa (arepa is a type of food made of ground maize dough, eaten in the northern region of South America since pre-Colombian times), delicious, this was then flowed by Aguapanella, this is basically a hot water with a lot of panela (hardened sugar cane) in it. It was very very sweet, to be honest, it was too sweet for me but I enjoyed the experience.

Our first farm visit today was El Mango in the Caldono region, owned and ran by Jose Manuel Campu. His daughter Julani and grandson showed us around. Another beautiful farms which was very well kept and some of the trees were packed full of ripe cherries, such vibrant colours! Interestingly, the family had attempted to go 100% organic but due to lack of yields and quality they have decided to go back to using non organic fertilizers and they are actually getting much better results again.

From here, we headed to the La Esperanza Asprole buying station. Its from here all the Caldono coffee will be bought before heading to the CENCOIC dry mill. The team at Asprole were incredibly welcoming and hospitable. They showed us around, and provided us with a delicious ice cream treat. CENCOIC work with the Asprole and actually bought the land the buying station sits on and gifted it to them. It’s really fantastic to see how the cooperative works with all the groups and farms within the region. As well as the financial benefits, CENCOIC also have numerous technicians who will travel around all the farms and give guidance and training for all the farmers. The Asperole team were fantastic, a real family feel and we even got to met grandson, little baby Juan. We were all gifted amazing handmade Mochilla’s (shoulder bags), these are traditional bags that many of the indigenous groups still use (including Hernan and CENCOIC manager Juan Carlos), such a lovely moment, extremely generous and we are very grateful.

After saying goodbye to Asprole we headed over towards La Laguna. The Luguna group is made up of 12 farms within the Luguna reserve. Los Aranjes, a family run farm with roughly 3000 coffee trees of the Castillo variety. Heartbreakingly, due to the amount of rainfall this year, they are expecting a yield of 300kg of coffee rather than the usual 500kg, Climate Change is having such a serious effect, really scary stuff. As well as the coffee, Los Aranjes keep pigs, they actually use the big manure to blend with the coffee cherries (after pulping) and waste scrub plants from the farm to make their own fertilizers. Brilliant to watch as much waste product being re used as possible.

One of the most fascinating this about being in Cacua, and with the Indigenous groups is their beliefs in the spiritual. The farmers here will only harvest when the moon is right. As with the tide, they believe the coffee tress will move with the moon so will never pick during a full moon. Really interesting to hear about these practices as they are so alien to me.

From here we head over to our last farm visit of the trip, I have to say I was gutted, I have loved everything so much and this now signifies the end is neigh.

We set off towards Los Tres Pinos, still part of the Laguna reserve and owned by Husband and wife Carlos and Victoria Ines Cardonia Yotumbo. Now Carlos is employed by CENCOIC as one of their ground technicians so wife Victoria runs the farm. Brilliant to see and what and incredibly well maintained, well thought out and super clean, it was spotless. With only 0.5 hectares of land Victoria maximises her potential by being certified organic to allow her to sell the coffee at a premium. A perfect farm to finish the rural experience with, Thank you Victoria.

Back to the hotel, a nice meal and Club Colombia to finish the day. Now, as we set down to eat, a mini Covid outbreak occurred, 2 of the group tested positive for Covid 19. This was a real concern as we had been out in rural Colombia and did not want to pass anything on. We made contact with CENCOIC to  let them know, everyone else tested negative so we were hopeful it wouldn’t spread.

Last day tomorrow…

Day 8 – Sunday 16th

A late start today, we were meeting at 8am!!

However, those bells were chiming at 5am again, it’s a good job I’m a morning person.

After a another negative covid test, I headed down to breakfast at the hotel. The last morning, the last breakfast, I had my heart set on my last breakfast broth, this didn’t arrive, I had to make do with a selection of super fresh fruit and an made to order omelette.

After breakfast, we all checked out and headed to CENCOIC HQ to see their warehouse and QC labs. The two Covid cases had remained in isolation in the hotel as to not spread anything. At CENCOIC HQ we were greeted by Hernan and Coop manager Juan Carlos Guampe. It was great to see Juan Carlos again, and it was lovely that he recognised me from their visit to Sheffield in September 2019. After a quick look around we were treated to a brilliant coffee cupping. 14 coffees from across the CENCOIC estate, all very different but all delicious in their own ways. We cupped coffees from the farms we visited yesterday, It’s such an amazing feeling to be trying the coffee from a farm I visited the previous day, I love this job.

After the cupping and analysis, the CENCOIC team had made lunch, my first Tameles of the trip. A dish made up of meat, veg, egg and corn mixed and then cooked inside a banana leaf, it was really tasty. Nicer than they look once you remove the banana leaf. After the quick lunch we had a sit down and Elisabeth joined us. Via interpreter Priscilla, the CENCOIC team thanked us for the visit and explained why it meant so much we go out and see them, the importance of ongoing relations and the value we add to them as coffee producers.

It was really touching hearing the guys talk and how sincere they were and what it meant, brilliant that the coffee we buys does make a difference to people at origin, its how it should be. We use coffee from CENCOIC in our Cooling Towers blend which is made up of Costa Rican and Colombian coffee. If you’d like to buy a bag of Cooling Towers, click here. Likewise, you can find more about CENCOIC and the great work they do, here.

After saying our goodbyes we headed to Popayan airport, now Popayan airport is rather small, we were greeted by security before entering the terminal who had a print out of all passengers flying that day, if you ain’t on the list, you ain’t coming in!!

We boarded and duly landed in Bogota, there was time to kill as our UK flight was not for another 7 hours but weary from the previous 10 days we merely mulled about the airport until it was time to come home. It was a shame I didn’t get to see Bogota but didn’t feel I had the time to do it remotely properly so decided against it, I will hopefully return one day though.

We then boarded the plane at headed back to the uk….

Find out what Jake and Steve thought of their time at origin

This is a summary Q&A style video which we hope shows some of Steve and Jake’s favourite experiences and learnings from the trip, accompanied by some breath taking scenery.



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