Since the advent of Juan Valdez and the Colombian marketing machine in the 1980’s, most of Colombia’s coffee producers have replanted their farms with highly productive and hearty coffee varieties. They grow these varieties in high density, removing nearly all the shade from their farms, and they use agrochemicals more frequently. In contrast, the small region of Palestina, situated in the southern part of the department of Huila, still maintains some of the coffee varieties that gave Colombia its original coffee fame.
We began working in this region in 2014 with Jose Martinez, whose farm is in the district of Sinai within Palestina. Since then, we have been very keen on working more within the region.
During one of my visits in 2015, I asked Victor – the cupper in charge of the Palestina warehouse – to set up a few cupping tables to taste Jose’s coffee along with a range of others from the Palestina region. The cuppings showed the raw potential that exists in the region.
During my next visit to Colombia in November 2016, I discovered Alfonso’s coffee while cupping again with Victor. The coffee leapt off the table with rich jammy notes, silky mouth feel, and juicy acidity. Alfonso happened to be at the warehouse during the cupping and I had a chance to meet him. I discovered that Alfonso shares our philosophy for coffee quality. It was a great first meeting and I immediately made the call to begin buying from him. Since then, the coffee has continued to impress.
Alfonso’s farm sits between 1700m and 1800m, and although his property is quite large (30 hectares) he has only planted seven hectares with coffee. The coffee is mostly Caturra with a few patches of Tabi and Bourbon. He is planting some interesting new varieties in his farm, in an effort to diversify and explore the potential of other varieties.
Alfonso’s processing is quite traditional and basic. He ferments the coffee for approximately 36 hours, then dries it using the traditional “Casa Helda” method. This means the coffee is dried on the flat part of the roof of his house, with a retractable roof to protect the coffee from the elements at night.
As always, this green coffee was frozen immediately on arrival in Calgary, to preserve freshness.