Since the advent of Juan Valdez and the Colombian marketing machine, most of the country’s coffee producers changed their farms to use highly productive and hearty coffee varieties. They planted these varieties in high density, removed nearly all shade from their farms, and began using agrochemicals more frequently.
In contrast, Palestina, situated in the southern part of the department of Huila, still maintains some of the coffee varieties that gave Colombia its coffee fame. It has retained many of the Guamo trees originally used for shade, the planting densities are more manageable, and they depend less on fertilization. We began working in this region in 2014 with Jose Martinez, whose farm is in the district of Sinai within Palestina. Since then, I have been very keen on working more within the region.
At the same time in 2014, Caravela, our sourcing partner in Colombia, set up a buying warehouse in the town of Palestina, and 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, but I was most impressed with the coffees from the district of Jericó, a remote region within Palestina.
The producers in Jericó have the added benefit of farms that are mostly at or above 1800m, which is likely why their coffee stands out on the cupping table. Since we didn’t really know any of the producers back in 2015, I set up a project to buy a blend from a number of producers beginning with the 2016 fly crop. Fast forward 4 years later, and we've continued to buy blends from these small producers, and we also continue to identify individual producers from the group that align with our philosophy of continuous learning and quality improvements.
We’re thrilled with the quality of the coffee that is coming from the Jericó producers, and we’re looking forward to continuing to work in this blessed coffee-producing region. This coffee was frozen immediately upon arrival in Calgary, to preserve its freshness.