We wanted to increase our purchasing in southern Huila for two reasons: first, the best coffees of the south of Huila have a fruity and exotic profile that we love and seek. Second, the south of Huila has a harvest schedule that is opposite to the west of Huila. The south has its main harvest around December, while the west has its main harvest in June. Both regions have their small harvest (called “mitaca”) while the other is having its main harvest.
Back in 2014, William, knowing that I was trying to find some great coffees in the region, came across Martha’s coffee and saved two samples to cup with me during my visit. Prior to that harvest, Martha was selling her coffee at the local co-op, where she was being paid the market rate and her quality wasn’t being singled out. William and I blind cupped a table of 10 coffees, and two were spectacular. When the coffees were revealed, it turned out that both of those coffees were Martha’s samples. I immediately called Alejandro (William’s boss) and expressed my desire to work with Martha long term – the coffee was that good.
Since then, we have committed to buy her entire harvest and have launched some quality initiatives. I have visited her two to three times per year since 2014 and have worked with Martha and her husband Isidro to establish a 3-year plan for the farm and the beneficio (mill). Some of these initiatives include improvement to the picking and cherry sorting, introducing new varieties at the farm, using technology to help with the drying process and creating more drying infrastructure to allow full shade drying.
I have always said that Colombia is the “Africa” of South America, displaying a range of coffees that can go head to head with the best Kenyan and Ethiopian coffees, and also offer an additional dimension that makes them more approachable. Martha’s coffee is a living example of this, showing amazing sweetness, vibrant acidity and great complexity and elegance. As is our regular practice, this green coffee was frozen immediately on arrival in Calgary, to preserve freshness.