Although Ricardo is an open and forward-thinking man, running eleven family farms and a micro-mill the size of Los Angeles is simply too much for one person, especially if achieving top quality is the goal.
Recognizing this, Ricardo has involved his two sons, Diego and Michael, and his daughters, Lizeth and Fernanda, in the operation of the mill and the farms. When Ricardo began Los Angeles, he was processing the coffee for all the farms that he and his brother Omar own in the Dota valley. This represented a volume of roughly 800 bags of export coffee, a very respectable amount for a micro-mill. In 2012, Omar decided to launch his own micro-mill and process separately from Ricardo. This allowed both brothers to lower the volume through each mill and focus more on quality.
I have been working closely with Ricardo’s oldest son Diego, who is now in charge of the mill and quality control. Ricardo’s passion is clearly on the agriculture side and while Diego loves being in the field, his meticulous nature is also very well suited for creating better processes and conducting experiments at the mill. Michael meanwhile has helped Ricardo improve the conditions at the farms. Since 2012, Diego and I have experimented with various drying tests including a 12-day guardiola drying and a second experiment on 22-day shade drying using raised beds.
Through these experiments and by cupping the coffee throughout its life, we found that drying in shade in the beds seemed to yield the best results, both in cup quality and in the longevity of the coffee. So, for the past three years, Diego dried our coffees from the Girasoles farm, using the shaded raised beds.
In many ways, Girasoles is an ideal coffee farm. Located on a mountain slope, its rolling hills
are blanketed in precisely aligned Catuai plants. In fact, it’s one of the most picturesque farms I have ever seen! The farm’s crop consists entirely of Catuai. Girasoles is a high-elevation farm—the entire property is above 1800 m—and the altitude does wonders to Catuai, reducing its yield but allowing it to ripen slower than it would at a lower elevation. The tradeoff is more than worth it, as the longer ripening period grants the coffee a particularly high density of sugars and fatty acids. This adds crispness to the acidity and the complexity of flavours, and the resulting coffee is very floral and vibrant.
This green coffee was frozen immediately on its arrival in Calgary, to preserve freshness.