Farm: Las Mercedes
Processing: Extended Fermentation Red Honey
Altitude: 1800 – 2100 m.a.s.l
Owner: Alfonso Eduardo Guerra & Olga Escobar
Town / City: San Bernardo de los Farallones del Citará, Ciudad Bolívar
Las Mercedes, La Isla - Colombia
Located in the temperate climate and mountainous terrain of southwest Antioquia, Finca Las Mercedes has the perfect altitude and climate for producing excellent quality coffee as well as playing host to a diversity of native flora and fauna. In this ideally situated terrain, the Guerra family have dedicated 150 of their 386 extensive hectares to coffee. The rest of the farm lies under native forest – some 236 hectares devoted entirely as nature and watershed preserve.
In 1960, when Eduardo Guerra Sánchez bought Las Mercedes, the Finca was devoted entirely to dairy production. Don Eduardo’s background was coffee farming, however, and upon gaining control of the farm, he decided to give some small parcels of land over to coffee. Despite the family heritage, the farm continued to produce primarily milk until Don Eduardo’s son, Alfonso Guerra Velez, took control of the farm some 20 years later.
In the first few years alone, Don Alfonso planted 150,000 coffee trees on the farm, and since this time, the principal economic focus of the Guerra family has turned to coffee farming. Don Alfonso’s son, Juan Carlos Guerra, will be the fourth generation in his family to farm coffee and is now actively involved in the activities of the farm. Under his influence, the farm has increasingly focused on quality improvements and speciality coffee production. The farm’s Caturra and Colombia trees are painstakingly maintained and to marry productivity and environmental stewardship. Plots are fertilized twice annually and all control of pests and illnesses are done using products that are certified as being friendly to wildlife.
One strategy in the farm’s move towards speciality coffee has been to invest a great deal of time and energy into processing and lot differentiation. These efforts increase every year, and with the ideal natural conditions of Las Mercedes – including the elevation and climatic conditions - we expect the quality of Las Mercedes’ coffees (already very high) to only improve in the coming years. This ‘La Isla’ (the Island) lot is an ideal example of the dividends paying off!
La Isla lot is one of the oldest lots at Las Mercedes. Its 10 hectares are planted under 100% Caturra, a variety well suited to the plot’s high altitude of 1,700 and 1,900 metres above sea level.
This La Isla lot was selectively hand-harvested, before being delivered to the farm’s state-of-the-art mill where it is sorted for quality by machines and by hand. The approved coffee fruit then goes through a long period of extended fermentation. The cherries are fermented for 204 hours in baskets, after which they are eco-pulped, leaving the mucilage intact. The honeyed coffee is then sun-dried on either raised beds or on patios, where it is regularly turned until it reaches optimal humidity. After drying, the coffee is milled to remove the sticky honeyed mucilage, before being prepped for export.
Las Mercedes employs 15 permanent workers and 150 during the harvest. The staff are diligent in researching and implementing the best agricultural practices. Some 20% of their trees are renovated annually and the farm is looking towards planting disease-resistant and durable coffee varietals (120,000 were planted in 2013 alone). The family is also always looking for new ways to improve their coffees’ quality in the cup. Their main harvest is in November - February when 60% of the annual production is harvested, and later in April-June for the remaining 40%.
The farm’s diligent environmental and social practices have led them to achieve Rainforest Alliance, UTZ Kapeh and 4C certification.