Farm: 50 small holder farms
Varietal: Caturra, Colombia & Castillo
Processing: Fully washed & dried on patios, raised beds & solares
Altitude: 1,900+ metres above sea level
Owner: Various Members of CoopOccidente
Town / City: Palmitas (Medellín)
Palmitas La Aldea Morrón - Colombia
In 1986 a group of organized coffee growers from Colombia’s department of Antioquia, tired of the vagaries of the coffee market in the region, took the first steps toward the formation of the Cooperativa de Caficultores de Occidente (Cooperative of Coffee Growers of the West), also known as CoopOccidente. This exceptional lot of coffee is an eventual outcome of their actions.
When it first began, the cooperative was based not far from the departmental capital of Medellín, in the municipality of Cañasgordas. The group incorporated coffee producers from 13 neighbouring municipalities: Santa Fe de Antioquia, Buritica, Cañasgordas, Dabeiba, Ebejico, Frontino, Giraldo, Liborina, Peque, Sabanalarga, San Jerónimo, Sopetrán, Uramita and the Corregimientos de Sevilla (Ebéjico) and Palmitas (itself a virtual suburb of Medellín). The main activities have been purchasing coffee (of course), and providing a range of services to members, including: technical assistance, pre-financing, social services and education and training. Today, CoopOccidente has grown to 3,414 active members and is present in 13 municipalities and 5 corregimientos in the West of Antioquia.
This lot is from a sub-group within the cooperative – some 50 families all of whom hail from a village called San Sebastian de Palmitas or simply Palmitas, one of the 5 villages (corregimientos) of Medellin city, established in 1745. Around 50 farms have contributed to this blend, all of whom have achieved Fair Trade certification. The producers in the blend all strive to establish processes that lead to improving cup quality and consistency between lots, and their actions are supported by the cooperative.
The village connects to Medellin via public transport and in about 35 minutes it is possible to reach Downtown Medellin or other municipalities in the area, which makes it virtually unique and a truly ‘urban’ cup despite being grown at more than 1,900 metres above sea level! In fact, many young people in the area work in factories and offices in Medellin proper. This easy commute has benefits and drawbacks for coffee labour, generally. Many young people are pulled away by higher wage jobs. At the same time, it makes it easier for casual labourers to ‘pick and choose’ depending on the season.
All 50 producers that have contributed to this lot are small holders, where the labor to cultivate and harvest coffee is provided almost entirely by family members. Renovations and prunings are done at a rate of around 20% per year, with the aim of a fully renovated crop every 5 years or so without sacrificing in productivity or affecting finances prohibitively. This means that the average age of the trees is 5 years: young and healthy. Normally two annual fertilisations are sufficient, if applied according to cooperative best practices.
Each of the farms has its own, independent washing and drying stations which are normally is adjacent to the house. Coffee is selectively hand picked and then pulped on the same day using mechanical pulpers. Coffee is fermented for around 15 hours before being fully washed and, then, delivered to dry in small, hand-constructed greenhouses (marquesinas), raised beds or patios.
Soon, the cooperative plans to invest in access to new varieties along with improving their members’ washing stations and drying facilities. They will, of course, continue to work to improve the productivity and quality of the coffee produced by their members. Their aim is to help farmers produce reliably high-quality lots, enabling their members to sell the majority of their production on higher value specialty markets.
About the Cable Car:
An interesting feature of this suburb of Medellin is the cable car that rides high over the hill sides. The cable car was erected in 2012 in order to help with the transportation and communication between Las Palmitas and a small village nearby called Ebejico. Without the cable car, people would have to ride mules to get to their houses or drive through Ebejico which would add an additional 1.5 to 2 hours to the journey.
The cable has 3 stations and is used only for transportation and for people to move goods back and forth.