- Posted by Michael Coursey
- On July 14, 2016
What I Expected. What I Learned.
I knew from the start this was going to be a great trip. We were pysched and ready to have a great time doing some cool coffee stuff. By now we all had years of experience working in coffee, but for most of us this would be the first time at origin. We were all familiar with the farms and regions our coffees came from, but they were still just names on a map. Now we were actually going to see the farm with our own eyes, we were gonna meet the people who pick and process and sort the coffee we work with everyday.
On our arrival in Medellin our first stop was the Campesino Coffee lab. There we cupped about a dozen coffees from around the region, some from Finca El Ocaso, one of the farms we were going to visit. From the lab there was an epic view of the city and all the surrounding mountains. We tasted some great coffees there, including some from Ocaso experimenting with different natural and honey processing methods.
Working with A School & Giving Back.
We woke up early the next day and headed to the town of Jerico near the farm of Villa Bernada. A couple kilometers from Villa Bernada is a small school on a hilltop with about twenty students, many of them children of the coffee workers from the nearby farms. We used a portion of the proceeds from our cold brew program to get dental and medical check ups for the students there, many of which are children of coffee workers from the nearby farms, including Villa Bernada. We had a great time visiting with the kids and playing some soccer while they got their check ups. It felt good to give something back to the community, and it’s exciting to think about how as Vigilante grows we’ll be able to continue to invest more into the communities who supply our coffee.
The Farmhouse on Villa Bernada
From the farmhouse on Villa Bernada you look out over a beautiful view of all the surrounding mountains and the fields of coffee trees on the hills below. While we were there we saw them plant Geisha seeds for what will become their first micro-lot of Geisha, an extremely rare and very high quality varietal of coffee. I can’t wait to try it when it’s ready for harvest! William Correa, the owner of the farm showed around and taught us about the different varietals of coffee they grow.
The highlight of the trip for me was our time at Finca El Ocaso, beautiful farm near Salento in Quindido. There we got to learn about all of the steps the coffee goes through before it reaches us. We also picked our own cherries for an experiment fermenting coffee in cold brewed tea water. Picking cherries is hard work, at the peak of harvest season Ocaso employs around 50 pickers who pick by hand and carry their picking back to the farm to be weighed and processed each day.
Quality and Sustainability at Ocaso.
Their coffee goes through several steps to ensure high quality. The first stage is the picking, pickers take only the ripe fruit and leave unripe cherries on the branch. Unripe cherries do not roast properly and lead to poor flavor when the coffee reaches the cup. This an important reason why the coffees we use are hand picked, most of the coffee you’ll find in the grocery store is picked by machines which strip the entire branch of their fruit, including under and over ripened cherries.
The next stage of quality control comes after the coffee is depulped and goes into the fermentation tanks. The cherries go into a depulping machine which separates the seed from the fruit and then into a tank where it is fermented in water for 15-30 hours. During the fermentation, seeds that are not fully ripe or have defects will float to the top and can be easily separated from the rest. The final stage comes after the coffee has been fully washed and dried. The coffee beans, still wrapped in a thin skin called parchment, are then hand sorted as a final check for any remaining defects.
Gustavo, the owner of Finca el Ocaso, was very kind and outgoing man. He really enjoyed showing us around the farm and talked about his coffee with a lot of pride. Sustainability is another really important part of the way their coffee is produced at Ocaso. They compost the farm’s waste including the fruit from the coffee cherries to make organic fertilizer for their crops. They also collect and use rainwater and grow fruits and vegetables for consumption on the farm. It inspired me to think about ways we can make our own practices more sustainable.
The trip was an amazing experience that gave me a new level of respect for the product we work with every day. It renewed my motivation to maintain those principles of quality and sustainability they have at the farmer and share them with our customers.