Small Producers of Buesaco

  • Country
    Colombia
  • Region
    Nariño
  • Municipality
    Buesaco
  • Elevation
    1,800 - 2,200m above sea level
  • Variety
    Caturra
  • Processing
    Washed
  • Average farm size
    1.5 hectares
  • Contributing Producers
    Jairo Rodríguez, Luis Omar Rodríguez, David Gomez, Ulpiano Rodríguez, Leonardo Montilla, Pedro Fajardo, Juan Fajardo and Milton Rodríguez

Rich and creamy. Golden sultana, orange and cherry, with panela sweetness and a lingering, cocoa powder finish.

This coffee was produced by 7 smallholder farmers from the area around the town of Buesaco in Eastern Nariño, Colombia. These producers, like most in the region, own small farms (averaging 1.5 hectares in size) at an elevation of 1,800 – 2,200m above sea level. Surrounded by incredible native vegetation, the town of Buesaco is a stunning example of Nariño’s astonishing landscape.

For a long period in the 1990s and early 2000s, Buesaco was incredibly hard hit by violence, as much of the region was under the control of the FARC guerrillas. The government did not have a heavy presence in rural Nariño, and the altitude in much of the municipality was ideal for growing opium poppy plants and coca, making it the perfect centre of operations for illegal groups. It wasn’t until the 2010s that guerrillas were forced out of Buesaco, transforming the town into one of Colombia’s best-regarded coffee-growing regions. Since then, many coffees grown here have performed exceptionally well in Colombia’s Cup of Excellence competition. The consistency of these results made it clear to many growers from the region that their coffee had the potential to be sold as true specialty grade, and that they had the opportunity to seek greater premiums than they were receiving through other certification schemes.

Today, specialty coffee plays a very important role in making Buesaco prosperous, and in ensuring its future is one of peace and not of recurrent conflict. In 2013, a small group of 17 growers got together and formed the first regional association, called Grupo Empresarial Buesaco. With the assistance of the local technical school, group members organised themselves into a small operation with the aim of buying, warehousing and commercialising high quality coffee. The association grew very quickly and within four years had to form an offshoot group, Alianza Café, to focus primarily on specialty-grade coffee. Its members are committed to running the association with transparency and with the final goal of improving the income of the nearly 400 growers that participate in their programs.

ABOUT NARIÑO

Nariño is located in Southwest Colombia, bordering Ecuador. Most of the forty thousand coffee producers in Nariño are incredibly small (averaging less than 2 hectares each) and are often located in very remote areas. Coffee in Nariño is grown at elevations that reach 2,200 metres above sea level, making it some of highest grown coffee in the world. Typically, it is very difficult to produce coffee at such high altitudes (as many plants suffer from ‘die back’) – however, Nariño’s proximity to the equatorial line and steep hills around the volcanoes provide a great angle for sun exposure, creating the right micro-climate for coffee plants to thrive. The high altitude of cultivation, combined with warm tropical days and cools nights, allows for slow maturation and development of the coffee cherries, giving time for concentrated sugars to develop in the fruit and resulting in a very unique, sweet, and complex cup profile.

Nariño typically has a wet season with periods of continuous rain, followed by a dry season. Because of this, there is only one flowering period a year and, therefore, a single harvest, usually in April – July (this is different to other parts of Colombia where two harvests are the norm). In order to survive, producers in Nariño must have other economic activities, which typically include harvesting and selling plantains, fique (a fiber used to make rope) and/or cuy (guinea pigs).

 

HOW THIS COFFEE WAS PROCESSED

The coffees in this lot were selectively hand-harvested, with most labour being provided by the farmers and their families. They were processed using the washed method at each farm’s ‘micro-beneficio’ (mill).

The coffee was pulped using a small manual or electric pulper, and then placed into a fermentation tank, where it was fermented for up to 36 hours (depending on the weather and the farms’ location) and then washed using cold, fresh water from surrounding streams. Coffee is then graded by density in washing channels and washed again using clean water.

It was then carefully dried (over 10–18 days) on parabolic beds, which are constructed a bit like a ‘hoop house’ greenhouse, and act to protect the coffee from the rain and prevent condensation dripping back onto the drying beans. The greenhouse is constructed out of plastic sheets and have adjustable walls to help with airflow, and temperature control to ensure the coffee can dry slowly and evenly. Luckily, Nariño is blessed with some of the best drying conditions in the country due to the micro-climate and high altitude of the region, providing lower relative humidity, more wind and more sunny days than other areas of the country.

Once dry, the coffee was delivered to Pergamino’s warehouse, where it was cupped and graded, and then rested in parchment until it was ready for export.

Read more about our Colombian export partner, Pergamino, here.