- On July 14, 2017
- colombia, colombia la falda, colombian coffee, colombian la falda, la falda coffee, vigilante, vigilante coffee, vigilante colombia
I’ve been traveling to Colombia since 2012 when I had a phone call with the original founder of Starbucks, Gordon Bowker. During that time, we were primarily roasting and selling Hawaiian coffees as this was our only direct source. As Gordon Bowker put it, “You’re like a wine store with only good Merlot. You’ve got to go to origin to get the best coffees.” That conversation had a profound impact on the way I approached buying green beans. The next day I booked a ticket to Medellin, Colombia, quit both my side barista jobs (at the now defunct Pound the Hill & SOVA) and headed to Colombia with the intention of finding the best coffees. I was determined to make it work. When you’ve got no plan B, you make plan A work. It’s really that simple. Fortunately, that risky trip worked out and scored us relationships with some of the best producers in all of Colombia. Since 2012, I’ve been back to Colombia every year maintaining our relationships and starting new ones with both great exporters and coffee growers.
On June 22, 2017 I traveled to visit a group of producers we’ve been working with for over 3 years. I brought with me the coffee that they grow & we roast, t-shirts, stickers, and even ended up giving away my hand grinder to one of the farmers. I spent time visiting each producer, touring their farms, and making them and their families aeropresses of coffee they had grown and shipped to us in Hyattsville. Often times these farmers never get the opportunity to try the coffee they grow, or at the very least, try a well executed roast of their coffee. These little gifts can go a long way in establishing trust and showing love and appreciation for what they do. Which to me, is all the hard work. The farmers behind our coffee are the truest of artisans. We are just fortunate enough to roast and serve their amazing coffees.
I visited three producers that all combine their coffees to form our coffee, “La Falda.” The name La Falda comes from the traditional festival dresses that women in that region of Colombia wear. It is the surrounding mountains and their steep cascading inclines that resemble these dresses. I met with our first producer, Helmo, who is 33 at his home where I prepared an aeropress of his coffee, La Falda for him and his family. As we sipped the coffee I asked him a series of questions as I do with all producers I meet, to better understand his business, the challenges he is facing, and to simply get to know him better.
Here’s a list of the questions I asked Helmo and the answers he provided.
Name: Helmo Jamith
How did he come to own the farm?: Inherited from his grandfather when he was 18 years old.
Size of farm: 2.8 Hectares
How many lbs of coffee are produced annually?: 1300lbs; about 7 sacks.
Total number of coffee trees: 1000
Varietals grown: Tabi & Caturra
Other products grown: Dragon fruit & avocado
Employees during harvest: 3-4
What does he like most about coffee?: Learning day by day, there’s always something new to learn, and ways to improve the farm to be more consistent. More consistency for me means more income.
What’s the most challenging part of your work? People, to find good people is really difficult especially since we hire seasonally as the harvest comes.
Do women earn the same pay as men on the farm? Yes, they do.
Is there child labor at the farm? No there is not.
Then I always ask one question to get them to lower their guard and build trust.
Let’s say you’re living on a deserted island, you will be on this island for the remainder of your life. But you get to bring three things with you. One food, one drink, and one album. What are you going to bring?
Food: Sancocho, the traditional Colombian soup made with yuca, plantain, and corn “choclo”, and beef. Basically, it’s the meal that the majority of Colombians’ eat almost every day. I thought this was rather hilarious considering two of the three farmers I interviewed said they’d like to have Sancocho to eat on the island. They could have asked for any meal they wanted. It made me realize sometimes the best things are the most simple and remind us of home.
Drink: The coffee that he grows 🙂
Album: Jose Luis Peralez or Camilo Sexto
The last question I asked is how climate change is impacting their farms.
Here is the exact word for word response from some of our producers:
“You have to be blind not to notice the impact climate change is having here. Last year there was a drought and this year there is too much rain. Each year we notice the temperatures rising.” – Helmo Jamith
“In a way it’s been great because I’m able to grow my coffee at elevations I previously could not. Just a few years ago it was too cold to grow coffee that high. Now, the coffee thrives at these elevations of 1800-1900 meters. The problem is, we’re at the top of the mountain and can not go up any further.” – Jugo Gonzalez
One measure being done to combat Climate change is planting shade trees on the farm. If the farmers plant trees today, in four years these trees will provide shade that will help keep the micro climates on these farms at cooler temperatures so the coffee can continue to grow and thrive. Thankfully, partners like Caravela Coffee our export partner works with these producers to educate them on how to combat climate change. They’re making a huge impact on the coffee producing world and it’s great partners like them that we love to do business with.
The 2017 crop of La Falda is now available at our stores, online, and at various wholesale partners throughout the United States.