CCS at the SCA

CCS will be at the Specialty Coffee Expo in Seattle this week from April 19 to 22. Check out our events below, and get in touch if you would like to organise a time to meet. 

Friday April 20, 11am
Ikawa Demonstration Roast

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Matt will join our friends at the Ikawa Booth 2624 during the SCA Specialty Coffee Expo for a demonstration roast. Matt has extensive experience as a roaster and manages QC and samples for CCS globally. He'll talk about his experience at origin with a portable Ikawa, and using it for sample roasting, while serving up some Ikawa-roasted Colombias. 

Saturday April 21, 10.15am
CCS Cupping

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Join us in Room 605 for a cupping of our CCS Acevedo Cup winners from Huila, plus fresh crop Guatemala, Kenya and Ethiopia. 

There are just a few spaces left and reservations are essential. Reserve your place at Eventbrite.

Get to know the coffees ahead of time! Check out our origin pages for Colombia, Guatemala, Kenya and Ethiopia where you can learn about the market and our partners, check out the offers, and download hi-res photos and our coffee info sheets. Plus, you can download the Coffee Information Sheets on the coffees that will be presented on Saturday from this Dropbox Showcase.


Sunday April 22, 10.30am
CCS Colombia Tasters Challenge

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Win a trip to Colombia! Sign up here.

Join Collaborative Coffee Source and Fairfield Trading at the Café de Colombia booth for this cupping competition of select Colombians from Huila and Tolima. Hosting this special event is Walter Acevedo, roaster at Amor Perfecto and Colombian Cup Taster Champion 2017, who will go on to represent Colombia at the 2018 World Cup Tasters Championship. 

Café de Colombia Booth
SCA Specialty Coffee Expo
Sunday 22 April

CCS Presents: Cup, Learn & Share

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CCS WINTER POSTER OSLO feb 16 insta.jpg

Join us in Oslo for a fascinating 1-day workshop and discover two innovative CCS partners and their unique approach to producing specialty coffee:

La Palma y El Tucan (LPET), Colombia

Long Miles Coffee Project (LMCP), Burundi

We will be cupping, discussing, sharing and learning with guest speakers Lise Rømo of sister company Kaffa, and Rory Rosenberg of Oslo Cold Brew, two baristas who have competed with these coffees, and visited their farms and washing stations, plus a Skype Q&A with Sebastian Villamizar of La Palma y El Tucan.


10am  Cupping coffees from Long Miles Coffee Project

12pm Presentation by Rory Rosenberg of Oslo Cold Brew Rory was the 2017 Norwegian Barista Champion. He competed with LMCP and visited their washing stations in Burundi.

12.30pm Light lunch provided

1pm Cupping La Palma y El Tucan - Neighbors and Crops

2pm Cupping La Palma y El Tucan - Heroes Series

3pm Presentation by Lise Rømo of Lise was the 2016 Norwegian Barista Champion. She competed with coffee from La Palma y El Tucan, and visited their innovative farm in Cundinamarca, Colombia.

3.30pm Skype Q&A with Sebastian Villamizar of La Palma y El Tucan

4pm Beers and refreshments

Spaces are limited. Contact to reserve yours!

And the winner is...

Jair Caicedo, 1st place winner

Jair Caicedo, 1st place winner

The CCS Acevedo Cup 2018 wrapped up on Sunday with a fantastic awards ceremony in Acevedo town, and the top placing coffee is...

Jair Caicedo, Finca Buena Vista!

The announcement of Jair's name elicited gasps from the farming community in attendance at the awards ceremony of the CCS Acevedo Cup 2018. This dedicated coffee grower is only 26!

Dillon of Parlor Coffee poetically described Jair’s coffee as “extraordinary! Honeycomb, berry, custard with concentrated citrus syrup.” Robert of CCS said it showed “lively aromatics with the promise of fruit,” and “a balanced soft acidity.”

Stay tuned for a full update on this amazing event by Fairfield Trading and CCS, and the full list of the top 20 winners. In the meantime, US roasters can contact Sal in the US or Nico in EU to order your samples. 

CCS Warehouse Clearance Sale — Featuring Fernando Bustos & Alto Encanto

We are moving warehouses to Vollers in Hamburg and clearing our Antwerp warehouse. That means stellar coffees at clearance prices, like these two gems from Acevedo, Colombia

Fernando Bustos

Fernando Bustos

Fernando Bustos

While Fernando has had a coffee farm for quite some time, there was a period of eight years that he lived in Ibagué and his brother, Miller, managed El Progreso’s coffee production. On intuition, one day Fernando decided to move back to Acevedo to manage the farm himself and further, to change its production to specialty coffee. He didn’t know anything of about specialty coffee at the time.

Thankfully, neighbour Alvaro Perdomo was already producing specialty and taught Fernando about how to change his processing techniques. Especially when to stop fermentation and start washing.

With the announcement of CCS’ Acevedo Cup in 2016, Fernando worked the best he could with the coffee harvest. He knew he’d made it to the competition selection, which was screened and determined by Fairfield’s cupping team. The international panel of judges ranked the top twenty in mid-December of 2016, but Fernando had planned a trip to Ibagué during the awards announcements and ceremony, so he missed hearing his name called. When he heard that El Progreso had won second place, he was elated.

With the premiums earned from the competition, he planned to build three new fermentation tanks and more drying facilities.

This lot is fruit-forward and sweet: berries, stone fruit, nougat and a clean finish.

Fernando Bustos, Acevedo, Colombia
Variety: Colombia
Process: Washed
Score: 87,5
Normal Price: $14,33/kg
Now: $13.83/kg or $13,33/kg for a full pallet

Alto Encanto


This lot is a "Hamlet Blend" of coffees that were entered into the CCS Acevedo Cup 2016 that did not reach the top twenty. Everyone whose coffee made it into competition were paid price premiums, with the top twenty receiving incrementally better prices.

Alto Encanto was constructed from two day lots from the following producers:

• Nicolas Delgado – 10 bags • Jose Erasmo Peres – 10 bags

The varieties are Caturra, Colombia F.6 and Castillo, grown between 1,400 and 1,600 meters above sea level.

This blend offers notes of black tea, caramel, citrus and an overall balanced cup.

Alto Encanto, Acevedo, Colombia
Variety: Various, incl. Castillo & Colombia
Process: Washed
Score: 87
Normal Price: $11,73/kg
Now: $11.23/kg or $10,73/kg for a full pallet

Contact Nico for samples, and download the full Antwerp Clearance Sale price list here.

Why farmers love meeting roasters at the CCS Acevedo Cup


You’re invited: The second annual CCS Acevedo Cup 2018 with Fairfield Trading will be held next month in Huila Colombia, from the 17th to the 21st of January.

Come and explore the beauty of Acevedo, discover the exceptional coffees of this region of Huila, and spend time with these dedicated Colombian farmers. Email to reserve your place. 

The core of our business at CCS is connecting roasters to producers and forging long term relationships. The CCS Acevedo Cup is one of the most enjoyable and satisfying ways we achieve this.

It is hard to overstate the importance of having roasters attend this event. Their presence as judges and observers makes the farmers feel connected to the markets, and valued for their hard work and investment.

The cupping team, CCS Acevedo Cup 2016. Clockwise from top: Ria - Four Letter Word, Dillon - Parlor Coffee, Eduardo - Fairfield Trading, Melanie - CCS, Tali - Barismo.

The cupping team, CCS Acevedo Cup 2016. Clockwise from top: Ria - Four Letter Word, Dillon - Parlor Coffee, Eduardo - Fairfield Trading, Melanie - CCS, Tali - Barismo.

In 2016, twenty coffees were selected as finalists for the CCS Acevedo Cup. When interviewed by Eduardo Urquina of Fairfield Trading after the event, all twenty expressed their gratitude to the roasters who attended, and described their pride at reaching the top twenty.

Ciro Lugo of Finca San Pedro in La Marimba, who won fourth and sixth place, said being a finalist filled him with emotion “For the first time I received recognition for the work that, together with my family, we do [on our farm]. The CCS Acevedo Cup is a great achievement for coffee growers in Acevedo.”

Albeiro Lugo (left) and his father Ciro Lugo won 4th and 6th place in the CCS Acevedo Cup 2016

Albeiro Lugo (left) and his father Ciro Lugo won 4th and 6th place in the CCS Acevedo Cup 2016

Discovering quality

Very often, farmers are unaware of the quality of the coffee they produce. By entering the CCS Acevedo Cup they receive useful information in the form of  cupping scores and tasting notes. This data serves as both recognition of their labors, and incentive to continue investing and improving their coffee.

Jon Wilson Poveda almost didn’t enter the competition. “I knew of the CCS Acevedo Cup,” he said, “but I hesitated to enter and I didn’t imagine I could win, because I knew that my fermentation and drying facilities were not helping to process the coffee well.”  Jon inherited part of his farm, called “Danny” in La Marimba, and decided to buy another lot of land to increase production. Unfortunately that meant he didn’t have the funds to expand his fermentation facilities or improve his drying beds. In 2016 he also couldn’t find enough labour to pick his cherries fast enough, a common problem in the region.

However Eduardo Urquina of Fairfield Trading convinced Jon that several lots of his coffee were worth entering, and Jon won tenth place. Jon credits the forest reserve that borders his property for the quality of his coffee. The farm, which sits 1829 masl, draws water from the mountains to irrigate the coffee trees.

Leonte Polania of Finca El Ocazo in La Estrella was also surprised to place in the finals of the CCS Acevedo Cup. “I thought other producers had better varieties of coffee,” said the farmer who won 13th and 16th places. “We never rest during the harvest, it is arduous and constant,” Leonte explained. “Reaching the finals is the best compensation for that hard work.”

Sunset at Finca Bella Vista, living up to its name.

Sunset at Finca Bella Vista, living up to its name.

Specialty coffee as a sustainable model

The CCS Acevedo Cup is financial proof that specialty coffee can be sustainable for coffee farmers.

Elizabeth Abaunza of Finca La Esperanza in La Barniza described the validation of winning after much financial investment in their farm. “We received the news that we won 5th place with such joy. It wasn’t easy to improve the farm, we incurred debts and what we had, we earned with our own sweat. To receive this award is a relief and motivation to continue pursuing quality.”

“Selling traditional coffee isn’t profitable,” said Maria Bercerlia Martinez of Finca Los Angeles in La Marimba. With help from Fairfield Trading, Maria and her family have invested in improving quality in order to enter the specialty market, and their work was recognized when two lots of their coffee placed 9th and 20th.

“It was so gratifying to win two places in the final of the CCS Acevedo Cup 2016, thanks to the work of my husband and my son Daniel, who are so passionate about growing specialty coffee.”

Wilmer Cuellar of Finca Las Brisas in La Estrella was so proud to win 11th place, as it proved that producing high quality was financially viable. “I felt so happy to be representative of the group showing that quality coffee is the solution,” he said.

Wilmer was traveling at the time of the awards ceremony, but his wife and daughter attended, and proudly posted photos of the event on Facebook. “The other coffee growers congratulated us and we stood out in the coffee growing community.”

Meeting roasters

One of the best outcomes of the CCS Acevedo Cup are the relationships that are forged between roasters and producers.

Eighth place winner Otoniel Morales of Finca Las Delicias was very disappointed he couldn’t attend the awards ceremony of the CCS Acevedo Cup 2016, because he really wants to meet the people who buy his coffee. “It would have been fabulous to be present and to be recognized as a good coffee producer,” said the coffee grower from Marticas. “To know that what I produce is appreciated by coffee buyers, that is what motivates me to achieve the best quality.”

Julian Castro of the farm Villa Juliana was proud to receive 15th place. “Our coffee wasn’t the first, but it was among the best of many coffees entered!”

“The competition was well organized,” he said. “For my part, I want to thank the roasters who came. Thanks to them I got to show my coffee, and I hope they repeat the event in the future.”

Join us for the CCS Acevedo Cup 2018, Jan 17 to 21st and be part of this special event, recognizing the great work of farmers in the Acevedo region, and the exceptional coffees they are producing. Email for more information. 

The top ten coffee producers, CCS Acevedo Cup, 2016

The top ten coffee producers, CCS Acevedo Cup, 2016

Antwerp Warehouse Sale Continues

We are moving warehouses Vollers in Hamburg which means we're having a clearance sale to empty our Antwerp warehouse! That means you can pick up some exceptional coffees for bargain prices. Take a look at our full price list, or check out these offers:

Álvaro Rodríguez, Colombia

Alvaro Rodriguez

Alvaro Rodriguez

Alvaro Rodriguez is 66-years old and has been a coffee farmer his whole life. Although his passion is coffee, Alvaro also owns a dump truck and works as a truck driver, transporting construction materials. It is Don Alvaro's meticulous attention to his coffee plants that keeps our partnership with him thriving year-after-year. Alvaro is one of the most fastidious farmers in LP&ET's Neighbors&Crops program when it comes to coffee fertilization and harvesting.

His washed coffee scores 87 and features red apples, plums and a full body.

Álvaro Rodriguez, Finca Los Naranjos, Cundinamarca, Colombia
Score: 87
Normal Price: $18,47/kg
Now: $17,97/kg  or $17,47/kg for a full pallet.

Duromina, Ethiopia

Duromina Cooperative, Ethiopia.

Duromina Cooperative, Ethiopia.

Left to right: Teka, Mohammad and Abdul Assiz, site managers of the Duromina Cooperative, near the city of Agaro, Jimma zone, Ethiopia. Their 86.5 coffee expresses blueberry, slight lime notes with a chocolatey medium body.

Duromina cooperative, Ethiopia
Limu Heirlooms
Score: 86.5
Normal Price: $11,62/kg
$11,12/kg  or $10,62/kg for a full pallet.

Mithuti AA, Kenya

Factory manager Daniel Kamau works in the Kiaragana Coffee Factory, located in Kirinyaga County, Mukure zone of Ndia Division near Kerugoya town. It was established in 1979 and rests on 7 acres of land serving Kiaragana, Nguguini, Karuku and Gathuthi Villages. Currently it is affiliated to Mwirua Farmers Cooperative Society Ltd.

This washed mix of SL 28 and SL 34  features earl grey, bergamot, nougat and a prune finish.

Mithuti AA, Kenya
SL 28/34
Score: 86.5
Normal Price: $13,29/kg
$12,79/kg  or $12,29/kg for a full pallet.

These great offers can't last. Don't miss out. Contact to order your samples and download the full clearance price list.


CCS Acevedo Cup, January 2018

Join us for the second CCS Acevedo Cup by Fairfield Trading and Collaborative Coffee Source.

Wednesday Jan 17 to Sunday Jan 21, 2018 Acevedo, Huila, Colombia

Places are limited. Email to book your place.

The award ceremony, CCS Acevedo Cup 2016

The award ceremony, CCS Acevedo Cup 2016

The value of cupping competitions

The CCS Acevedo Cup is valuable in so many ways. For roasters it offers a condensed experience of a region, a chance to meet many farmers and cup their coffees at once, to see their land, engage in their community, understand their hopes and plans for the future.

For the coffee growing community of Acevedo it offers a chance to meet the people who buy, roast and serve their coffee, to learn about the markets where their coffees are sold, and the impressions of the consumers who drink the final product. The CCS Acevedo Cup also offers the farmers a reason to get together, to share knowledge, skills, experience and stories.

And, of course, cupping competitions like these offer recognition for the hard work of the farmers. This recognition, combined with the financial reward for the winners, incentivizes continued effort to produce high quality coffee. 

Alexander Ordoñoz, proud third place winner of the CCS Acevedo Cup 2016.

Alexander Ordoñoz, proud third place winner of the CCS Acevedo Cup 2016.

“I felt really proud,” said Alexander Ordoñez of Finca Los Naranjos, who won third place in the CCS Acevedo Cup 2016. “My wife and two children accompanied me [to the award ceremony], and it was a beautiful experience because they are part of the work one does on the farm. And this third place prize motivates me to continue improving so I can win first place.”

CCS Acevedo Cup, postponed for one month 

The inaugural CCS Acevedo Cup ran in December 2016, which means this event is delayed slightly. Unfortunately weather has been working against the farmers of Acevedo this year. Heavy rains caused later flowering, and as we are seeing in so many regions, the harvest has been delayed. It happens in agriculture — there are good years and bad years. Sadly for the Acevedo community, this isn’t a great year. 

Regardless, there will be some great coffee to cup come January. Rather than cancel the event, we decided to postpone it for one month, giving farmers a little more time to harvest and process their coffee, and to give our partners Fairfield Trading the time to properly cup and select the best entries for the competition. Both Fairfield Trading and CCS are enormously proud of this event, and we are committed to recognizing the hard work and delicious coffee of the Acevedo coffee growing community, in good years, and not so good years.

We look forward to sharing this experience with you. Email to book your place.

Farmer Profile: Jesus Antonio Saavedra, Finca El Placer

Tolima, Colombia

Twenty years ago Antonio Saavedra sold his farm at 1200 masl in Tolima, Colombia, and bought another further up the hill at 1715 masl. Yep, twenty years ago. Before anyone was talking about global warming and its impact on coffee, Antonio realized that temperatures were rising and it would soon be impossible to grow great coffee on his lower altitude farm.

To reach his current farm called El Placer, located in the San Antonio municipality of Tolima, you have to travel one and a half hours by horseback from the nearest road. It’s the kind of trip Antonio is accustomed to making. He once travelled eight hours by horseback to reach the town of Planadas in Tolima, in order to deliver a sample of his coffee to Alejandro Renjifo from Fairfield Trading, our partners in the region. Things are spread out in that part of Colombia and roads don't always take you where you need to go.

This is why Antonio created a school on his property. Seven children from neighboring families attend the school, which covers both primary and secondary curriculum. Of course, "neighbor" is a relative term. Their farms are quite far from Antonio’s, too far for the kids to travel back and forth on a daily basis. So they arrive Monday morning and stay until Friday afternoon.

Children tending to their vegetable garden beside the school on Antonio Saavedra's farm in Tolima, Colombia

Children tending to their vegetable garden beside the school on Antonio Saavedra's farm in Tolima, Colombia

Their teacher is also the head cook and chief caretaker. She walks one and a half hours up the hill to Antonio’s property on a Monday morning, then teaches, cooks and cares for the kids until they all go home on Friday. Next to the school building is a vegetable patch and part of the kids’ daily activity is to maintain the garden and prepare meals using the vegetables they have grown. The kids could attend a government school, but it is further from their homes than Antonio's farm, and it doesn't provide housing during the week. If it wasn’t for the school Antonio built on his property for his neighbor's children, it is unlikely they would get a continuous education.

New plantings on Antonio Saavedra's farm, Finca El Placer

New plantings on Antonio Saavedra's farm, Finca El Placer

The dedication of the teacher and the children is a reflection of Antonio’s own serious approach to life and work. The quality of his coffee is a result of daily persistence and willingness to learn. Antonio renovates his farm regularly to keep the trees young. His pickers are trained to collect only the ripe cherries which he depulps immediately and ferments for 36 hours in lidded containers filled with just enough water to cover the cherries. He washes the coffee up to four times to remove all trace of mucilage, and dries it slowly in a solar drier for around 15 days. He personally inspects every truck that will transport his coffee and accepts only impeccable cleanliness, his last chance to ensure his precious product isn’t contaminated by a smelly truck on its way to a buyer.

Antonio Saavedra at the Expoespeciales specialty coffee event in Bogotá, Colombia, October 2017

Antonio Saavedra at the Expoespeciales specialty coffee event in Bogotá, Colombia, October 2017

“I have coffee in my blood,” Antonio explains, when asked for his secret to producing quality. “I have been a coffee grower for 40 years. Coffee brings me food, life, love. I’m so proud when people buy my coffee and enjoy it.”

Through his connection to Fairfield Trading, Antonio is now working with several buyers he describes as “very serious people who understand coffee,” in other words, people like Antonio. Through these buyers he hopes to learn how he can improve his coffee even more. “I have a lot of discipline,” he said. “I tend to my coffee every day, I will work every day to make it better.” 

Coffees from Tolima and Huila are arriving very soon in the US. Contact Sal on the East Coast and Colleen on the West Coast to get your samples.

Colombia: A Clash of Mindsets


Remember the days when the main quality distinction among Colombian Coffee qualities was Excelso (‘export quality’) and Supremo (‘export quality’, bigger screen)? Those were the days…

Looking back just a few years in time, it is evident that the development of ‘Specialty Coffee’ as a term and as a mindset has changed how we perceive coffee, how we describe it (with flavor attributes), how we communicate about it (as product from a concrete place and person) and how it is traded (transparently).

One may take these things for granted today. As we all should.

Soon Colombia will celebrate its 10th year as member of the growing and still exclusive group of coffee producing countries that have been scrutinized and recognized by the Cup of Excellence (CoE) program. The program’s mission is to bring farmers to the forefront, by acknowledging both their existence and individually crafted products.

Up until ten years ago ‘Colombian Coffee’ had been presented to the world by a very different marketing concept. As early as in 1958, the Colombian Federacion Nacional de Cafeteros (FNC) created Juan Valdez, a marketing mascot playing the role as a personification of the Colombian Coffee Farmer. ‘He’ is not only a fictive figure, but has represented FNC’s marketing concept which, quite tellingly, has been a presentation of the entire community of Colombian coffee farmers, meant to build a collective pride as a nation of coffee famers. And it has worked well for a long time.

Juan Valdez, an FNC icon

Colombian coffee had been marketed as a brand and as a blend, made collectively by the country’s half million coffee farmers, and managed to build a worldwide reputation for its quality. It had fame and recognition and became a staple on every roaster’s menu. CoE’s concept of bringing farmers individually and personally into the light and onto the stage, which at the time was a new idea, didn’t fit perfectly well with how Colombian coffee had been marketed by the FNC in the past.

With the CoE competition in 2005, this was literally the first - and ultimate - test of what Colombian Coffee really was about. Since the average production at a coffee farm in Colombia is much less than the CoE program’s minimum submission requirement of 12 bags, farmers were allowed to form groups with coffee from up to three farms constituting a CoE competition-lot. Despite this stipulation, samples representing over 800 lots were submitted to FNC’s center in Manizales that first year, where the national CoE jury first pre-screened the samples based on technical quality and then began the comprehensive cupping/further screening and re-cupping processes of the remaining 150+ samples. Of these, the international jury were presented with 60+ of the best samples and given the task of cupping and scoring them all over again. The CoE international jury’s mandate is to screen the national jury’s selection further in order to find the very best lots (at the time those who scored an average of 84pts or more), and then ranking these top coffees, as well as describing each coffee’s attributes.

Many of the well-known personalities, new and old in the coffee trade, were on that jury, including the gracious Grand Lady of Specialty Coffee, Erna Knudsen. As a matter of fact, it was she who coined the term Specialty Coffee almost thirty years prior to this event.

CoE Colombia 2005: Specialty Coffee Pioneers Erna Knudsen cupping with Bob Fulmer

During the course of two weeks, all the samples from the submitted lots were cupped five times, but even with all that, on the final table, when ranking the top 10 coffees on the final day of the competition, samples were rejected for phenolic off-flavors, a defect that is usually related to issues with the processing of the coffee cherries. Hey, Juan Valdez, what was going on?!

In the end, the remaining top coffees were fantastic and all the farmers’ names were revealed. The winners received their standing ovations and sold their coffees at the auction at record prices. Regions and microclimates were discovered. A new era began.

Still, this was also a time for reflection on how to approach the seemingly endemic processing issue that had thrown so many coffees out of the competition.

Meanwhile, another kind of problem had been threatening the Colombian coffee tree population for a long while. Coffee Leaf Rust, La Roya, is such a long-standing phenomenon that Colombians commonly use it as a slang term for something that ‘takes with it whatever comes in its way’: La Roya se lo llevó. Coffee farmers have had to struggle with climate and climate changes that have created environments where fungi that can kill coffee trees leaves are able to flourish. The traditional ‘Colombia Varietal’, a Catimor hybrid, was designed to be Leaf Rust resistant, whereas the Caturra varietal became known to be more susceptible to it, yet many farmers have been able to work out Roya-threats proactively.

FNC map of varietals in Huila, 2010. Pre-Castillo Era: Still predominantly Caturra (green) and Colombia (yellow, a Catimor-hybrid), pockets with Typica predominantly in the north.

Coffee is a cash crop; it is handled as any other cash crop, like soy, maize, beans, bananas, etc. Coffee farming in Colombia is usually a rather non-technical enterprise, often times with little planning, thus no calculations for concrete outcomes. With little control over harvest outcome, revenue, and cost control, one becomes vulnerable to unexpected problems and market price volatilities. Coffee farming is often times a losing proposition.

Being on top of the game requires more than just will. Taking care of a farm, particularly with the ever-present risk of a Roya-attack, is labor intensive and costly. Cleaning weeds, pruning trees, fertilizing, and in order to maintain sound trees is key, particularly when there is an environmental threat lurking. A healthy tree is generally less susceptible to diseases like Roya. If proactive spraying is necessary, usually done with copper, this is an extra cost to already expensive regular operations.

One may take the chance and do nothing about disease prevention, but if the farmer wants to be proactive and doesn’t have money saved from previous harvest sales to buy the required products and pay for the labor to apply it, he can easily find himself within the hands of those money lenders, or those who sell disease prevention products on a credit basis. These suppliers can be private, sometimes a cooperative, but usually the supplier is the FNC itself. The same FNC that guarantees buying coffee at the market price, but at market price only…

One of the results of all of this is that the concept of investing in a coffee farm and keeping healthy coffee trees isn’t necessarily a viable path from an economic perspective - considering the level at which coffee is usually paid for. So when fertilizers and fungicides are needed, a vicious cycle of borrowing money before the upcoming harvest can easily develop. When you don't own the revenue for your own coffee harvest until all debt has been paid off (sometimes at exploitative high interest rates) it becomes tempting to not spend extra money on the farm.

For Colombia, as a coffee producing country, this kind of vicious cycle has been even bigger. When millions of trees lost their leaves, partly due to insufficiently attentive farming practices or plain negligence, many farms lost entire harvests, meaning Colombia as a nation lost a lot of revenue. The FNC went on the hunt for solutions!

This is when the Castillo varietal, a modern version of the Colombia (Catimor) varietal, was developed and pushed for by the FNC. Castillo was cleverly designed as 11 different types, meant to be ‘site specific’ to particular geography, environmental and climatic conditions around the country. But the FNC not only encouraged farmers to exchange the Roya-susceptible Caturras into Castillo; Castillo was made a requisite variety, meaning it became eligible for subsidies and credits from the government.

Castillo has its benefits. It can be planted more densely (higher yield per hectare), the trees are shorter (easier to access for cherry pickers), and it produces more even cherry ripening than other varietals (making the harvest season shorter). Though whether Castillo continues to be resistant to Roya, or other fungi, in the future is as yet to be seen. Coffee farming may not prove to be that simple.

The good news for Colombia is that tanking production levels and a record low of 7 million bags is now turning around. Production levels are back at 11 million bags; approximately where they were ten years ago.

In the meantime, the country has transformed itself into a ‘Castillo-origin’ making the other varietals (Caturra, Bourbon, Typica, Tabi, etc.) more difficult to find. Begging the question: How smart is this, when a growing market is asking for diversity and specialty quality?

And this is all political. Of course it is!

The (g)olden days: Colomiban farmers delivering coffee at FNC collection piont

As a nation, for which the GDP is dependent on coffee, the market price level matters.

On the other hand, Colombia’s coffee production level (volume) affects the world market and international coffee price. In any economy where a product is – to such an extent – culturally engrained, is so much part of national identity, with so many livelihoods dependent on it, it will be – and should be – a political matter. But as is any political matter in any modern society, it is – and should be – up for debate; the policymakers in power accepting of questions. As independent as the FNC is supposed to be, there is no question that it is seen as, as well as functions as, an extension of the governing institutions of the country. I get this perception. Policies need to adapt to changes occurring over time, whether they are internal or, as is very much the case with coffee, international. Today, the parties on both ends of the chain, the producers and the buyers, are interacting and communicating more transparently than ever before.*

Colombia is not merely a coffee supplier; the ‘market’ is not merely asking for supply.

For one, the ‘market’ is divided into at least three coffee segments:

- Commodity coffee (sold at NYC with a differential);

- Certified coffee (sold with a premium);

- Specialty Coffee (sold at a negotiated price based on quality assessments, including cup attributes).

With this backdrop and based on recent visits, my next article will look into what is happening in the field of Specialty Coffee in Colombia right now.

Locally Grown, Home Roasted, Hand Brewed by Omar Viveros, Colombian Specialty Coffee producer, Pitalito 2014

As an important aside, the Cup of Excellence program celebrates its 100th competition this fall. Susie Spindler, the program’s director for many years has chosen to step down, thus we should take a moment to reflect on her formidable and significant contribution; building CoE’s credibility by holding firmly to it’s protocol, which has helped to define Specialty Coffee as we know it today. CoE, under Susie’s tenure, has helped create an understanding of the individual origins it has been present in since the program’s inception in Brazil, 1999.

Looking back at a hundreds of years of coffee history, this understanding has developed a long way in a very short time. Thank You Susie!

- Robert W

*In the case of Specialty Coffee we are seeing a drive toward taking charge of the production by ‘designing quality’ for specific markets. With so many Colombian farms being re-planted with the Castillo Varietal, the question becomes if the Country is able to meet the demand of an increasingly growing Specialty Coffee market.