Here I'm taking you from the Caribbean shores to the south of Colombia, very close to the border with Ecuador in the Departamento (Province, State) of Nariño, a little over 1000 Km (almost 650 miles) in a straight line.
This region was traditionally the source of five or six species of potatoes for Colombia, besides cocoa plus many fruits and vegetables. Lately, the campesinos have been planting coffee with the same loving and careful dedication as they have other crops, shade-growing it under native tree species and the result is one of the best coffees from Colombia.
Here are a few selected fincas in three small communities of the municipality (county) of La Union (yes, The Union).
Nariño is very mountainous, with practically no valleys at all. There are several snow-capped mountains (meaning over 15000 feet at this latitude) and several volcanoes, some of them active.
FINCA OJO DE AGUA (Water Hole), Chilcal Bajo township.
Varietal: Colombia F4 and some Caturra
1940 m = 6365 ft
Owner: ESPERANZA REYES
Cup: Jasmine aromatics with lasting citrus flavors. Bright, abundant bodied, magnificently balanced.
Rafael Reyes, Esperanza’s father began planting coffee about 58 years ago, now she and her brother Mauro (short for Mauricio) are in charge of the finca, where their children also participate in the everyday chores.
The tasks involved go from selecting seeds and planting, to fertilizing, de-weeding and supervision of harvesting.
Mauro’s son is in charge of the de-pulper and the de-mucilager, where the coffee is peeled, cleaned and washed, while his daughter is in charge of sun-drying supervision and further selection of the beans.
FINCA PIEDRA GRANDE (Big Rock), La Cañada township.
Varietal: Colombia F4
1560 m = 5118 ft
Owner: Ramiro Meneses
Cup: Honey and lemongrass combine. An elegantly bright, balanced and complex coffee.
This coffee has been consistently getting over 85 points by Q-Graders and Ramiro claims that this is because he personally oversees all the processes, with special emphasis on washing and drying. He controls humidity at each step and forbids bagging the coffee before he inspects it and declares it ready.
FINCA BOTADERO DE LEÑA (Firewood Dump), Palo Verde township.
Varietals: Colombia F4, Caturra, Castilla.
1700 m = 5577 ft
Owner: Jose Eliecer Castillo
Cup: Floral notes, chocolate and caramel meet an elegant acidity, silky body and smooth aftertaste.
With around 1500 plants, Jose Eliecer was able to sell 148 kilos of green coffee. Recently, he planted an additional 8500 plants for which he lovingly began with the seedlings, hand-planting each one at his own nursery. After harvesting, he personally de-pulps and washes the beans, then sun-dries and takes extreme care in the bagging process to ensure only the best beans are packed and brought to his storage where he controls humidity and temperature by natural aeration.