In partnership with Rehm & Co, we are on the way to Colombia with EINSTEIN KAFFEE following the trail of raw coffee in the course of our journey to its origins. Colombia belongs to the largest coffee growers in the world.
1st STOP: Visiting the Lohas Beans in Bogotá
Our fist stop is the capital of Colombia, Bogotá, where the Lohas Beans (lifestyle of health and sustainability) have made it their goal to export raw coffee that is produced sustainably and fairly worldwide. With a collective cupping we receive a first impression of the different regions and cultivation areas of Colombian coffee. A large range of flavors characterizes Colombian coffee. The spectrum spans from heavy, chocolaty, to sweet jam-like flavors.
2nd STOP: Visitation of a coffee plantation in Planadas (Tolima)
Until recently, the region of Tolima was one of the strongholds of the infamous guerilla group FARC whose conflicts greatly affected the area. Thankfully, the situation improved in the last years, so that international merchants were able to travel through the area more frequently. For the farmers it is a crucial issue. Thanks to international partnerships, better prices can be negotiated for their raw coffee. Still, everyone remembers the unrest in the area – the region is now recovering. However, there has been an interesting and very positive development that has resulted from the guerilla occupation. Since the commonly-used fertilizer for the coffee plants was frequently employed by the guerilla to build bombs, the farmers had no other choice than to grow organic coffee because the importing of fertilizer was strictly forbidden by the military. The premium coffee cultivated here comes from smaller farmers who have formed a cooperative and who cultivate the coffee on smaller planes at 1200 to 1900 meters altitude. The main harvesting season runs from March to June, when the three varieties Typica, Caturra and Castillo are harvested.
The coffee plants grown on steep slopes and are handpicked by the workers. They are then transported down to the finca through a plastic pipeline to be washed and dried. The coffee cherries are dark red and taste slightly sweet. We are impressed by the hard work of the field workers who carry large bags with up to 40kg down the slippery slopes up to ten times a day. Machines are not used during the harvesting nor the handling. At the end of the harvest each farmer processes his coffee cherries by drying them and preparing them as pergamino coffee (bean protected by a parchment shell) before delivering them down a difficult road to the mills of the central collection points.
3rd STOP: Visiting the Agroberlin Farm in Sierra Nevada
The Sierra Nevada, which translates to “snow-covered mountain range,” is another cultivation area at lower altitude in the north of Colombia. The trees are cultivated on the mountain flanks of the Andes at an altitude of 900 to 1600 meters. With an incline of 50 to 80 degrees, these areas are difficult for farmers to handle. Between August and March, the varieties Typica, Catura and Castillo are harvested.
After a three hour uphill journey, we arrive at the gates of Dario’s finca. The coffee plants extend in all their glory in front of us. We immediately discover the bright red cherries – unfortunately the harvesting only starts again in August. Extending over the entire cultivation area are mechanically driven cableways, so that the workers only have to harvest the coffee, and do not have to carry them to the collection stations. In front of the house there are enormous water tanks where the raw coffee is sorted by the tons. In two adjacent barns there is machinery to dry the coffee evenly and to prepare it for shipment. The entire concept is well thought out and geared to achieve the highest possible yield. Still, the farm has managed to operate sustainably and has held its organic and fair-trade certification for many years. Along with two other cultivation areas Dario produces around 120 tons of raw coffee per harvest.
Colombia is not only one of the largest coffee growers in the world. Compared to Brazil, where the harvest is largely driven mechanically due to its more convenient topography, there is still a lot of craftsmanship and precision behind every bean found here. Due to the varying climate and the types of landscapes in the Andes, the area offers a rich variety of flavors and allows one to three coffee harvests per year. Many farmers, including those in Planadas, are looking optimistically towards the future after years of hardship and encounter merchants and coffee lovers from all over the world, greeting them openly and sharing their experiences.
The comparison between the very elemental farm in Planadas and the mechanically structured system in the Sierra Nevada makes the variability found in the coffee production even more evident. From the cultivation, to the harvesting, through the production, and the trade route until the sale to our customers, the bean has a long journey ahead of it. For customers who at times do not find the price justifiable, a documentation of a journey such as this one should serve as a valuable opportunity to bring a whole new appreciation to their morning cup of coffee.
The completion of a perfect cup of coffee is a complex art form and every bean has its own little story.