Finding out whether a farm produces quality coffee is one of the most difficult and important things for a coffee buyer. As an entrepreneur, I have learned to identify eight key aspects, which tell me if coffee is of high quality, how quickly it can be produced and whether there is a risk of contamination or plague.
1. What are the priorities of the farm?
There are two types of farm. One that produces commercial coffee in high volume and another that produces high quality coffee. Of course, the second is the one that interests us.
Do not assume that a farm is very nice, has a beneficiadero and has a good crop means that it produces special coffee. In Colombia, most coffee growers produce commercial grade coffee because the National Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) has focused on renovating crops to plant variety Castillo (a variety resistant to rust developed by the Federation) and thus produce coffee in large volume and in less time, regardless of quality.More news: Rubén Caviedes
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On the other hand, it should not be assumed that a low-income farm will never be able to produce special coffee. Many small and medium coffee farmers want to produce special coffee on their farms but do not have the capital to do so. The Federation does not provide many resources so that these farms can make that transition. However, they may have the potential for a future.
2.What kind of varieties do they produce and under what conditions?
After harvesting, it is normal for defoliation to occur on plantations of varieties such as Caturra, Typica and Bourbon but not in the Castillo variety. Also look at the size and shape of the trees. The Heirloom variety is usually larger than the cultivars.
The La Suerte farm in Seville, Valle del CaucaTypical variety at 1810 meters height in Salento, Quindio
3. How is the production process?
In Colombia, free exposure to the sun is a rule. Which is not all bad, but when used to produce large volumes of coffee, involves using many fertilizers. In the country coffee growers usually use NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium), so try to take into account the deficiency of microorganisms (magnesium, calcium etc.). Since they affect the cup profile.
Also look for coffee grown under shade. The plant will not be so stressed during its process, and the grade may grow slowly, producing a sucrose (sweet) pulp. The trees that provide the shade also help to decrease the soil moisture, which contributes to the fertilization of the coffee. If they are legumes (specifically speaking of Guamo trees), they will help improve nitrogen deficiency. Be careful with fruit trees as they tend to compete for soil nutrients.
Cultivation of Colombia and Caturra variety sown under the shade of Guamo trees. Finca Linares in Caicedonia, Valle del Cauca
4. What is the height?
5. How is coffee collected?
A common practice in Colombia is to collect 60% of ripe cherries and 40% of immature, green and over-ripe cherries. Green and immature cherries produce an astringent flavor so it is important to check the ratio. Changing the ratio is difficult but not impossible, this implies that the producer generates incentives to harvest only mature cherries. Which means that the coffee grower must know the coffee varieties and create a control point.
Traditional harvesting in Colombia. Finca Santa Monica in Armenia, Quindío .
Ripe cherries. Finca La Gitana in Armenia, Quindío
6.How is cleaning equipment?
The equipment may look flawless on the outside, but the internal cleaning is the main thing. Check that there are no old grain residues in the tanks, pulper and funnel. The pulping machine should be cleaned every time it is used, otherwise the grains that remain inside will begin to ferment.
Traditional moist threshing.
7. What are the drying conditions?
Do not underestimate the importance of drying time. When a coffee dries too fast, it loses chemical properties and shortens the shelf life. Excess water droplets should be removed from the shell as soon as possible but after that, slowly dry the grains so that more lactones can be reproduced. This only happens when the coffee is dried at a temperature of 45 ° C or more, it allows the coffee's life to be prolonged and a better flavor is obtained.
If on the farm you use a mechanical dryer, dry. When you have old dryers, the exhaust system tends to leave smells of smoke in the coffee. You should also make sure that there are no animals or cigarette butts in the drying area, whether it is a mechanical drying or the sun.
Drying in greenhouse. Finca Santa Ana in Quimbaya, Quindío.
8. How should the coffee storage area be?
This is crucial. Coffee is like a sponge, it absorbs everything. So any chemical, fertilizer, gasoline or animals in the area will affect the taste and aroma of the beans. Make sure the producer has storage mugs; grains and GrainPro bags are excellent but expensive, if the coffee grower can not buy them, you could give them, as it is a good investment. You will notice the benefits in the long run when you see that no pollution has been generated.
Remember that these points are not everything ...which truly makes an incredible coffee is the coffee grower's commitment. Take the time to meet the producer on the farm, so the farm does not yet meet these criteria. If the coffee grower is in the mood to improve, it will be an investment that will be worthwhile.
In Colombia it is difficult to find producers committed to quality. It is not their priority because they have long produced commercial coffee in large quantities and especially when they have never tried their own product. However, the situation is improving. Do not give up, do not be afraid to negotiate agreements with coffee growers.
Do you think all this involves a lot of effort? The next time you visit a farm that meets these eight aspects, try your coffee and you'll understand why it's worth it.
Written by M. Fajardo & edited by T. Newton
Translated by A. Molina & edited by Karla Ly Q
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