The town of Giraldo is located in the region of Antioquia, about 1.5 hours North-West from The Coffee Quest Colombia office in Medellín. In the last years Giraldo has becoming known as hidden gem in the Colombian coffee scene. We have been buying our Exótico de Altura lots here already since 2013, but since opening our 2nd buying station we’ve been able to tap into the vast variety of beautiful coffees this mountain region offers.
The secret of Giraldo is the abundance of traditional varieties like Caturra and Typica and remarkably dense beans from high elevation (1700-2150 m.a.s.l.). Tropical updrafts from the deep Cauca River valley generate a micro-climate benefitting the high-altitude coffee crops.
In the search for the best coffees in Colombia, Ronald and Stephen managed to identify the municipality of Giraldo as one of the best places in Antioquia to produce quality coffee and to producers with the need to sell their coffees at better prices to improve their quality of life.
- Yessica Parra Beltran
This village station is located in the Café Aroma Giraldo, a local cafetaria that has been converted to function both as Lab and Meeting Point. The station is managed by Miguel, his wife Lizeth and their family. The crew will be focused on specialty purchases in the area of Giraldo, as well as actively supporting farmers to improve their growing & post-harvesting techniques towards quality improvement. A lot of work, but it allows us to pay the farmer relative to the actual quality of their coffee.
In short; The Coffee Quest Colombia took the traditional buying station model, but added a Quality Lab. The idea is provide access to the specialty market to smallholder farmers. By incorporating sensorial characteristics into the buying decision, next to looking at the physical aspects of the coffee beans. Objective: Paying for quality using well-communicated and transparent pricing,
Las Perlitas: Throughout the harvest, it’s quite common that small-holders produce lots that aren’t large enough to be exported on their own. However, the quality is often just as good (or better) than samples received from larger lots. As such, we decided to buy all coffees, regardless of size and create a specialty blend based on cup profile, with a quality that would compare to a Micro lot. The result is Las Perlitas or “The Little Pearls”, various small lots from producers around the Antioquia region, whose farms range in elevation from 1,700 to 2.150 m.a.s.l. and grow quality varieties. Las Perlitas Antioquia aways shows exotic fruit within it’s characteristics.
You might already know that Colombia has a high humid climate which will make it very difficult to produce Naturals or Honey Coffee. The only way to get the same fruity flavours and resemblance of Naturals is to play with fermentation before washing. So, the variation in fruity flavours across the lots will depend on the different attributes that contribute to the fermentation process: such as the environment temperature, capacity of the farm, and farmer’s techniques. This is why there is no single answer to drying and fermentation. The hours spent in the tanks and on the drying tables will most likely be longer than commercial coffee, but will differ per farmer as cultural practices and logistical issues play a role. On average, fermentation in tanks goes around 24-48h (sometimes up to 72h) and drying time around 7-14 days.
Micro lot: To select the best Micro lots we focus on 86+ lots that have a special characteristic in the cup profile. The Giraldo area offers quite a good range of beautiful acidity due to the high density combination with the longer fermentation times. In some cases we combine the volume from 2 or 3 farmers together to reach a minimum of 10x 35kg bags of exportable green coffee. The combinations are made by taking the cup profile into account, and will carry the name of the largest contributor. This method allows us to provide a steady volume for our Seasonal segment, with interesting cup profiles that variate in between each harvest.
La Sierrita – Type 1 (85 score): In the local network of farmers we see a large amount of producers that reach a consistent 85 point quality. The profile is stable and shows a vibrant acidity in combination with a pleaseant sweet milk chocolate and citric notes. In 2019 onwards, we will expect a larger amount of contributors to this quality, due to the additional time spend with producers during the off-season.
Exotico Altura – Type 2 (84 score): This quality is the most common quality accepted in the Giraldo buying station. The lot provide a less complex, but beautiful clean cup with milk chocolate, good touch of sweetness and creamy afterflavour. This profile is found across Antioquia, but the station is able to provide additional value in consistency. Each individual lot that ends up in the group lot Q2 “Café Giraldo” has been cup and added to the lot based on the determined cup profile. Multifunctional use for both blends and single-origin coffees,
Antioquia profile – Type 3 (83 score): The cup profile is similar to a good Antioquia Excelso EP, however, similar to Type 2 the quality can be offered with great consistency. Each producer will have the chance to sell this coffee to competing buying stations, but will receive a small bonus on top of the market price at The Coffee Quest’s Giraldo station. The bonus represents our combined efforts in maintaining full traceability and quality control.
The farmers in the area of Giraldo (for example: Vereda La Sierrita) have limited opportunity to improve their living conditions, as the market-related prices offered by the local cooperative and “coyote” buyers remains low. The last two decades of growing coffee have not been profitable for the smallholder farmers (average 1-2 Hectares). In the Giraldo station we always pay better than the local market prices, with transparent (and fixed!) prices for 84+ scoring lots.
For example; A producer reaches the needed 85 score, his/her lot to be added to the Café La Sierrita (Type 1). This results in about 50% price increase, compared to commercial buying station prices in the area. An excellent step towards better living income for producers with good quality. Minimum quality requierments are set at SCA 83 points, with a preference for non-Castillo varieties.
Once Jessica (TCQ cupper) and Miguel take the decision to purchase a coffee lot based on the sample, the farmer is asked to bring down the coffee. The lot will be re-packed into new bags with plastic inner bag for protection. This can be seen as essential step to promote shelf-life for the Roaster, at the end of the value chain. A new sample is taken and reference code created. All of the lots and quality scores will be registered by Lizeth in the TCQ database. The farmer can always request the feedback about the coffee, and the initial registration forms the start of a relationship with a producer. The performance of farmers in both the main crop and fly crop will be monitored, and during the off-season there are trainings to develop the knowledge about: picking, post-harvest, but also practical requirements for delivering samples. The main difference to other buyers in the area is our focus on details to improve quality.
The Antioquia region is home to The Coffee Quest Colombia, based in the city of Medellin, “The City of the Eternal Spring”. The violent past of the city is slowly fading away with the growing amount tourism and general development in the city. There is a very nice range of specialty stores in Medellín promoting the best of Colombia. From this base we manage a variety of high altitude farms from the Andes mountain range, North-West from Medellín towards where the Magdalena river flows towards the ocean.
Antioquia is the second biggest producing area of Colombia, and is one of the first areas to have started planting coffee trees in the past. Currently we see a mix between small and larger farmer that produce and sell coffee next to each other. In this “Classic” region we find producers willing to experiment with longer fermentation periods in their Washed process. The Andean mountains help bring a consistent growing climate and interesting vulcanic soils. High up in the mountains the colder temperatures slow down the riping of the bean. Remarkable: The Antioquia bean is one of the densest beans we are finding in Colombia at the moment.