The Huila Mágico Competition is the contest we ran in Pitalito, in Southern Huila, Colombia. Pitalito: one region with a kaleidoscopic range of coffee stories and profiles to be found.
Life as a small coffee farmer is a continuous challenge, especially if you want to produce top lots. However, when it comes to dealing with external factors such as Covid-19, nobody is fully prepared. The Huila Mágico Competition was organized exactly for this purpose. To reward the farmers’ efforts in the face of the pandemic, and, of course, the chance to find the highest quality coffees from this region.
The idea to run a contest for top coffees dates back to a long time ago, but the idea was finally executed in cooperation with local partner The Bean Project.
To fully understand how this contest was set up, we have to go back to early 2020, when Colombia was in the middle of the harvest season and additionally in full lockdown – meaning no travelling was allowed in the country. During the harvest, coffee farmers normally hire additional workers to help pick cherries, the majority of the seasonal workers are migrating from other cities and states to work. Although, the national lockdown prevented seasonal pickers from travelling to coffee farms in Huila.
“We always wanted to run a contest for top lots, but until that moment we felt the market was saturated, due to the numerous local/regional competitions popping up.” – Stephen Levene from The Coffee Quest Colombia.
It was time! Farmers needed extra motivation and deserved to be rewarded for their extra efforts, especially during these challenging moments!
“We decided to take the opposite approach and reward producers for being able to produce top coffees, in the face of a pandemic. And if you are able to do that, that’s quite an accomplishment!” – said Stephen.
Ten names, ten stories, ten cup profiles, but all around one aspect: high quality. Although some of the winners were new to the world of speciality coffee, all have their own unique story and background, their own unique farm, and their unique path to speciality. Their efforts are remarkable!
- #01 – Robinson Rozo, Finca El Vergel
- #02 – Roberto Achicue, Finca El Caucho
- #03 – Ernedis Rodriguez, Finca El Paraiso
- #04 – Wilson Ordoñez, Finca La Aldea
- #05 – Erik Bravo, Finca El Chaperote
- #06 – Campo Elias, Finca El Jigual
- #07 – Fernando Tulio Lopez, Finca La Muralla
- #08 – Delfin Carvajal, Finca El Corozal
- #09 – Jairo Torres, Finca El Mirador
- #10 – Jose Hoyos, Finca Monte Bello & Luis Romero, Finca La Esmeralda
We were amazed by the quality and quantity of micro-lots received from July to September 2020. Only 86+ coffee lots were selected and then judged by the local and international cuppers across multiple countries. Our teams in Pitalito, Medellin, Amsterdam, and Austin (US) all scored the coffees and from there, The Top 10 was selected from the initial 50 coffees.
Among these lots, you’ll find Caturra, Pink Bourbon, and Geisha, both washed and naturals, with all sorts of peculiarities, fruity notes, and complex acidities.
Among the Top 10 winners, several have been working with us for years and were not new to the world of specialty coffee. So, over years and through trials and failures, they experimented with different fermentation recipes. Several producers, new to the world of specialty coffee, showcased a steep learning curve.
It is worth mentioning that the idea behind this contest was also to find producers with whom to share our vision and seek to build a long-term relationship. What we realized indeed was that the competition pushed farmers to put more attention on processing, even in the face of external factors.
We want to thank all the farmers who took part in this contest, not only those who actually ranked in the Top 10. Producing high-quality coffee against such adversities is not easy and as such, any coffee above 85 points is quite an accomplishment.
To streamline logistics, we decided to create fixed prices for all Top 5 winners, with additional prizes and supplier contracts for the entire Top 10. Each contract will provide a guaranteed purchase from these farmers for the next harvest. We will also be offering an additional premium for all coffee delivered during the following harvest and mid-harvest, from 85 points onwards!
- 1st Place: $5,000,000/carga;
- 2nd Place: $4,000,000/carga;
- 3rd Place: $3,500,000/carga;
- 4th Place: $3,000,000/carga;
- 5th Place: $2,500,000/carga.
As a reference, the local day price around the time of the contest was approximately $1,100,000/carga.
At the Pitalito Station, farmers can receive training and tailored advice on how to improve quality from The Coffee Quest team.
The whole organization and logistical chain were not so easy to set up, but our intentions kept us motivated. It was heartwarming to see how our enthusiasm for the contest was so contagious! The contest was even better received than we had anticipated. We were glad to see that not only farmers but also their families and friends were excited as well.
This is certainly proof that we should continue running this contest in future harvests!
Discover other stories from Colombia ...
Finca Lote 3 is located in Santa Maria, Huila, Colombia, and is run by Miller Sarmiento. His farm sits at an elevation of approximately 1,952 m.a.s.l. and consists of 8 hectares of land Of those 8 hectares, 4 are planted in coffee, with about 14,000 trees. Within these trees, Miller grows a mix of Red Caturra, Orange Caturra, Typica, and Castillo; this lot is a mix of Red and Orange Caturra
Finca Las Cumbres is located in Limay, Estelí, Nicaragua, and is run by Walter Jose Picada Perez. The farm sits at an elevation of 1,200 m.a.sl on average and consists of approximately 350 manzanas in total, where he grows mostly Caturra, and in less quantity Catimore and Yellow Bourbon.