Have you ever wondered how success reaches a small farmer?
Some of the main difficulties for smallholder coffee farmers are their limited farm sizes and lack of facilities. Colombian farmers usually have 1 – 2 hectares to produce coffee and so, they lack the capacity for experimentation and innovation. As a result, farmers often find themselves unable to produce a large enough quantity to produce a single farm lot suitable for export on their own. However, their coffee may be of a high quality with a complex profile, representing farmer’s hard work and dedication. Las Perlitas is a clear example of how we can help smallholder farmers receive a fair payment for their quality. Read more or watch our video below.
Las Perlitas represents various small lots from farms across all of our main regions: Huila, Antioquia and Nariño. These farms typically range in elevation from 1,600 to 2.100 m.a.s.l. in which the focus is growing quality varieties. Behind the coffee contributing to the Las Perlitas lot, are small farmers committed to producing high quality coffee through experimentation and constant improvement.
As specialty coffee importers, The Coffee Quest seeks to assist small farmers in overcoming the challenges of exporting their exceptional beans. Thanks to the local presence of The Coffee Quest Colombia, we guarantee consistent relationships with local farmers. We aim to be a connecting force, between high-end roasters and exceptional farmers.
To achieve that, our regional stations in Colombia buy all coffee of 83 points and up, regardless of volume. We create a special group lots based on cup profile. Among all the coffees we bought this harvest, Las Perlitas represents some of the very best of the season. To create a lot like this we select small micro lots that represent not more than 10% of our total, we mix them to create larger Las Perlitas lots. Quality-wise they can be compared to a Micro lot.
Las Perlitas Huila usually include Caturra and sometimes Geisha, but with the amount of Pink Bourbon being planted in Huila these days, we created a 100% Pink Bourbon Las Perlitas, as a special distinct lot. This season, we sourced coffee from Inzá, Cauca, as well.
All coffee bought at our regional stations must meet a minimum of 83 points has to comply with certain physical quality standards. Las Perlitas is a combination of coffees with similar profiles of 86 points and up, of similar or better quality than any micro lot.
Our selection procedure is very strict, and we use the same standard with each micro-lot or constructed lot. Every small lot is individually cupped various times before being included within the main lot. In addition to cup quality, each coffee must meet strict physical requirements, based on our guidelines for moisture content and water activity.
The first time a lot is cupped is when the producer brings a sample to our buying station. Once approved, the producer will then bring the lot down to the warehouse where it will be cupped again, taking a sample from each sack to ensure consistency. After final approval, the parchment coffee is packed in Grainpro bags and remains untouched until the entire lot is milled in Medellín.
You might already know that Colombia has a tropical climate with high humidity which makes it extremely difficult to produce Naturals. The only way to get the same fruity flavours that resemble those of Naturals is to play with extended or other creative fermentations before washing.
The variations of fruity flavours of our specialty lots are created by manipulating different variables before, during and after the fermentation process, such as cleanliness, temperature, batch size, fermentation time and choices between dry or wet fermentations and more and more the addition of microorganisms. The time our coffee spends in the tanks and on the drying tables is usually much longer than for commercial coffee, but differs per farmer as climatic influences and logistical issues play a role. On average, Las Perlitas coffees fermentat in from 24 to 48h and sometimes up to 72 an more! Drying time is around 7-14 days.
All lots represent the hard work of dedicated producers who received some of the highest prices in town. All prices at which we buy the coffee at our stations are transparent and are communicated in advance before farmers hand in the coffee. Once a farmer brings their coffee to our station, quality will be assessed. The higher the quality, the higher the price.
There is no set-in-stone minimum quantity for the lots we buy, good quality is the main factor. By offering good prices, on top of our feedback provided on each sample cupped, we can confidently ask producers to make adjustments in their processing, while reducing their concern over price volatility. Fixed minimum prices are our incentives for hard-working farmers. We want to encourage small farmers to experiment more with farming techniques and produce coffee of a higher quality.
Our stations are strategically located in the beautiful regions of Huila, Nariño and Antioquia. These access points are essential both for us to build a large network of smallholder farmers and for them to get feedback on their coffee and learn about new practices.
The Coffee Quest Colombia provides tailored advice not only on cup quality improvements but also on environmental issues, such as turning coffee pulp into compost or disposing of polluting waste waters.