Sourcing Diary: Colombia

JOURNAL

PART TWO

JOSH TARLO

The drive from Mauricio’s was long and, like all journeys in this part of Colombia, potholes, dirt and mudslide-covered roads were more common than smooth highways. After a long day on the road we arrived at our next stop, Planadas. Checking in late, the sky unleashed a torrential rain forcing us to move our beds away from where the hotel’s roof leaked. The rain crashed hard on the steel roofs that covered the city and we fell asleep to thoughts of the mud slides that covered many of the roads here, and what that meant for our partners around these mountains.

We woke up to the floor covered in water, but after pulling up the window shades the magnificent blue sky gave a sense of relief that we may still be able to see the people we came all this way for. A quick freezing shower and we headed out to start the drive up the jungle covered mountains that surrounded us. The drive was supposed to be a relatively short one with only four hours of dirt road ahead. The roads were busy with motor bikes, sometimes with three people and many bags on board. It was a nervous sight.

Eventually as we climbed we were given our first views of the incredible peaks atop Colombia’s Andes mountain range. The views spanned hundreds of miles and you could see the countless coffee farms dotting the mountain sides. Seeing the ecosystem laid out in front, pristine and vibrant, it magnified the importance of supporting farmers who choose to preserve the world around them and see farming as cohabitation instead of destruction.

The truck slowed as a group of people stood looking at a plateau of thick mud. Our fears were realized when the driver jumped out and took a look. The rain was too heavy and made the mud too deep. The road was impassable.

We quickly began to make other plans. Another producer we worked with lived a few hours away but we hadn’t had a way to contact them. Through a chain of friends and family we got in touch and headed to Villa Karina, the farm of Nora and Jose Amir Garzon. Villa Karina was one of the farms whose coffee makes one of the components of our George St. Blend and so seeing their farm brought everything full circle.

Nora met us with their playful dog Taylor. We sat in their kitchen drinking coffee from their trees and hearing all about how they are building a completely organic farm. Finishing our cups we walked through the coffee, cacao, mango and orange groves. It’s a small farm in the coffee world, but what Nora and Jose are doing with low intervention against their soil is preserving the beauty and life of the Andes. You could see it in the deep colour of the ground, the sound of the surrounding wildlife, and the vibrancy of the coffee itself.

After walking the farm we headed back to the truck. We wanted to make one more stop before having to leave such an incredible part of the world. The coffee from Villa Karina was special, and we are working hard to bring it to the UK and share the amazing work from that small farm atop a mountain.

We left to go meet another producer we know and their farm Villa Los Alpes. The farm sits astride an impossibly steep mountain. We got out of the truck with the rain returning to meet the Reinos family. Ushering us in out of the storm we were greeted with a coffee in the traditional Colombian style, filled with lots of sugar.

Keeping our hands warm around our mugs we learned more about the farm. Los Alpes coffee caught our attention at our cupping in Bogotá and we were keen to learn more about it. While waiting for the rain to clear so we could begin our hike up the mountain, we stood beside the parrots and heard about the history of the farm. Soon the rain stopped and we started our climb.

The ground was wet and slippery so keeping our footing while we gazed at the ripening coffee cherries was a constant battle. The coffee cherries were slowly turning red and stood out against the backdrop of the deep green leaves. As we looked across Los Alpes, a neighbour miles and miles away turned on their stereo to the loud sound of the Colombian polka music from our initial long evening drive.. Standing atop Los Alpes with sound of music playing and a view for miles in front of us, we were still only seeing a small glimpse into the wider world of coffee.

Our trip home was more bumpy roads, waiting rooms, and long flights. Visiting producers and seeing where our coffee comes from always leaves a lasting impression, because each cup expresses the work, skill, and care of people all around the world.. Seeing the work of the people atop those faraway mountains, you appreciate how much knowledge and dedication it takes to make something as ubiquitous as coffee, how even something so common can be so special.

Kiss the Hippo Team