Steve and Jake in Colombia

Welcome to Steve and Jake's Colombia Sourcing Trip!
Both Steve and Jake are back in the UK after an amazing trip at origin. Please see below for their day-by-day summaries. 
Day 1 🇨🇴✅
What an amazing day! We are both absolutely shattered after travelling to Bogotá, then flying to Medellín, two farm visits and a 4.5 hour drive to Bolívar. We wouldn’t have it any other way though.
We drove to El Peñol, where we were introduced to Sonia, a local buyer who purchases green coffee from a handful of farms in the area. Approximately, she sells three containers of green coffee to Racafé. She explained in detail the process of sorting and it was especially interesting hearing about “Pucha” (wet coffee) which is sold via size not weight.
She went on to show us two farms in El Peñol, a town in the Antioquia region. Firstly, we visited Jesus Farm which was situated on a tough mountain side. As well as coffee, they grew bananas, avocados (biggest we’ve ever seen!) and livestock. The views were spectacular across El Peñol and the surrounding area.
Before moving on to our next farm we stopped for lunch at a stunning viewpoint above Guatapé Lake. Alongside the emerald coloured lake, we could see Peñón de Guatapé an iconic rock formation. To eat, we had belly pork and beans or in Spanish “Bandeja con chicharron” which was delicious.
Soon after, we visited Julio Garcia who was 88 years old and with the help of his daughter Estella ran a coffee farm. The farm looked across the valley and Guatapé Lake which made for a beautiful sight. Julio had been born at the house within the farms grounds and pointed it out to us on our tour of the fields. As well as coffee, they also produced red beans.
After visiting both fantastic farms we had a 4 hour drive to our hotel in Bolívar where we could take in what we had seen throughout the day. It was a brilliant time to reflect and catch up with our notes. We also got to see Medellín from a height, then experience what it’s like by driving through the centre and out the other side. It was a trendy and busy city with lots of energy and vibrancy throughout.
Our day came to an end when we arrived at our hotel in rural Bolívar after a quick dinner on route. Time to get some sleep now as both of us are shattered! We shall update you with another summary of our origin trip tomorrow. Thanks 😊 🇨🇴☕️
Day 2 🇨🇴✅
Our morning consisted of visiting a couple of farms in the Bolívar area. First on the list was Yarumal, a family run farm owned by Pedro Jose Restrepo Perez. The farm was set amongst the mountains and ranged between 1400m and 1900m above sea level. Pedro’s son Jose Restrepo Perez showed us round the farm and explained how their processes work. Rather than the workers carrying their crop down the mountain, they cleverly used a long pipe which went from top to bottom of the mountain so they could work efficiently as possible. Jose mentioned an issue they are having in the coffee industry at the moment is the amount of rainfall throughout the year and how devastating it is.
After saying goodbye to Jose and his workers (Mario and Alexander), we drove to San Fernando Coffee Farm. We were greeted by Davide whose Grandad Umberto Gonzalez owned the farm. The Gonzalez family have been farming coffee for 46 years and were proud owners of 7 farms stretching across 135 hectares. In order to see the farm, we jumped into an old orange 4x4 Jeep and began climbing up the mountainous terrain. The views at the top were breath taking and something we may never experience again. You could see as far as the eye could see across the never ending mountains and bright green from the vegetation. We hope the photos do it justice.
After a coffee, we were driven to Silvia and Carlos Vargas who provided us with traditional food and drink. Their hospitality made us feel extremely welcome in their beautiful home. Carlos even showed us his roaster after we complimented his coffee. Racafé presented their sustainability programme for the future and introduced us to their CRECER standard which was both informative and intriguing.
Before heading back to Medellín, we stopped at the Racafé depot in Bolivar and watched one of the employees perform a quality check on a batch.
We departed Bolivar on a 3hr journey to Medellín which flew by with the mesmerising mountains and winding rivers to gaze at. Another fantastic day meeting so many lovely people across this beautiful country. Tune in tomorrow for another update where we will be heading south to Panadas.
Day 3 🇨🇴✅  
We started our day with Racafé at their depot in Medellin. The tour of the dry mill facility was interesting and we were introduced to some incredibly smart technology used in the sorting process.Post pandemic style cupping session where we each had our own disposable cup.
Flight from Medellin to Neiva on a twin propellor plane. For both of us it was our first time flying in a smaller plane so naturally we had a few nerves. The biggest difference we found was being able to feel every bit of movement and turbulence in the air twice as much. It felt like being on a rollercoaster at some points, it’s safe to say we loved it!
We had a big drive ahead of us when we landed in Neiva, as we headed towards the town of Planadas where we would be staying for 2 nights. We’ve become accustomed to beautiful views and scenery throughout our time here but we will never grow tired of the gorgeous mountains and rivers. The drive was far from a comfortable journey as we carefully navigated our way around the potholes and broken mountain road surface.
We kept pushing onwards slowly but surely, eventually arriving at Planadas where we were met by Camille, head of ASOPEP coop. They had set up a table and a variety of meats were hanging over a bbq slowly cooking and being prepared for us. We shared a coffee and great food prepared by local residents. Camille introduced us to Santiago, a 17 year old local who owns his own coffee shop and is a skilled barista. We watched him prepare a v60 using locally grown and roasted coffee. The taste was delicious and had a distinct earthy aroma which everyone enjoyed.
After a long day travelling we headed back to Hotel Coffee in Planadas for a good nights sleep. Tomorrow, we explore Gaitania so make sure to check back in with us!
Day 4 🇨🇴✅  
Our first stop of the day was Gaitania, a lively town set amongst the mountains. It was hard to believe that such a vibrant and colourful town could thrive when the main road in and out was so rugged and harsh. We visited Acedga, a cooperative with 70 members. They take pride in being 75% organic and often employ the wives and daughters of the farmers to work in the buying station and office. We were introduced to Madari Sanchez who was in charge of the cupping and had received her training in Bogota with Racafé.
We visited two of their farms with the first one being owned by a man called Afranio. It was a beautiful farm where we were offered hot chocolate and a bread similar to brioche.
The second farm, called Esperanza and managed by Luis and Virginia Suarez, involved a bumpy 4x4 drive down to the river where we walked the remainder on foot. We crossed a rather frail looking wooden bridge which was exciting but also pretty scary! It made us both realise the risk and dangers the farmers take to bring their crop to the town. Apparently, they use mules to cross the fast flowing river. When we reached the summit, it began to pour down so we enjoyed a cup of coffee and waited for the sun to return. Even a WIFI password was handed around which we were surprised by. In fact, the local people are fairly well connected due to the expansion of data coverage throughout Colombia.
Lastly, we visited a cooperative called ASOPEP in Panadas managed by Camilo Enciso Suarez who work approximately 300 farms. We were given a detailed presentation into their fertiliser research and how they are training farms to become more self-proficient. We were then treated to an evening of entertainment by the Fundación son de Atá which is a social programme set up by ASOPEP to provide local children with opportunities. Specifically, teaching children how to play instruments and forming an orchestra to perform at local events. They gather every afternoon after school and it allows them to form valuable friendships and ties to the local community. There is also a barista academy where they can perfect their coffee making skills.
Tomorrow, back to Neiva!
Day 5 🇨🇴✅ 
A quieter day today which began with a cupping session at ASOPEP with washed and unwashed coffees. This was a special moment for us to cup local coffee at origin. Each of us graded the coffees and provided feedback to the growers which was very important to them. It was interesting to see everyone’s thoughts and to compare tasting notes amongst each other. This was a first for Jacob who found it a very valuable experience in his coffee journey.
We then travelled 6 hours back to Niava which was a much more relaxing journey that previous. We passed through the mountains taking in the beautiful scenery.
We then stayed in central Niava, a busy city which seemed to have more motorbikes than cars. We dropped our bags and headed out for dinner at “Beer Station” where we tried local beer on draught and tucked into some empanadas. It was nice to have an early night and recharge our batteries ready for another day of travel tomorrow. We will be driving to Popayán, our last stop of the journey.
Day 6 🇨🇴✅ 
We arrived in the bustling market town of Inza which could best be described as organised chaos! There was hundreds of local people attending the coffee and food stalls. We went to a buying station and met Jesus one of the buyers whose been involved in trading coffee for 20 years.
A delivery arrived and we watched the young workers lift the heavy sacks onto the weighing scale. Each sack weighs 70kg and the workers were offloading them with ease and using their head as a way to balance the sack.
The first farm we visited was owned by Freddie Pacue. There was a steep valley and treacherous single track road to gain access. Only bought farm 5 years ago which only had cattle on. Now has a thriving coffee farm. He informed us if fertiliser prices keep rising then he will have to fertilise less times per year.
Second farm was 1650m masl and again owned by Freddie and his wife. Had vegetable broth which contained local root vegetable yuca, potato and plantain. Beautiful views into the valley. Would make an amazing air bnb!
We then drove 2.5 hours to Popayan over the mountains and reached a height of 3300m above sea level. The air was noticeably cooler and for the first time we could of done with a jumper ! ❄️😂
Upon checking in at our lovely hotel which is an old monastery, we said good bye to Racafé who has hosted the trip wonderfully. Our new hosts for the next couple of nights are CENCOIC, a cooperative based in Cauca. We enjoyed a tasty dinner with Elisabeth and Hernan in the beautiful town of Popayan.
Tomorrow we will visit 3 farms in the Cauca region which we are super excited about 👍
Day 7 🇨🇴✅ 
Today we visited a variety of CENCOIC (Central Coorperative Indignena Del Cauca) coorperative farms.
We began at Caldono farm owned by Jose Manuel. His daughter and grandson gave us tour of 1.5 hectare farm. 97% of CENCOIC is fairtrade, including Caldono. The actual name of the reserve is san Lorenza de la caldono. Really proud to be with part of CENCOIC. Family do all maintenance and cleaning of farm. Used to be organic but weren’t getting the yield. They are back to fertiliser only.
We saw more coka plant and learned it is very important to the indigenous people as they believe it has many healing properties and use it for meditation.
Next was the La Esperanza Asprole buying station. The territory was called Sa’th Tama Kiwe. Meaning the territory of the great mayor. 80 people work here. CENCOIC helped Asprole buy the land and are a partnership. They like to employ the younger farmers as they’re the next generation. We were kindly gifted handmade Mochilla’s (bags) which was a heartwarming experience. Muchas Gracias!
1st Laguna farm - Los Arajanes. Part of Laguna farms (12 in total) 1800masl. Had 3000 coffee trees within 0.7 hectares. All Castillo variety. Husband and wife own separate farms and each farm within Laguna helps each other out. There has been too much rain this year so they expect a harvest of 300kg instead of average 500kg parchment.
2nd Laguna farm - Los Tres Pinos meaning pine tree. Joined CENCOIC in 2014. 3rd generation farm which is certified organic. 0.5 hectares with 2700 trees. Owned by Victoria Ines Cardonia Yotumbo, Carlos and their two daughters. Beautiful farm grown beneath lots of native tree canopy.
Scrumptious dinner in the hotel followed by a well earned early night. Tomorrow is our final day in Colombia!
Day 8 🇨🇴✅
We’re both absolutely gutted it is the last day of our origin trip to Colombia. We visited our friends CENCOIC at their warehouse and offices. We were greeted by Juan Carlos, Elisabeth, Hernan, Alexander, Lucia, Teresa, Rosa, Natalia, John and Henry. Firstly, we had a tour of their warehouse and managed to see a delivery being unloaded which was intriguing. Henry was using a sample spear to collect a handful of beans from each bag to test for consistency. The sack was then carried off the conveyor belt onto a large stack of coffee sacks.
Henry and his colleague Pablo are lab experts and analyse the incoming coffee in order to provide feedback to the farms. This insures the farms keep evolving and improving to produce the best quality coffee possible.
CENCOIC put on 14 different coffees for us to cup and again it was fascinating to calibrate scores and tasting notes with other professionals and farmers. It was an incredibly valuable exercise for both parties.
We were then treated to Tamales, which is stuffed banana leaves. It was delicious and packed full of flavour. We took this opportunity to say how important our relationship with CENCOIC is and how we hope to keep strengthening the friendship between us. We laughed and smiled together as we took group photos before sadly having to say goodbye to everyone. It made us reflect on how great this trip has been and how amazing the people we’ve met have been. Until next time CENCOIC! 👍
After a short drive, we arrived at Popayán airport which was probably the smallest airport we’ve ever seen. The security, gate and check in were all together which was fascinating to see. 1.5hrs later, we landed in Bogota where we getting our flight home. After a few last minute gift purchases, we boarded the 10.5hr flight back to the UK.
I’m glad to say Steve and I have arrived home safe, tired but full of memories that will last a lifetime. Keep an eye out for Steve’s blog and photos from the trip which will be pushed out shortly.
Hopefully, the daily insights have given you an indication of what our journey has been like.