October's Roaster's Choice Coffee Box subscribers will be enjoying Trujillo, a coffee from Colombia.
Fernando has been farming coffee since he was 13 but in the last few years, by working collaboratively with the Coocentral Cooperative, has become renowned as an exemplar of modern washed process Colombian coffee. At Fernando’s farm, Finca Los Altares, coffees are wet fermented for between 20-25 hours before being moved to parabolic controlled dryers. We find this coffee presents classic Colombian notes where complex fruit notes are complimented by a nutty, chocolate and biscuit type body.
Through Coocentral 2.8 million USD has been spent on social programmes since 2005. The investments span many things including funding homes, healthcare, university education, and life insurance as well as infrastructure for farms and fertilizer schemes that encourage sustainable practices. The growers receive 100% of the premiums paid above the daily purchasing prices.
Colombia is the third largest overall producer of coffee in the world and the largest producer of Arabica coffee. Coffee is the second largest export (after coal) and the largest employer in the agricultural sector which contributes 16% of all agricultural GDP. Coffee not only supports the livelihoods of many Colombians but is also an intrinsic pillar of the country’s national identity. Although Colombia is a country synonymous with coffee various factors currently threaten the long-term sustainability of one of the world’s favourite origins.
Low and fluctuating coffee prices mean that coffee is fraught with risk for coffee farmers and often leads to selling at a loss. Coffee prices (whether specialty or not) are anchored to the price of coffee on the US Stock Exchange. This means that the forces of supply and demand dictate the price of coffee and when, for example, a bumper harvest from producing giant Brazil forces prices down then farmers globally have to accept the new price. Not knowing the price you’ll sell your product for makes planning almost impossible and the higher than average (relative to other producing countries) costs of production mean that Colombian farmers suffer.
Threats to the coffee industry in Colombia
Coffee is also becoming harder and harder to grow. It’s a plant that needs very specific conditions to thrive and is vulnerable to extreme weather and/or disease. As recently as 2009 ‘Coffee Leaf Rust’ destroyed much of the annual harvest for Colombia leaving farmers to strike for support from the government. Climate change however poses the largest long-term threat with some estimates predicting that by 2050 the amount of land globally that can sustain coffee farming will have reduced by 50%. Coffee (especially Arabica) is super sensitive to weather changes and needs the right combination of warm days and cold nights to produce quality. As lower altitude land becomes less conducive for growing coffee farmers are moving higher but the amount of available land is shrinking.