Caffeina - Colombia
Coming in a subscription soon!
Luz Deifa Carabali's El Tachuelo farm in the Northern Cauca region of Colombia
Notes of Brown Sugar, Vanilla and Peach
SCA Score = 85
Roasted by Dear Green and Girls Who Grind Coffee (it will be a lucky dip which one you get)
The story of Luz coffee is one of friendship, hope and sheer determination. What started as a conversation between two friends ended in a five month project to purchase, hull, export, roast and sell three sacks of coffee grown, picked and processed by Luz. The first coffee Luz ever sold to Europe and the start of an education to coffee buyers and drinkers the world over.
Catalina Gutierrez is the Colombian woman behind Cata Exports. An export company based in Bogota, Colombia that works alongside many producers to help connect them with specialty roasteries the world over.
Cat had heard about the women of ASOM, an association of Afro Colombian women based in war-torn North Cauca and knew that she would like to help them find a route for their coffee that would increase the price paid to the women growers.
In a chance late night Zoom call one evening during the Covid lockdown, Cat explained she had managed to source some samples from the Association and that she would love to help find a buyer and help ASOM establish some relationships with roasters so the women could be paid a fair price for their coffee (instead of C-price), which is not enough to sustain the families of the association. Cat explained a little about the history of the area and why it was so important to help support these women.
I set about wondering who may be interested in taking a chance and investing in a small amount of the coffee, in order to start moving the coffee out of North Cauca and directly into the UK.
It was a hard sell. This coffee isn't known by anyone, I am not a coffee importer or roaster and we knew we needed to find the right person to sensitively tell the story.
Fast forward a month, and we thought we may have found someone, but sadly that didn't work out, so, we decided to reach out to The Kore Directive. A UK based women led organisation that supports womxn in coffee. We knew we needed help marketing the coffee and reaching the audience it deserved. At the same time, I was teaching the Simonelli Youth Academy UK and knew this project would prove to be a hugely educational experience for the students if they wanted to get involved. We discussed it at length and everyone jumped in with two feet, so suddenly we were given support by a big number of coffee lovers who all wanted to help tell Luz' story.
So, the team was born...
Cat purchased three sacks of parchment coffee from Luz and I purchased the coffee from Cata. We paid Luz direct $5.90 per kg (usually, she is paid around $3 per kg when her coffee is sold to the federation). At this point we knew it was washed Castillo and we knew the original sample had been sweet and peachy, but we had no idea of the actual quality of the coffee. Essentially we took a great big leap, paying a much higher farm gate price direct to Luz (before the coffee had even left the farm) and deciding we would work with it regardless, because we know that every coffee grown with love and care has a home somewhere.
It was not easy for Cat to liaise with Luz. Her farm is very remote and she does not have easy access to a phone. Calls had to be arranged in advance and could be cancelled at the last minute if Luz could not get to an area with phone signal, but, they persevered.
Clemencia, the ASOM manager [read Clemencia's story here] helped make the relevant arrangements and informed Cat that moving the coffee down the mountain required permission from the militia.
Transport was arranged, and Luz accompanied her pergamino (parchment) coffee down the mountain to be collected.Three times a car was arranged and three times it was cancelled - each time the driver citing they could not collect anything from the area because they feared it was Coca (the plant that is refined into cocaine) instead of coffee.
Heartbroken at the news, and devastated at the prospect of letting Luz down, Cat set out on a 20hr round trip to collect the coffee herself (what a legend!)
At the same time, in the UK, we were having various meetings online to decide how we would sell the coffee.
We knew we wanted to run the project as an educational piece. Essentially, showcasing the work of Luz, Clemencia and ASOM and telling the coffee world all about them.
I also knew from the beginning that this was not being done for any personal profit, so any additional funds raised (above and beyond the base costs) would go straight back to Luz and ASOM.
Once back in Bogota, Cat took the coffee to the hulling centre, where it was hulled (parchment removed) sorted and graded. The coffee was incredible clean (free of defects) and cupped well, especially considering the lack of equipment, support and information Luz has to work with, compared to many other farmers.
The coffee was scored at 85 points with notes of panela (cane sugar) sweetness and lovely balanced stone fruit acidity. We were elated at the outcome and knew that Luz' absolute dedication to her harvest and processing were clear in the final cup. Essentially, this would make our end job easier and would hopefully mean repeat business for Luz, Clemencia and the other Afro-Colombian female producers in ASOM.
The coffee was prepared for shipping. Stored in Grain Pro, then transported from Cartagena, Colombia to Grays, England. It was a privilege to have our three humble sacks transported alongside coffee bound for multiple specialty roasters in Europe and we were given some space on a pallet to help us keep costs down.
Back in the UK, the team were busy making decisions on who and how we would have the coffee roasted. We wanted everyone involved to have their say and so we opted to all put forward three roasters that we would like to approach to ask if they would help us.
Given the strong women led link, we decided to go for roasteries that were female owned or had female roasters who could help on the project.
So, after checking everyones nominations, we were excited to approach Assembly, Girls Who Grind Coffee and Dear Green, all who immediately said they would give their time and support to help get Luz coffee out there!
We also received some samples, which allowed us to spend the afternoon with Nick Mabey of Assembly Coffee, cupping and profiling.
Samples were also sent to Casey of Girls Who Grind Coffee and Lisa of Dear Green in advance of the coffees arrival.
Once landed at Grays, England, the coffee was sent to the three roasteries and you can now purchase here, with all profits going straight back to Luz and ASOM.
We now hope that the story of Luz and ASOM can continue. The plan has always been to help them introduce themselves to the coffee world, and now we want the story to continue with them selling their coffee for a good price into Europe.