Colombia El Sapo
Colombia El Sapo
Farm: Finca El Sapo
Producer: Doña Maria Berlinda Nunes
Region: Tarqui, Huila
Tasting notes: Passion Fruit | Orange Zest | Red Apple
About this coffee—
We’re so proud to release this coffee of Doña Maria’s of Tarqui, Huila. We met her and her family who share their farm El Sapo (The Toad), deep inside the Serra de las Minas Cordillera. From a distance, their farm occupies the side of a whole small mountain, located at the back of a horseshoe shaped indent in the mountain ranges.
Her sons and sons-in-law, Mario, Fander, and Naul, all grow here as well and from the moment we tasted samples of these coffees in Canada, through to when we tried them in Tarqui, they blew us away. Sweet and full-bodied, their fruit and floral characteristics were more reminiscent of Ethiopia or Kenya coffees than those of Colombia.
To make things even more exciting, despite growing coffee for six years, the family had never sold for over “precio corriente” or market price until this year. In fact, we had the pleasure of being able to try some of their first samples ever brought into Tarqui, through our partners on the ground there who aim to pay all producers a minimum of 20% above market right off the bat.
Being totally thrilled with these coffees anyway, it made us even more excited to know that we were going to be not only their first buyers at “precio diferenciado” (premium price) but also their first visitors to their farm, locally referred to as “La Profunda” or “The Deep.” We laughed cautiously when we first heard this, and soon found out what it meant. After a bumpy car ride to the town of Ricabrisas where Doña Maria and her family live, we then bumped through the mountains another hour before hitting a fence. It was from here we would continue on foot as their farm doesn’t have a road passable by car. After ducking through hanging trees and jumping over mountain springs, we emerged onto the side of the mountain to stop for lunch.
As Mario repeated often, “Soy principiante, no tengo nada” — I’m a beginner, I don’t have anything — we quickly saw how true that was. Unlike many Colombian producers who have a de-pulper and drying beds on their farms, Doña Maria and her family rely on a relative’s de-pulper an hour away.
Coffee cherries are harvested and then carried on bestia for an hour where it is then de-pulped. After that, they load the de-pulped coffee into a truck, as the farm is accessible by road, and take the coffee down to Ricabrisas where they fermented it in tula or plastic bags, due to not having fermentation tanks. After 36-48 hours, the coffee is transported to a small house the family owns and has converted in a drying area — here the coffee is left to dry for 20 days.
As we walked back from the farm, we discussed the incredible hard work this family put in and the amazing results they were having despite such limited resources. On a mountain where they’d previously grown beans, thinking it was too cold to grow coffee, the El Sapo producers had created perhaps some of the best coffee we’d tried all year, and definitely one of the best Colombian coffees we’ve ever had the pleasure to buy and serve. Perhaps the best pleasure of all of this process, however, was seeing Doña Maria taste her own coffee for the first time!
In honour of her hard work, we paid 1.5 milon pesos per carga (125kg of parchement coffee). The going commerical rate at the time — what Doña Maria typically received — was 700,000 pesos. To our knowledge, we are the only buyers of this coffee in Canada, and perhaps North America. We eagerly await our return next year and our growing partnership with the El Sapo family. In the meantime, get in on this as there’s not much there!