Our Visit To Colombia: Meeting Coffee Farmers And Discovering New Coffee Beans

During September and October 2022, we travelled through Colombia, boarding multiple planes, jumping in the back of countless jeeps, and getting used to 3am wake up calls! We had a lot to pack into just a few weeks, and wanted to be able to visit as many coffee growers and coffee farms as possible. 

The Regions We Visited

Throughout our time in our home country, we visited: 

  • Bogota

  • Finca Las Flores, Pitalito, Huila

  • Finca El Diviso, Huila

  • Finca Puerto Alegre, Quindio

  • Finca Hoyo Frio, Santander

  • Hacienda Casa Blanca, Santander

  • Finca El Calapo, Santander

  • Popayan, Cauca (Cosecha de Caficultoras)

  • Finca El Vergel, Tolima

The Purpose of Our Trip

As busy as we are in the UK, we always try to find the time to go back to Colombia at least twice a year. We do this not only to visit the farmers who produce the coffee we sell, but to reconnect with our heritage and with Colombian culture. The country is a vibrant and diverse place, with each town and region offering something different to the next. 

While we aimed to catch up with producers we already work with this time around we also wanted to start building some new relationships with coffee growers whose work we admire. All in all, this took us all around the country, and led us to meet some incredible people, doing empowering and inspiring things in the Colombian coffee industry.

Finca Las Flores, Pitalito

Finca Las Flore Pitalito Huila Colombia

Our primary reason for visiting Huila was to go to Finca Las Flores, the farm that produces our Finca Las Flores coffee beans, one of our most exotic offerings. We met the farmers back in April during our last Colombia trip and wanted to check in on how they were faring. 

As well as attending a cupping session with the team at Finca Las Flores — sampling their new offerings and discussing profiles with the laboratory team — 5 other farms also joined us during this activity giving us a chance to taste a wider range of coffees from the region. 

Finca Las Flores Coffee Tasting Session

Finca Las Flores Landscape Pitalito Huila Colombia

Together, these 6 farm-owners work to produce standardised processes and share their knowledge with one another in classic Colombian style. Competition between farms is low and individuals are willing to support others where they can.  

This collection of producers implement strict quality control regimens, undertake research and experimentation, and look to develop innovative new fermentation methods. It was a privilege to be able to witness this firsthand and taste delicious coffees from each of their respective farms. 

Find Out More About Our Finca Las Flores Coffee Beans

Finca El Diviso, Huila

Finca El Diviso Huila Colombia

Whilst in Huila, we also stopped by Finca El Diviso, a family-run farm known for producing very high quality specialty Arabica coffee beans. We had an incredible and eye-opening experience at El Diviso, learning about the innovative infrastructure that has been put into place to create optimal coffee-growing and drying conditions. 

The farm itself is located in a valley, with the family and employees living at the top of the hills. To make operations more manageable, they’ve installed cable cars that run from the top of the hill to the bottom of the valley, allowing coffee (and even people!) to be transported in these cars — just one example of the creativity and talent of Colombian people. 

Finca El Diviso Cable Cars

Finca El Diviso Farm Sign Huila Colombia

Even more surprising and interesting to us was how the coffee beans are dried at El Diviso. The roof of their house has been amended so that it can extend in and out, so that beans can be laid on its flat surface and pushed out of the shade and into the sun when it comes out. Likewise, when it begins to rain, which is common in Huila, the roof can quickly be reeled back in to protect the beans from spoiling. Until then, we’d never seen anything like this before, and thought it truly genius!

Finca Puerto Alegre, Quindio 

Finca Puerto Alegre Quindio Colombia

The next farm we visited was Finca Puerto Alegre, located in the Department of Quindio. The farm is run by a large family, with each member having a specially allocated role in the coffee production process.  For example, during the coffee picking process here, only the women in the family are afforded the task of hand-selecting the best beans manually (one of the most crucial tasks necessary to ensure the final quality of the batch is high and without defect).

The family own two farms in Quindio: Finca Puerto Alegre and Finca El Porvenir. We were blown away with the quality of the beans we tried here, and are excited to once again be stocking something very special from Finca El Porvenir soon!

In Puerto Alegre, we participated in a coffee tasting, and were taken to a nearby town called Pijao, which was the perfect example of a quintessential Colombian community. The owner of the farm even informed us as we were exploring Pijao that his father co-founded the town!

Finca Puerto Alegre Pijao Quindio Colombia

Finca Hoyo Frio, Santander

Finca Hoyo Frio Santander Colombia

Now onto the farm responsible for growing the two new beans recently added to our collection: Finca Hoyo Frio in Posada Almendre Campestre, Santander. The beans we have sourced from this farm, and which have already become bestsellers among drinkers who appreciate a classic Colombian coffee profile, are Hoyo Frio and Maria Torres — the second coffee affectionately named after the farm-owner, Felix’s, grandmother), keep an eye out for them on our website or in our shops!

Finca Hoyo Frio Santander Colombia Coffee Picking

We spent a couple of days exploring these farms, and were lucky enough to get to stay overnight at an eco-habitation hotel also run by Felix and his family. The vistas were breathtaking, and during our downtime at the hotel we got to chat with Felix about some of the ambitions he has for Finca Hoyo Frio. 

Considering the limited financial resources available to them, it was obvious the family are passionate about improving the quality of their coffee with focused attention paid to each stage of production, from coffee growing to drying processes. We were seriously impressed by this. 

What was most touching was listening to Felix explain his dreams for his coffee. He described to us his vision of seeing his beans being sold internationally for a good price, and getting the well-deserved recognition for his family’s hard work. We’re beyond privileged to be able to support Felix and help him to achieve his dreams. 

Foro Café 2022

Foro Cafe 2022 Expo Santander Colombia

Another component to visiting Colombia on these trips is to connect with the wider industry of exporters, traders, cooperatives and industry experts. As a London-based coffee roastery, there’s a lot we can share and learn with others invested in the sector — sharing similar goals and challenges. 

A great opportunity to do just this was at Foro Café 2022, a well-known coffee forum. We were invited to speak at this event by the Chamber of Commerce in Santander at took the opportunity to outline some of our most important takeaways from operating over the last few years, both in terms of sourcing and roaster-producer relationships, but also on dealing with the various difficulties that come with importing and selling coffee in the UK, which is becoming an increasingly expensive activity due to rising costs. 

 During our talk, we discussed our visions for the brand and future, and hosted a Q&A session where lots of farmers and business owners were able to ask us anything they wanted about the Colombian and UK coffee industries. 

The day was amazing with about 300 people present, which meant we got to meet a huge number of new farmers from all over the country in a single day. One of the most exciting parts of the forum was a coffee tasting competition that took place, in which many different producers submitted their beans. Hacienda Casa Blanca operated by Liliana Caballero Rojas, a bean we proudly stock at Hermanos, won first place for the Best Specialty Coffee in the Region of Santander! 

Shop Our Award-Winning Coffees Here

Hacienda Casa Blanca, Santander

Hacienda Casa Blanca Santander Colombia

After Liliana won her award at Foro Cafe, we were invited over again to visit her farm, Hacienda Casa Blanca. We had visited her previously in April and loved seeing the lush forest and biodiversity that surrounded her land. The care and attention that she gave her coffee became more and more obvious as she showed us around the farm and explained to us her production processes.

However, our visit to Liliana was bittersweet. She explained to us the knock-on effect that climate change is having on her coffee growing. The abrupt change in weather patterns as a result of climate change has created  an inability to predict wet and dry seasons as easily. 

As other producers have told us over the last few years, the uncertainty of climate cycles has made it much harder to produce consistently high-quality coffee, and has forced Liliana to adopt new and innovative methods of coffee growing, which are both resource and labour intensive.

Finca El Calapo, Santander

Finca El Calapo Santander Colombia

One of the most memorable parts of our trip was visiting Santiago Salazar, who owns Finca El Calapo, in Santander. He is the producer of our organic coffee, Hacienda El Calapo. Santiago’s passion for his craft and for environmental consciousness was nothing short of inspiring, and the surroundings we found ourselves in were beautiful. 

The Role of Environmentalism in Coffee Growing

Environmentalism and coffee growing often go hand in hand in Colombia, because preservation of nature is essential to maintaining harmonious and quality growing and processing conditions. The reason that Santiago Salazar is so passionate about environmentalism is that the forest his farm is surrounded by provides an abundance of natural shade for him to grow his coffee plants. Thanks to his focus on environmental wellbeing, his approach to coffee growing and all of his practices on the farm are also carbon neutral.

The role of environmentalism in coffee growing

Finca El Calapo Santander Colombia coffee growing

Besides coffee growing, his life is devoted to forest regeneration. He showed us around Finca El Calapo and the areas where he is creating new forests. He’s been taking on this project of rebirth for the past seven years, and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. It was astonishing to see so many coffee trees growing in the middle of a lush and deep green forest! 

To put this into perspective, one of the biggest issues coffee farms face is a lack of shade, and so will use banana plants or manmade structures to provide the much-needed shelter from the sun that coffee plants need to grow. Rather than doing this, Santiago takes the longer but more environmentally conscious choice to grow new plants that can offer this shade.

The Women’s Association of Coffee Growers (Cosecha de Caficultoras), Popayan, Cauca

Women’s Association of Coffee Growers Popayan Cauca Colombia

Our time in Santander came to an end, and we travelled south to Popayan, Cauca. We were here because we had been invited to meet The Women’s Association of Coffee Growers. The group is made up of about 30 women of all different ages and from all different backgrounds. We felt honoured to have been welcomed to observe how they work and how they are changing the lives of women in the region.

Gender Equality in the Colombian Coffee Industry

Gender equality in the Colombian Coffee Industry

The members of the Women’s Association of Coffee Growers are enterprising and entrepreneurial women, who are striving towards incredible goals despite the adversity they face in terms of  gender inequality and having limited resources and experience.

Like many other realms of professional life, men tend to dominate the decision-making level of the coffee industry in Colombia, despite women making up a large percentage of the manual labour. That is one of the reasons why the Women’s Association is revolutionising how we view Colombian coffee. They show integrity and bravery through their determination to produce specialty Arabica beans, and persevere despite working extremely close to a post-conflict zone in Cauca.

Meeting these women and learning more about their mission made us certain that gender equality is vital for the flourishment and future of the Colombian coffee industry. It is an area that we at Hermanos will be focusing on and helping with providing practical (financial and advisory) support to improve the quality of their specialty coffee. 

Shop Our Popayan Decaf Coffee Beans

Finca El Vergel, Tolima 

Finca El Vergel Tolima Colombia

From Cauca, we moved to the Department of Tolima to visit Finca El Vergel. We have been to the El Vergel farm before, and have an excellent friendship with Martha, Elias, and Shady Bayter, the mother and sons trio who run the farm. 

Earlier on in the year, Elias and Shady flew over to London to take a tour of our various London shops and see their beans stocked up on the shelves. We hosted a coffee tasting session which saw the brothers and all of our baristas coming together to sample different beans from their farm. 

Finca El Vergel Tolima Colombia coffee tasting

We have previously sold their El Vergel beans in our shops, and now stock El Fresno from them, which is one of our bestselling coffees. The focus of this meeting was to show us the new facility that Elias and Shady are building to facilitate more machinery and introduce a more environmentally friendly way of using water in their processes. They’ll be using new infrastructure to clean used water before putting it back out into the forest.

The brothers also treated us to a coffee tasting, from which a couple of the coffees we tried tempted us a lot. You might see a few more beans from them in our shops in the near future…

Find Out More About Our Visit From The Producers Of El Vergel

Café De Colombia Expo 2022

Just before we had to fly back to the UK, we stopped off in Bogota at the Café De Colombia Expo 2022, which is one of the biggest coffee fairs in Colombia. Nearly everyone who we had visited over the past few weeks was there, so it was a great opportunity to reconnect, reminisce, and be introduced to new coffee producers. 

The fair was a lot of fun, and we were able to learn about innovative new technologies blooming in the coffee industry, such as virtual reality coffee picking and farm visiting. The VR experience confirmed to us that coffee lovers across the globe are interested in learning more about coffee production and where their beans come from. It gave us a lot of food for thought and inspired us to continue sharing as much as we can about the Colombian coffee industry with you.

Final Thoughts

Hermanos Coffee Roasters Colombia trip final thoughts

The three weeks that we spent in Colombia were a real highlight of 2022 for us. Despite being from Colombia and living there for a large portion of our lives, we were reminded that there are always things to learn from the different people and communities that we visit. 

We came away with a renewed sense of pride in being able to work with so many talented producers, and pass their work on to the people of the UK. 

Discover Our Full Range Of Single Origin Colombian Coffee Beans

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