A Visit from the Producers of El Vergel - What We Learnt

Published On: May 11, 2022

Contents

  1. Finca El Vergel And The Forest Green Team

  2. The Importance Of Producer-Roaster Relationships

  3. How It Feels For Producers To See Their Coffee Enjoyed Around The World

  4. Climate Challenges Faced By Coffee Producers

  5. Why Producers Choose Specialty Coffee Over Commodity

  6. The Diversity Of Colombian Coffee - A Welcome Reminder

  7. Future Plans And Goals For El Vergel

  8. Single Origin Specialty Coffee From El Vergel

 

Recently we had the pleasure of hosting the brothers behind our popular El Vergel coffee — grown on one of the oldest coffee farms in Tolima. 

As well as showing them around a few of the Hermanos shops, where they got to see their coffee enjoyed by our customers first-hand, we took the chance to ask them a few questions about what motivates them as second-generation producers and the kind of challenges they face today. 

Below are some of the most important things we learnt from our time together. 

Watch the Full Interview with Elias and Shady Bayter

Finca El Vergel and the Forest Green Team

Victor and Santiago Gamboa on the balcony of Finca El Vergel, Tolima, Colombia

Finca El Vergel is one of the oldest single estates in the Tolima region of Colombia, run today by second generation producers Elias and Shady Bayter with the help of their mother Martha. Unlike many smallholder farms in the country, known for their modest-sized plots of around 5 hectares, this estate boasts over 300 hectares of land (of which coffee is planted on almost 100 hectares). 

However, much in keeping with the Colombian way of doing things, this space is divided into small plots where unique altitudes and microclimates inform the way coffee is treated, so that the results of each batch can be more tightly controlled (a trademark characteristic of specialty coffee).

Victor and Santiago exploring the specialty coffee fields of Finca El Vergel

Walking through the El Vergel estate, which we took the opportunity to do on our recent visit, you’ll find several varieties being grown, or “a little bit of everything” as Elias explained. This includes Caturra, Pacamara, Java, Geisha, and of course, Bourbon (the excellent coffee we chose to stock in our Hermanos shops). 

You’ll also find a combination of both traditional production methods (passed down from their parents) and an impressive amount of modern experimentation through the way coffee plants are treated in the fields as well as the technologies used during processing. 

The Importance of Producer-Roaster Relationships

Elias and Shady Bayter from Forest Green enjoying Hermanos specialty coffee on Columbia Road

To quote Shady Bayter, the eldest of the two brothers, “direct trade makes many things easier. And with direct trading, where roasters buy coffee directly from the producer, we are able to keep investing and developing coffee produced on the farm. We’re able to improve the soil, the crops, the tools, and quality.” 

The obvious benefit for roasters like us is the ability to source amazing coffee at a better price and then pass these savings on to our customers, however, we also appreciate the human element of the direct trade model and knowing exactly who we’re buying our coffee from. Hearing that producers like the Forest Green team also value these relationships, both on a practical and personal level, is deeply validating for us.

In theory, direct trade allows producers to learn more about what’s happening with their coffee once it’s bought and exported to other countries. And the feedback received, in addition to satisfying a certain curiosity about what roasters and customers think, also helps them to adjust their processes to ensure their coffee keeps meeting consumer tastes (securing future revenue).

Santiago giving the El Vergel team a tour of Hermanos specialty coffee shops

As the brothers reminded us, it wasn’t always the case that producers could actually taste the coffee they’d grown after it had been harvested, processed, shipped, roasted and then brewed in another country, which is pretty mind blowing if you really think about it. 

Even today, a producer will rarely get to try their coffee in the same way you do when you walk into a shop and buy a flat white or latte.

However, with more direct communication between both parties, it becomes much easier for producers to understand the results of their efforts, allowing them to better gauge things like how coffee notes develop after being transported and roasted

With more direct communication between both parties, it becomes much easier for producers to understand the results of their efforts, allowing them to better gauge things like how coffee notes develop.

Importantly, it provides them with information on how consumers in places like the UK truly feel about the coffee they’ve grown — once it’s travelled thousands of miles from its origin and been subjected to a variety of processes that affect the way coffee tastes.

As the entire industry faces challenges from climate change to supply chain difficulties, the mutual willingness to strengthen relationships between producers and roasters gives us hope for the future as we strive towards more sustainable and ethical coffee. 

How It Feels for Producers to See Their Coffee Enjoyed Around the World

Elias and Shady Bayter seeing their El Vergel specialty coffee in Hermanos shops

We’ve always wondered how the experience of visiting a farm where the coffee we sell is produced (aka an “origin trip” and one of the things we love the most about what we do), compares to the experience of a producer seeing their coffee sold in coffee shops in far off destinations. 

“There’s nothing that makes us more happy than seeing our coffee, from El Vergel, in a shop in the UK. It’s of another world”, said Elias when asked about this. “Being able to be here and have our own coffee and see the reaction of people having our coffee is unbelievable – this is like a dream come true.”

Hermanos and many other coffee roasters today emphasise coffee transparency and the important role it plays in giving people a way to track where their money is going. And while we benefit from this financially in that we’re able to place a higher value on coffee that can be directly traced to specific farms, we also do this because we care about what it means for producing communities. When we hear producers are striving for the exact same thing, we’re reassured that our values are in the right place. 

“We always dreamed of creating the connection where people can drink coffee that comes directly from one farm, knowing who has grown the coffee. It’s exceptional.” Says Shady.

What Is Coffee Traceability and Why Does It Matter?

Climate Challenges Faced By Coffee Producers

Finca El Vergel amidst Colombian landscape and specialty coffee farm

Reiterating what many producers have told us in recent years, the Bayter brothers spoke to us over the course of their London trip about how climate change is making coffee growing more difficult.

“Too much rain or too much heat has changed the production environment that we used to have,” says Shady. “It’s a real problem that we’ve been facing for about three years now and to every producer that you talk with it’s clear that something is going on.”

“There are too many regions where people used to produce coffee but nowadays you can’t – it’s really hot and just impossible to grow coffee.”

Learn How Climate Change Is Impacting the Cost of Coffee

Why Producers Choose Specialty Coffee Over Commodity

Santiago assessing specialty coffee drying processes at FInca El Vergel

When the Forest Green team grew coffee in commercial volumes, sometimes referred to as commodity coffee, they relied on over 10,000 trees per hectare (mostly planted in sun-exposed areas) to generate the same kind of profit that it now takes only 2,500 trees per hectare of specialty coffee to achieve.

Making small changes such as only growing coffee in shade and applying a greater level of care and attention to the fields throughout the year places a much greater demand on resources and time, according to the brothers. However, as the Forest Green team and many other coffee producers throughout Colombia have proven, this is a worthwhile pursuit if you can charge more for the higher-quality yields you’re able to grow.

Smaller volumes of high quality specialty coffee typically command a much higher price than commodity coffee in large quantities. 

It’s also clear that focusing more on specialty coffee has allowed the brothers to lean into their passion for experimentation — learning more about the complex way coffee responds to different processes. 

With a greater appetite for unique and interesting coffee profiles in specialty coffee markets like the US and UK, there’s much more room for producers like the Bayters to push the boundaries of their craft, rather than concern themselves with merely attaining high volume yields with little regard to quality or uniqueness. 

The Diversity of Colombian Coffee – A Welcome Reminder

A collection of specialty coffee beans from El Vergel on coffee tasting station

While Colombia’s reputation as one of the best coffee producers in the world has helped many producers secure a place in international coffee markets, it has also contributed to a sense that all coffee produced here is somehow similar.

If nothing else, our recent coffee tasting session with the Bayter brothers, featuring over a dozen coffees grown on different plots of land within the same estate, is a reminder that the potential for diversity in Colombia (when diversity is allowed to thrive) is incredible. 

Hermanos team tasting specialty coffee from the El Vergel farm

Slight geographic differences and the resultant altitude and climate variations, combined with carefully controlled processing methods, can lead to an incredible amount of variety. Some of the coffees we tried during our tasting at the Hermanos roastery were sweet and overwhelmingly aromatic, while others had strong bodies and distinct chocolate-y notes. Yet, all came from the exact same estate, Finca El Vergel.

What Makes Colombian Coffee Beans So Special?

Future Plans and Goals for El Vergel

A peaceful scene at Finca El Vergel in Tolima, Colombia

Admittedly, the goal of many coffee producers around the world is simply to earn enough money from their farms to support their families. And even this isn’t always possible when farmers aren’t able to command a good price for their annual yields, whether this is due to the way the commodity coffee market works or unpredictable weather conditions impacting production. 

The Bayter brothers, who have seen a good level of success in recent years in the specialty coffee market, are fortunate enough to be thinking of plans beyond merely sustaining operations and earning a living. 

The Forest Green team now plans to grow specialty coffee across the entire estate. “This is a really big farm and the idea is to keep growing it. The goal is to have the whole farm producing coffee with different varieties and different processing methods.” Elias told us. 

When your average Colombian farm is a fraction of the total size of the El Vergel estate and given that the team is now only focused on specialty coffee, which requires far more care and resources than commodity-grade coffee, this seems like a formidable task, but one we’re excited to watch them achieve over the coming years as we continue to work with the brothers. 

Single Origin Specialty Coffee from El Vergel

Elias and Shady Bayter holding their coffee in Hermanos packaging on Columbia Road

Like many of the single origins we choose to sell in our shops and online, we think El Vergel is an incredible coffee worth paying for, but don’t take our word for it. You can pick up a bag in our shops or online and see what we mean. 

You can also find out more about the kind of work the brothers are doing on their farm and with local Colombian coffee producers by visiting their socials, or watch our full interview with them by clicking the link below. 

 

Watch the Full Interview with Elias and Shady Bayter – Producers of El Vergel

 

 

San Isidro
Strawberry, Guava, Banana Peel, Blackcurrant, Tokaji
£24.00
Finca Las Flores
Mango, Passionfruit, Pomegranate, Cherries, Cinnamon, Dark Chocolate
£24.00
El Fresno
Dark Chocolate, Pistachio, Orange Marmalade, Salted Caramel
£15.00
Tasting Kit (50g, 100g)
Whether you prefer a rich and robust espresso or a smooth and mellow brew, we have the perfect coffee bag to suit your taste.
£28.00
El Faro
Malt, Mandarin Orange, Almonds, Milk Chocolate
£13.50
La Estrellita
Passion Fruit, Strawberry Gelato, Mango, Dark Chocolate
£29.50
La Aldea
Black Plum, Dried Apricot, Assam Tea, Dark Chocolate
£18.00
Martha's Gesha
Elderflower, Limeade, Passion Fruit, Flat Peach, Oolong Tea
£32.00
best-product-cover-image
San Isidro
£24.00
Strawberry, Guava, Banana Peel, Blackcurrant, Tokaji
Size:
Grind:
More Details
best-product-cover-image
Mango, Passionfruit, Pomegranate, Cherries, Cinnamon, Dark Chocolate
Size:
Grind:
More Details
best-product-cover-image
El Fresno
£15.00
Dark Chocolate, Pistachio, Orange Marmalade, Salted Caramel
Size:
Grind:
More Details
best-product-cover-image
El Faro
£13.50
Malt, Mandarin Orange, Almonds, Milk Chocolate
Size:
Grind:
More Details
best-product-cover-image
Passion Fruit, Strawberry Gelato, Mango, Dark Chocolate
Size:
Grind:
More Details
best-product-cover-image
La Aldea
£18.00
Black Plum, Dried Apricot, Assam Tea, Dark Chocolate
Size:
Grind:
More Details

Join the community

Sign up to receive exclusive offers, updates and news on our products and services. Join our community of coffee enthusiasts and stay up to date with the latest coffee trends, roasts and brewing techniques.

Sign-up for Newsletter

Journal

VIEW ALL
Feature Image

Hario V60 Dripper - Everything You Need to Know

Picture this: It's 2005 and a Japanese glassware-making company called Hario has just introduced a brewer that will revolutionise the coffee scene. Read on and find out all there is to know about the Hario V60 and it's fascinating history. 

READ MORE
Feature Image

Pink bourbon: a Colombian specialty coffee like no other

Pink Bourbon - Colombian specialty coffee's latest gem? Learn all about this dazzling new varietal, its unique rise to global recognition and what the future holds for it. And don't forget to try our very own Hermanos Pink Bourbon - La Aldea.

READ MORE
Feature Image

It's A Hermanos Christmas

From Christmas Market prep to festive coffee-roasting to the birth of new seasonal characters like Santa Santiago, it’s been a rollercoaster of a month - and we’re only halfway through. Come along for a ride through the Christmas rush at Hermanos.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Feliz Navidad - Introducing Hermanos Christmas Coffees

We’ve curated two limited edition coffee beans for you this Christmas - Santa Rita Honey and Finca Las Brisas. Take a deep dive into their backstories and find out why they make the perfect Christmas bean.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Stories from Colombia

From Colombia, with love. Follow along as we take you on a trip through the journeys of four Colombian speciality coffee farmers and their families. From seemingly insurmountable hardships to deaths within the family, these farmers have seen it all, done it all, and persevered through it all. And now they want to thank you - for the unwavering support you've shown their beans through the years.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Hermanos Coffee Pods

Crafted by Hermanos, compatible with Nespresso®. Our sustainable single origin pods are finally here! Available in three of our most loved beans, get ready for your very own specialty Colombian coffee experience at the push of a button.

READ MORE
Feature Image

All About Yellow Fruits

This coffee will blow your mind - in the best way possible. With inimitable notes of pineapple mango and manuka honey, one sip is all it takes to fall in love. Get ready for Yellow Fruits to whisk you off to a tropical paradise.

READ MORE
Feature Image

How is Decaf Coffee Made?

Can't handle caffeine? That's where decaf comes in! Learn all about popular decaffeination methods used in specialty coffee and which one we prefer to use for ours.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Light Roast vs. Medium Roast - Coffee Roasting Explained

READ MORE
Feature Image

A Coffee Varietal Guide

The 2 main species of coffee are arabic and robusta, where arabica is mainly used for specialty coffee. Within the arabica family there are different varietals, similar to different apple types (eg. Fuji, gala, granny smith), each varietal boasts distinct flavours and flourishes in different growing conditions. Let's explore the world of Colombian coffee varietals and its diverse tastes.

READ MORE
Feature Image

The Coffee Supply Chain - How Does It Work?

Whatever your connection is to the world of specialty coffee, we’re all at the mercy of the coffee supply chain. And knowing a little more about how it works (and the threats that it faces) can help you understand just how appreciative we should all be of great coffee when it’s available to us.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Colombian Coffee vs. African Coffee: What’s The Difference?

How does Colombian coffee compare to African coffee? We explore the main differences between the two, including roast, processing, and tasting notes.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Hermanos Colombian Coffee Roasters — The Brand Refresh

Over the past seven months, we’ve been working hard behind the scenes to hone our branding and enhance it to better convey our values and our mission.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Gender Equality In The Colombian Coffee Industry — An Introduction

The Colombian coffee industry is reliant on the work of women. Yet, women are often not recognised enough for this contribution..

READ MORE
Feature Image

Choosing A Chocolatey Coffee — Insider Tips

Coffee and chocolate are two of the most popular flavours out there. We’ll talk through the characteristics of chocolatey coffee and what's on offer at Hermanos.

READ MORE
Feature Image

The Colombian Coffee Federation — What Is It And Why Is It Important?

The Colombian coffee industry has an outstanding global reputation, and for good reason. To maintain this quality and put frameworks in place to protect the coffee growers, the Colombian Coffee Federation was created.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Can Coffee Farmers Stop Climate Change Killing Their Crops?

There are around 25 million smallholder coffee producers in the world and over 125 million people who rely on the sector. What can they do to save their crops?

READ MORE
Feature Image

What Are The Key Differences Between Colombian Coffee And Brazilian Coffee?

How similar is Colombian coffee to Brazilian coffee? Despite both countries being in South America and sitting in the coffee belt, they differ vastly from each other.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Colombian Coffee Facts — Everything You Need To Know

We’ve summarised 10 of the best Colombian coffee facts, which you can use to find out more about what makes coffee from Colombia so unique.

READ MORE
Feature Image

How Is Climate Change Impacting the World of Coffee?

While local adaptation and agricultural innovation is helping some to mitigate the effects of climate change, several studies carried out over the last decade predict we’re looking at a drop of up to 50% of total landmass suitable for coffee production by 2050.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Innovation in the Coffee Industry: The Koji Method

We’re invigorated by experimental coffee processing techniques, which is why we're so excited about Koji, our new bean.

READ MORE
Feature Image

What Is Natural Coffee Processing And How Does It Impact Your Coffee?

We dive into the natural processing method, and see how it weighs up against the washed and honey processes.

READ MORE
Feature Image

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

Last month we travelled through Colombia. Our aim was to visit as many coffee growers and farms as possible in just a few weeks. Here's what we learnt...

READ MORE
Feature Image

Coffee Freshness - How Fresh Is Too Fresh?

We’ll walk you through why coffee freshness is so important, as well as some top tips on how to preserve the freshness of your coffee.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Coffee Subscriptions – Coffee Clubs, Bean Boxes and In-Shop Subscriptions Explained

The UK coffee subscription landscape is incredible. Many of the nation’s most established coffee roasters have doubled down on their online subscription models since the pandemic, while a huge number of new and digital-first brands have also entered the market.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Is Whole Bean Better Than Pre-Ground Coffee?

The vast majority of supermarkets and specialty coffee roasters offer both whole beans and pre-ground coffee. But which is the better choice?

READ MORE
Feature Image

Coffee Origins – How Does Location Affect Flavour?

Factors ranging from climate and altitude to the way local farmers process their beans have an impact on flavour. We explore how coffee origins influence coffee profiles from different countries.

READ MORE
Feature Image

5 Reasons To Visit A Coffee Roastery

A coffee roastery is one of the most exciting places to be if you’re a coffee lover or interested in how the process works. However, there are still misconceptions about what a coffee roastery is and how it relates to the other parts of the global coffee supply chain.

READ MORE
Feature Image

The Beginner's Guide To Different Coffee Types

There are so many different types of coffee out there, from Espresso-based drinks to fancy pour overs like the Chemex and V60. We’ve put together a beginner’s guide to different coffee types to make it easier for you.

READ MORE
Feature Image

What Is A Coffee Roaster? Wholesale, Subscriptions & Coffee Roasting Explained

The majority of coffee shops around the world buy their beans from a wholesale roasting company. But what is a coffee roaster? We explore!

READ MORE
Feature Image

Ground Coffee vs. Instant Coffee: What Are The Main Differences?

If you’re looking to brush up on your coffee knowledge or want to make the change from instant coffee to ground coffee, then you’re in the right place. In this post we explore the many differences between ground coffee and instant coffee, including the type of beans typically used for each, caffeine content, shelf life, taste, and the way these coffees are brewed.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Espresso Explained: What's The Difference Between Espresso And Filter Coffee?

What makes an espresso different to filter coffee? Many factors ranging from the size of the drink, the caffeine content, the taste, and even the aroma all play a part. But most importantly, these coffees differ due to the way they are made.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Coffee Tasting Guide – Top 10 FAQs Answered

There’s a strict protocol to follow if you are coffee cupping, but the general act of coffee tasting can take many forms. Here’s our coffee tasting guide for beginners.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Coffee Tasting Terms Explained — How To Taste Coffee Like A Professional

Whether you’ve got a coffee cupping session coming up, or you just want to learn how to appreciate your morning coffee more, it’s never a bad idea to brush up on your knowledge of coffee tasting terms.

READ MORE
Feature Image

A Visit from the Producers of El Vergel - What We Learnt

From challenges faced by climate change to why they choose to grow specialty coffee over commodity coffee, here’s what we learnt when we interviewed the Tolima-based producers of our popular El Vergel coffee.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Coffee Traceability: What Is It and Why Does It Matter?

The desire for traceability in the specialty coffee industry is growing, with more interest than ever in where coffee comes from, who grows it, and how it gets from farm to cup.

READ MORE
Feature Image

The Cost of Coffee - What’s Behind the Rise in Coffee Prices?

The cost of a simple cup or bag of coffee is connected to so many of the world’s most critical issues, ranging from the climate crisis to the global pandemic. We explore what’s really behind the rise in coffee prices.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Natural? Washed? Honey? Coffee Processing Methods Explained

Although you don’t need to know the difference between natural, washed or honey processed coffees to enjoy them, cafes, roasters and specialty coffee retailers are increasingly using these terms as selling points for their beans.

READ MORE
Feature Image

How Do Colombia’s High Altitudes Affect Coffee Flavour?

Coffee beans grown at higher altitudes tend to produce coffees that are more complex, rich and distinct due to the cooler temperatures that extend the growth time of the coffee plant, adding more depth in flavour.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Specialty vs. Commodity Coffee: What's the Difference?

There's never been so much interest in specialty coffee as there is now. A growing number of coffee shops and roasters define themselves by their commitment to specialty coffee, and, in a way, their opposition to 'commodity coffee'.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Coffee Tasting Experiences - What to Expect During Your First Cupping Session

Anyone can taste coffee but 'cupping' refers to the standardised process of evaluating coffees used by the coffee industry. We explore what you need to know before your first tasting (or cupping) experience.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Decaf Coffee Beans - How Is Coffee Decaffeinated?

We shed light on what decaf is and how exactly coffee is decaffeinated using methods like the sugar cane decaf process so you can make a more informed decision when choosing your next bag of Colombian decaf coffee beans

READ MORE
Feature Image

The Impact of Colombian Coffee Cooperatives on the Specialty Coffee Industry

While the coop system isn’t perfect, it’s played a crucial role in developing the Colombia's specialty coffee market and allowing smallholders to band together and promote the attractiveness of their beans. Learn more! 

READ MORE
Feature Image

How to Buy Specialty Coffee Beans - A Beginner’s Guide

Learn how to start buying better specialty coffee with our beginner’s guide. We discuss roast dates, flavours (notes), supermarkets, descriptions on coffee packets, and provide a simple checklist for when you’re in a fix.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Arabica Coffee Beans - Why the World Loves Coffee Arabica

Arabica coffee beans offer a smoother, sweeter taste than Robusta. And despite being harder to grow, are widely considered to be the superior bean in the world of specialty coffee.

READ MORE
Feature Image

The Colombian Coffee Triangle - The Past and Future of Colombia’s Most Famous Coffee Producing Region

Nearly a third of Colombia’s coffee growing happens within the “Colombian Coffee Triangle” and its major cities are strongholds for a century-old tradition of coffee farming. Learn more.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Single Origin vs. Blends - What’s the Difference?

Should you buy single origin beans or coffee blends? We explore what sets these bean types apart and what you should look for when buying your next bag of Colombian coffee beans.

READ MORE
Feature Image

What Is Third Wave Coffee? A Practical Definition

Third wave coffee means different things to different people. We explore what it means and whether it still has relevance today in the world of specialty coffee.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Colombian Coffee Beans - What Makes Them So Special?

Colombia is widely known for producing some of the best specialty arabica coffee beans. But what makes single origin Colombian coffee beans so special? We explore how everything from growing conditions and climate to harvesting practices and the Colombian Coffee Growers Federation (FNC) have all played a part.

READ MORE
Feature Image

Understanding Different Coffee Roasts - A Beginner’s Guide

We all know coffee roasting matters to the final flavour but the reasons why are unclear for many. Does dark mean bitter? Does light mean fruity? Is medium roast a safe “middle ground”? Learn how different roasts influence coffee flavour.

READ MORE