It was just so good to be back on the road again, back travelling after two years of lock-down, not allowed to travel, with limited communication overseas, especially with the smaller villages and more rural communities.
We spent some of lock-down reaching out and exploring new potential connections in new origins for us. So back on a plane in May our first stop was in Colombia, one of the most famous origins for coffee, of course, incredible countryside, super-high altitude (which is good for Arabica coffee) and generations of vast experience in coffee farming.
We met with Angela, a farmer only an hour or so from the capital, Bogotá, and then flew to Armenia, Quindio, a well-known region of coffee in the country, to spend time with Felipe and his family, who not only farm themselves, but also work regionally with dozens of small family fincas (farms) helping them improve their coffee and have a better route to market, reaping higher rewards for their hard work.
We had the privilege of drinking coffee as high as 2,000masl with Cesar and his family after a hike (‘hike’: slip/slide/fall in torrential rain!) around his farm to see different varietals and his organic methods of growing on very steep slopes in the middle of wild rainforests and beautiful scenery as far as the eye could see. They were a beautiful family, living a simple life, but a thankful life – a real highlight of the trip.
We also got to cup and experience some of the new processes of fermentation and infusions that some farmers are experimenting with to try and draw out different flavours, acidity and more to. This was good to understand more fully by seeing these processes first-hand, but also to cup so many different varietals and fermentations and make comparisons. Particularly fruit flavours from the natural coffee is accented through fermentation.
But Colombia washed coffees are well-known, and appreciated worldwide, so we also got to cup plenty of these with smooth notes of sweet chocolate, and caramel.
But of course, as you know for EA it is not just about how good the coffee is, it’s the story behind it, the family who grow it, their care for the environment, how they farm, and further how we can help in any way, obviously paying well for the care and hard work, but also looking to invest in developing their farm or in social projects in the wider community. So these were the opportunities we were seeking out – who should we be working with long-term that will match our ethos to marry exceptional coffee with care for the environment and improving lives in coffee growing communities.
We believe business can be such a powerful tool for good, to help everyone along the trading chain to not only live a better standard of living, but a more sustainable improved lifestyle.
Two stand-out moments for Jack & Ian were meeting with Angela and the conneciton made of matched values and passions that we now hope will develop into tangible business long-term, and impact with farmers. And secondly visitng Finca Esmerelda, with Ceasar and his family – thankful every day they wake up in the surroundings they live in and the people they have around them. Just thankful for all they have.
We have nothing nailed-down as a direct trade connection (yet) but really positive options, that match for us, and we’ll be exploring these for a permanent, sustainable model of trade for good coffee and social investment over the next few months. It’ll probably need another trip to secure it (oh well!). Lots of options, lots to be decided.
Of course we saw the farm, Casa Negra, where our Colombian coffee currently comes from. And moving forward in the short-term we will be working through partners to bring excellent Colombian coffee to our roastery for customers to enjoy, and some guests from small family farms that offer a taste of Colombia and the variety it has to offer.
We press ahead with EA’s passion and model to work as directly as possible with farmers and communities where we can secure great coffee and maximum impact by doing good business this way.
We left tired and happy, reflecting on the value of relationships in our global community, but also how precarious our environment is. How precarious the coffee world is and prices so volatile from crop yields, environment and weather, before global crises, demand, transport complications, currency and market changes even get involved. More on that later.
On to Brazil . . .