Where is it?
Tarqui is a small town in the Central Cordillera of the Andes Mountains in the South West of Colombia. This is the second year that we travelled to Tarqui to purchase coffee, meet with the producers we work with and to judge the growers competition arranged by Nordic Approach and Fairfield Trading. We first travelled there in November 2018 and fell in love with the coffee and the producers who work the land. The farms are small and very remote a good 1-2 hour hike into the mountains. A typical farm is family owned and 1-3 hectares in size. This family aspect means many of them work together to create larger lots of coffee, however during competition time family rivalry comes out in full. This post is to give you a flavour of what coffees we have bought this year. We will focus in more detail on each producer as and when we release their coffees.
The format for the competition is as follows.
The competition date is set and announcements are made on local radio so the producers know when to submit their samples. Certain parameters have to be fulfilled to qualify to compete. Moisture content, yield factor lot size etc.
The team at Fairfield Trading cup all the samples that meet the criteria ahead of roasters arriving for the three days of cupping. This year there were roasters from Greece, Lithuania, the UK and Colombia. All coffees are tasted blind throughout the cupping and the farms are not revealed until the end so as to not influence our decision when scoring the coffees quality.
The competition is based on a quality payment structure.
1st place = $2.2m pesos per Carga
2nd place = $2.0m pesos per Carga
3rd - 5th = $1.8m pesos per Carga
6th - 10th = $1.5m pesos per Carga
*a Carga is 125 kg of parchment or coffee that has not been milled for export yet.
These set prices for quality are a quality goal to work towards. The main purpose of the competition is to bring roasters and buyers to small farms committed to quality production. The farmers put as much love and care into competition lots as they do their other lots which they may not have entered. The competition creates a platform on which a roastery can establish long term goals to work together. This is something we at Round Hill Roastery feel committed to. In essence the competition lots are the cherries on top!
This can be seen with our purchasing last year vs this year.
We chose three coffees last year 11 bags of coffee (70kg). This year we have bought 50 bags of coffee (70kg)
Today's price (02 March 2020) is $1 million pesos (£225.00) per Carga however the year before prices were 0.8 million pesos per Carga and back when the competition started in 2015 prices could fluctuate on a daily basis between 0.5m and 0.8m.
What we have bought this year
Loma Redonda - Alberto Valenzuela Osorio
Loma Redonda or Round Hill is situated in the growing area of La Vega in Tarqui and is owned by Alberto Valensuela Osorio and his wife Claudia Jimena Perdomo. Alberto learned how to farm from his parents, then founded his farm in 1998. Loma Redonda is only 2 hectares in size and shares that wonderful fruity flavour profile that we adore in coffees from this region. In November 2020 we will travel again and hopefully visit the farm, this photo was taken from across the valley and to cross would have taken 3 hours!
We hope to actually meet Alberto and Claudia in the autumn of 2020.
Mirolindo - Rolando Cordoba
Rolando Cordoba Ramos, his wife Louise Mirian and their four children all live on the farm named Mirolindo in La Vega, Tarqui. The farm is tiny, only two hectares in size and was founded in 2011.
In 2018 Rolando's coffee came second in the competition and was my favourite coffee on the table, that is how we discovered him and his farm. In fact his coffee was so good it was used in the 2019 World Barista Championships. We are keen to build a lasting relationship with Rolando and Louise. His farm is a 10 minute drive from Loma Redonda but down the mountain, meaning that this year his coffees arrived a lot earlier than the competition lots will.
It also means he didn't have a very big lot to contribute into the competition this year, and he unfortunately didn't place in the top ten. This being said part of our travel plans were to connect with producers we can work with on a long term basis. We already had bought one of Rolando's other lots before travelling which was a larger volume. The other lots that failed to place into the competition goes into a producer blend. When we met he promised to compete next year.
We will return to Tarqui in 2020 and we hope to spend more time on Rolando's farm learn more about his processing, operations and how we can grow together.
We will launch his coffee in March 2020
We will be using the Tarqui Collective for our Unit Fourteen Espresso in March 2020. This is a community blend. All the producers we work with in this area own tiny farms thus creating really small micro-lots. For our import and export partners this does create quite a few issues. As fantastic as these micro-lots are, they are here today and gone tomorrow. By blending these lots the farmers can sell more volume and to roasters who are going to value their coffees like us. A typical sized lot from these farms can be 3 bags (210 kgs) - 10 bags (700 kgs) This lot we bought was 30 bags (2100 kgs). This blend allows us to buy more volume from these producers and celebrate coffees from their farms but also coffees from their friends and families farms.
Finca Barranquitas - Janer Trujillo Gonzalez 1st Place
Janer Trujillo Gonzalez is a farmer we met when visiting the Trujillos farm El Sapo. This was the first time that Janer had entered the competition and we met him some days before he found out he had won (we didn't know either!). He wife in the picture above is the daughter of Bernise Trujillos who won last year. Their farms are on the same hill. We are still in the process of finding more information about Janer his farm and his competition lot which we are proud to have bought. His coffee will arrive in April 2020.
Vista Hermosa - Dorian Felipe Osorio 2nd Place
Dorian who is related to Alberto of Loma Redonda is a new producer for us. His farm is called La Brisa and is in the sub region of Tarqui called Triunfo. We met him briefly at the competition but we hope to meet properly next year.
His coffee came second in the competition and will arrive in April 2020.
The competition has connected me with producers which we will aim to work with for many years to come. I am really looking forward to everyone trying these coffees over the next few months.
And thank you for buying and enjoying coffees from this unique region in Colombia.