We have a new coffee coming from a unique growing region in the North of Colombia called Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. This territory is an isolated mountain range separated from the coffeelands of Huila, Nariño, Cauca, etc. that stretch through the Andes from the North to the South of the country.The Sierra Nevada encompasses about 6,000 square miles, and is the source of 36 rivers. There are 51,000 hectares of coffee in production being tended by 13,000 families, which is about 3 hectares per family. This area was designated as a Worldwide Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage site in 1979, and in 2013 a report by the International Union for Conservation of Nature identified the park as the most irreplaceable park in the world for threatened species.
Historically, this area was the birthplace of the Tairona culture, the most monumental and unique indigenous civilization of Colombia; there are Kogi, Arawak and Wiwa tribes that make up about 26,500 inhabitants of the area--and yes, they grow coffee. You might remember the Kogi coffee we imported in 2011.
There is a lot of Fair Trade and organic coffee that comes from this area, thanks to the number of small producers and indigenous groups that have banded together as associations and are able to fit the Fair Trade model. Even though the countryside is a rich and diverse tropical forest, the coffees that we have seen over the last 10 years tend to cup around the 80-point range, with descriptors of dry spices and cinnamon; in other words, good but not great. My personal opinion is that the message of how to improve quality and get higher prices that have been delivered to producers in the south of the country over the last 10 years has not made it to this isolated region in the mountains of the north. That, coupled with the Fair Trade premiums that don't encourage cup scores or quality standards, have left these producers and their groups a little bit behind. On my visit to the Kogi people's farm, we saw lots of under-ripe cherry being picked, and no real standard for depulping, fermenting, and drying; just traditional methods. We continue to talk about higher prices for better-cupping coffees and innovation, and we want to make a difference in this part of the country as well.
Mr. Flye and Finca Cincinnati:
Last year, I heard the story of a coffee farm near Santa Marta called Cincinnati, and the esteemed Mr. Flye, an American engineer who traveled from Ohio in 1890 to install an electrical generator in the city of Santa Marta, Colombia. Santa Marta is a port city not far from the coffee zone. It is the oldest city in the country, and was the first city in Colombia to have electric lights. Mr. Flye fell in love with the area during his visit, and while traveling in the hills to find sources of water for the hydroelectric plant, he collected some samples of coffee, and sent them to a fiend in New York who told him it was the best coffee he'd ever tasted. In 1893, Mrs. Flye and two sons arrived on a banana boat from the U.S.A. to join him Mr. Flye his new coffee endeavor. They bought some land in the mountains to build a farm, which they christened Hacienda Cincinnati in honor of the Mrs. Flye's birthplace, and in 1901 they shipped their first load of coffee to the U.S.A. This farm remained in the Flye family until 1984, when it was sold to another respected family from Santa Marta. The buildings were in disrepair, but the antique strains of Typica, Bourbon, and Caturra were still in production.
Hacienda Cafetera Cincinnati: Certified Organic In 2010, the property was acquired by the Diaz Granados Guida family with the intention of refurbishing the property and rejuvenating the coffee trees. Of the 680 hectares of land, 510 of are in a "Natural Environmental Reserve." It is a stunningly beautiful farm, thick with butterflies, songbirds, fruit, flowers, and fauna. About 18 percent of the world's bird species live in Colombia, and most of them live in this region. I saw a Toucan, hundreds of butterflies, was sung to sleep by the frogs, and ate oranges and bananas off the trees in the woods.
The coffee varieties were of the same strain since the early 1900s, but since the farm was certified organic in 1912 and new varieties have been planted, Hacienda Cincinnati is the first organic coffee project of special varieties in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Martia.
Among the varieties grown there are 42% antique Arabica, 23% Gesha, and the remaining 35% a mix of Mocha, Caturra, and Castillo.
The wet mill, dry mill, and original house have been restored to their original splendor. A state-of-the-art cupping lab has been installed, with a full-time agronomist on site to manage the trees and processing.
In short, I think this is a beautiful place with a wonderful farm whose owners have respect for the land around them and have a vision to bring specialty coffee to this part of Colombia using innovation, tradition, and passion for excellence. I cupped the Gesha and gave it 88 points, and the Mocha 88--so it looks like they are off to a good start.
Best Regards, Andrew
Click the following links for beanologies on our Hacienda Cincinnati offerings: 8018, 8019, 8085, 8086
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