¡Felicidades a Los Naranjos! New Competition Coffees

Posted on April 23rd, 2019

There must be something in the air in and around the town of San Agustín in Colombia’s Huila department, because this microregion and the coffee producers in it have put out consistently some of the best lots we’ve tasted from the country, year after year. Specifically, we’re thinking about the 52 or so producers who are members of La Asociación Los Naranjos de San Agustín, a close-knit group of like-minded producers who are dedicated to improving their quality as a group through individual discipline and attention to detail.
In January of this year, as a way of celebrating this exceptional community and its coffees, which we love so well, Cafe Imports co-hosted a mini cupping competition and price-discovery event in order to identify and reward the most delicious cups and to incentivize the group to keep doing what they’re doing—and maybe even to do it better.
Farmers in Los Naranjos own between 1.5–4 hectares at elevations between 1,650 and 2,000 meters above sea level. Many grow classic varieties such as Caturra and Typica, in addition to special types like Pink Bourbon and Gesha, and some of the best-kept Colombia variety and Castillo plants we’ve seen. These producers’ curiosity and passion is apparent on the farms as well as in the coffee, and it seemed obvious that some of their very small lots—some as few as four or six bags—should be show-stopping on the cupping table.
“We have been working with this group since 2007, when we first tasted this coffee rich with the flavors of jasmine, honey, tropical fruits, panela and chocolate,” says Andrew Miller, Cafe Imports’ founder and longtime head green-coffee buyer for Colombia. “We’ve been working with them ever since, and visit them at least twice a year for conversations, farm visits, and discussions about price, quality, the weather, and what we can do to support each other going forward.”
For the past nearly 12 years, Cafe Imports has sourced blended lots from the association as well as microlots from one of its breakout stars, 2011 Cup of Excellence winner Arnulfo Leguizamo.
“These are guys that are really experts in what they are doing,” Alejandro Renjifo from Fairfield Trading, our export partner in San Agustín, has said. “They follow agronomical practices that are clean, they have fantastic varieties, and they are very fine-tuned to produce quality consistently.”
The coffees are always fantastic, and our customers have developed a devotion to Los Naranjos’ larger lots every season, but Andrew wanted to try something new this year as a way of connecting even further with the community.
“Times have been tough over the last 10 years in Colombia with low prices and the onslaught of [coffee-leaf] rust, and now low prices again,” he says. “We are looking for a way to highlight special coffees, celebrate the success of certain farmers, and talk about new varieties, processing, and techniques with the group.”
Cupping competitions and live auctions have been deeply impactful for the producers who participate in contests like Best Cup, and the more localized Concurso de Cafés de Alta Calidad, or high-quality coffee contest, Cafe Imports and Banexport has hosted in Inzá, Cauca, for two years running. It seemed logical that Los Naranjos’ members would benefit from a similar type of quality-driven price-discovery event designed to reward the top coffees with auction-level prices.
“We asked the cupping lab in San Agustín to set aside any lots they thought were remarkable and set out for a cupping event that consisted of cupping 20 coffees per day,” Andrew says, describing tables that included single-farm microlots and variety selections, which were scored and ranked by Cafe Imports’ team as well as a few participating roaster friends.
The numbers rolled in, and the people rejoiced: The top coffee scored over 90 points, and was purchased jointly by Duluth Coffee Company and Wild Gift Coffee, who will split the small but incredible eight-bag lot. The rest of the top 15 were remarkable enough for Cafe Imports to bring home for sale to our roaster clients—and we’re pleased to announce that they just arrived in our warehouse, ready for you to share with your customers!
Thanks to this event, 15 producers received at least three times the typical market price for their lots, which will be sold as microlots with their names and farms identified, in most cases for the first time. We want to encourage our roaster friends who buy these coffees to consider sending a bag of the finished product back to the farmer as well: Ask your sales representative about our Coffee Send-Back program when you call in to place your order or request samples.
¡Felicidades a Los Naranjos!