This time we started without any thoughts of coffee
From Peru I flew directly to Colombia. Juan Pablo picked me up at the airport in Nariño and immediately invited me to his cousin's birthday party in Pasto. We celebrated until five in the morning, and with quite a hangover, we continued the next day to the impressively clear lake Laguna de la Cocha, located at 3,000 meters above sea level. When we were able to eat again, we had trucha - trout - straight from the lake, combined with patacones de platano frito. This flattened and deep-fried plantain is eaten as a side dish, just as we eat French fries. After this brilliant introduction, we went straight on to the farm.
In fall season, the dried coffee beans are processed one last time before they are exported. In the first step, the silver skins is removed from the beans. This process is called "dry milling", although the term is misleading, because the beans are not ground at this point, but only kind of gently shaken in a machine.
Selection by hand
And then it's down to the details: every single bean is sorted out by hand. There is a special sorting room with large tables that can easily accommodate 20 to 30 people. A coffee bean can have 14 (!) clearly defined defects. These include, for example, insect bites, deviating coloration, cracks and chipped corners, because they all can impact the taste. The beans are also sorted by size using a sieve. By the way, the discarded beans are not thrown away, but remain in the country for national consumption. Juan Pablo personally checks the results, and the payment of the employees is based on the accuracy of their work.
What are Peaberries?
Relatively rarely there are spherical coffee beans that look more like a pea. This happens when only one seed forms inside the bean (instead of the usual two). They are characterized by a particularly intense flavor and are therefore sorted out out with a special process: all the beans are tilted on a slightly slanted board, which has an edge with a small passage at the end. The round pearl beans roll over the board and roll through the passage, while the normal beans remain lying. They make up only a small percentage of the harvest, thats why peaberry coffee beans are expensive and exclusive.
Last but not least
A whole year of work finds its peak when the finished sorted coffee beans are ready for packaging. The coffee bags, which are made of jute on the outside, are individually marked with the respective batch and place of origin. Inside is an additional plastic cover to ensure that the flavor is preserved and beans are kept dry over the long transport. I sewed up the bags which I ordered for our warehouse in Frankfurt myself using the special "standing sewing machine". Personally speaking it was a very special moment for me.
Super Naturals – Specialty coffee with a touch of extra
There's one thing I need emphasize: I call these beans the Super Naturals. They are not dried in the drawers as is usually the case at Juan Pablo, but directly on the sunny concrete floor. This ensures particularly fast drying and a distinctly intense flavor. Drying on the floor is particularly complex and expensive ... logical, because the drawers require less space and are also protected from the rain. But it is worth the price! I will definitely order a small supply of this extra class for the warehouse in Frankfurt.
Pick your own coffee
While I was sorting the coffee beans, I had a lot of time to think, and at some point the idea came that there must be other coffee lovers who, just like me, would like to dive deeper and experience the life on a coffee farm. This laid the foundation for the "Pick your own coffee" concept. For August 2022 I will plan a first trip with 3 to 4 participants to Juan Pablo. The goal: to experience firsthand the real life on a coffee plantation and to actively help with the coffee harvest. Write me if you want to be part of it!
The personal relationship
When I founded farmersvaluefirst, I was primarily focusing on the personal contact to farmers and valuing their work. With each trip, this connection still deepens. For example, Juan Pablo's grandma prepared extra empanadas (my favorite dish) for my first night, Juan Pablo wrote my name on the bags of coffee I ordered and packed, and I was blessed by the family's mother as I left. "That's what we do here," she said calmly as she made a cross in front of me and wished me a safe journey home. These are the moments when I know I am on the right path.