Colombia – Inza Calderas
The municipality of Inzá is located in the corner of the Department of Cauca, bordering with Tolima and Huila and looking out to the west over the Pacific Ocean. Situated on the “Macizo Colombiano” (the Colombian Plateau), which surrounds the high peaks of Tolima and Huila, the region is an important source of water and wildlife, in addition to being prime coffee growing land.
This area is perfect for growing specialty coffee as altitudes reach over 2000 masl. Inzá is mostly known for its indigenous history and coffee. This coffee comes from the Calderas indigenous reserve area where during the harvest families pick the ripe cherry on their small plots of land, often less than 1 hectare. Once picked the coffee is then pulped and then left to ferment over night for 12 – 18 hours. The coffee is then floated to remove immature beans and then taken to either parabolic tents or dried on roof patios. The coffee dries for 8 – 14 days weather depending.
Cauca’s violent past, with a heavy presence of FARC guerrillas, had historically prevented the FNC (Colombia’s excellent national coffee board) and speciality-focused exporters from establishing a presence in the region. As violence has diminished, it has enabled the growers in the region to seek increased access to markets for quality, not only taking advantage of the region’s wonderful coffee-growing conditions but also the economic resource that nearby tourist destinations bring (for instance, the World Heritage Site “Parque Nacional Arqueológico de Tierradentro”).
Like all producers in Colombia, our farmers spent many years helplessly riding the roller coaster of international coffee prices. They had to invest, year after year, in their crops without knowing what price they would secure. As the saying goes in Colombia, there were years of lean cows and years of fat cows – the former being more common than the latter. They often sold their coffee to large exporters, never understanding their unique sensory profiles, nor in whose hands it ended up for what price. When they began selling their coffee directly to small importers and roasters, everything changed.
Today, our partners work with more than 600 smallholder farmers in four regions of Colombia (Cauca, Antioquia, Huila and Nariño), and their influence continues to grow. They have developed their relationship with the communities over time, providing invaluable feedback on quality and training in quality assessment. They are committed to transparency in their partnerships with these farmers, ensuring that profit margins are clear and that value-added by quality goes directly to the producer. They also provide technical assistance so that farmers can continue to improve crop quality.