Our Inga Aponte coffee is from the Nariño department which sits to the South-East of Cauca and close to the border with Ecuador. It is located only 1°north of the equator which gives rise to varying climatic conditions according to altitude – it can be extremely hot and humid in the Pacific plains but high in the mountains temperatures drop dramatically. Coffee grows here at some of the highest altitudes in Colombia, with some areas reaching 2400 metres above sea level. Here the Caturra varietal comes into its own being able to withstand the chilly high altitude nights, producing full ripe fruit. There are parts of this region still considered to be dangerous to travel in due to social unrest in the area but this is changing allowing smallholder farmers to access markets to display their complex coffees.
The Inga people are descendants of the pre-Hispanic Inca’s who used to roam the Andes of Northern Peru until they were driven away into hiding high in the Andes of Northern Ecuador and Colombia during the Spanish conquest of South America. There were sights of the Inga people returning in the mid-19th Century when they took to farming rubber and Quinoa. They were then forced to flee again in the 1930’s during the war between Peru & Colombia. They eventually returned in the 1990’s under an agreement with the government under the protected territories program, but the land that had previously provided suddenly trapped them in the midst of a war in the mid 90’s. During this period they were subject to human rights violations and forced into the illegal farming of illicit drugs
under the influence of Guerilla groups, drug traffickers and paramilitary groups. In 2005 this came to an end with Government military intervention in the region allowing them to rip up the opium and poppy plants and replace them with Caturra seedlings laying out a future in coffee free from oppression.
These farms sit in a picturesque location under the shadow of the Volcano Galeras, which sprinkles ash upon the land providing nutrient rich soil giving a unique flavour to the coffees. The Inga Aponte see Mother Earth as sacred and practise organically as much as they can but do require the use of some fertiliser on the trees. The high altitude also has the effect of a natural pesticide limiting damage to crops. Once the cherry is ripe the coffee is picked and then pulped using a hand eco pulper. The beans are then left to ferment for 18-26 hours in tanks to allow the acids to develop and to eat away at the mucilage surrounding the bean allowing the flavour to develop. Fermentation at the high altitude usually requires a longer period of time due to the lower temperatures. After fermentation the beans enter washing tanks where the remaining mucilage is removed and then transferred to either raised African beds or to parabolic dryers where the beans dry for between 4-6 days depending on the weather and humidity. Once the coffee has reached the adequate moisture level of 11-12%, it is then taken to a small local mill in Chinchina, where it is milled ready for export to port.
Caturra: is a cultivar from Brazil and is a mutation of Bourbon which is much higher yielding. The tree will not reach the same height as
Bourbon and typical characteristics associated with this varietal are bright acidity and medium body.
Coffee Growing in Colombia: In a country as large as Colombia, with an established coffee industry that is spread over 17 regions, there is bound to be variation in quality with a range that includes truly exceptional through to rather ordinary. Colombia is the third largest producer of coffee in the world after Brazil and Vietnam – though holds the crown for being the largest producer of washed Arabica. The coffee producing areas lie among the foothills of the Andes and the Sierra Nevada, where the climate is temperate with adequate rainfall. Colombia has three secondary mountain ranges (cordilleras) that run towards the Andes and it is amongst these that the coffee is grown. The hilly terrain provides a wide variety of micro-climates which means that harvesting can take place throughout the year as the coffee of different farms will ripen at varying times. There are more than half a million growers spread throughout the key regions of Nariño, Cauca, Meta, Huila, Tolima, Quindio, Caldas, Risaralda, Antioquia, Valle del Cauca, Cundinamarca, Guajira, Cesar, Madgalena, Boyacá, Santander and Norte de Santander. Key varietals include caturra, bourbon, typica, castillo and maragogype. The first exports of coffee from Colombia began in 1835 when around 2,500 bags were exported to the U.S. and by 1875 there were 170,000 bags leaving the country bound for the U.S. and Europe. Exports grew over the next hundred years or so and peaked in 1992 at around 17 million bags. Today, following unreliable weather patterns and a national programme of plant regeneration, Colombian exports are currently around 9 million bags of coffee per year. Coffee’s importance to the Colombian economy brought about the development of The Federacion Nacional de Cafeteros (FNC) in 1927. This body is responsible for research, technical advisory services, quality control and marketing. Juan Valdez, a fictitious character created by the FNC, is the world famous moustachioed, mule -riding and sombrero-wearing coffee
farmer and very much the face of the Colombian coffee industry. It is widely accepted that some of the country’s best coffees come from the south west in the departments of Huila, Tolima, Nariño and Cauca.