Our Colombian Journey – of Connection and Coffee Exploration
Two years ago, we embarked on our first Colombian journey; an unforgettable adventure to meet the incredible farmers who supply us with the finest Colombian coffee. As José comes from Colombia and we regularly visit our family there, we were no strangers to the country’s beauty. However, it was when we set foot on a coffee farm that a new world opened before us—a beauty that words struggle to describe, but one we eagerly share through the exceptional coffees we bring back to South Africa. This year’s trip was no exception, as we not only spent quality time with both our related and coffee family, but we also had the pleasure of being joined by our dear friend, Wihan from Mikro Coffee.
Our Colombian Journey Begins in Pitalito, Huila:
Our coffee journey began with a few days in Pitalito, Huila. We met with Juan Pablo, our co-exporter from Clearpath, in Bogota, and were warmly greeted by Rodrigo Sanchez at the quaint Pitalito airport. Our first day was an immersion into the farms of Rodrigo and Claudia Samboni—La Loma, Las Nubes, Las Veraneras, Monteblanco, and El Progreso. Witnessing the fascinating coffee processing at Monteblanco was an incredible experience, as the aromatic processes surrounded us with their captivating scents. Over the past two years, Rodrigo and Claudia have not only increased their productivity but have also introduced new processing techniques and launched exciting coffee varieties. Driving through their flourishing coffee fields, we marveled at the new trees, including the special Laurina plantation we were able to see being planted two years ago—now filled with beautiful cherries ready for harvest.
The Ambitious Guineas Project:
On our second day in Pitalito, we had the pleasure of meeting Fabian Murcia, a close friend of Rodrigo and Elkin Guzman. Together, these three talented individuals embarked on an ambitious project known as The Guineas Project. Their dedicated mission focuses on the cultivation and processing of the esteemed Geisha variety. Geisha coffee is renowned for its exclusivity and high cost, but the goal of this project is to make it more accessible worldwide by increasing availability, perfecting the cup profile, and reducing costs. Fabian, a true green-thumb guru, takes the lead in germinating and nurturing Geisha seeds, fostering their growth into magnificent, resilient, and high-yielding trees at Las Guineas farm in Isnos, Huila. Meanwhile, Elkin Guzman and Rodrigo Sanchez bring their expertise to the table, specializing in the crucial stages of harvest, processing, and fermentation. Our visit to this special project filled us with gratitude and the belief that with these three passionate individuals, it will undoubtedly be a great success.
Continuing our journey, we drove to Palestina, a town neighboring Pitalito, where we spent a morning with Elkin Guzman at his farm, El Mirador. Elkin graciously walked us through his new processing facilities, the fermentation laboratory, and the stunning drying stations, including the meticulously controlled competition nano-lots drying room where every temperature and humidity detail is carefully managed to enhance the unique characteristics of each coffee variety and process. Elkin also oversees the El Puente coffees, which have now moved from their previous location to El Mirador. Witnessing the improvements in processing methods under Elkin’s dedicated care was truly inspiring.
Amidst our farm visits, we made a stop at Aromas del Sur, the drying mill where all the coffees from associated farms are milled, packed, and prepared for export. There, Rodrigo, Claudia, and Elkin had set up an extraordinary cupping table where we cupped over 40 coffees. Trust us when we say that choosing a favourite was an impossible task, as each cup held its own incredible flavour.
Entrancing Trujillo and Calarca:
Leaving Huila behind, we boarded a plane and embarked on a few hours’ car ride to Trujillo in Valle del Cauca, where we met Nicolas Ocampo on his farm, Finca La Julia. Nicolas, with open arms, welcomed us once again. We spent an unforgettable afternoon exploring one coffee field after another—a sight that never fails to captivate us. The following morning, Nicolas guided us through the fermentation and drying stations, allowing us to bid farewell with a cupping session featuring his remarkable coffees.
From Trujillo, our journey continued to Calarca in Quindio. Elkin Guzman was not the only producer who had moved and upgraded premises; Sebastian Ramirez from Coffee Farm El Placer had done the same. El Placer continuously surprises us, and their new processing location left us in awe with its innovative infrastructure, pristine cleanliness, and unwavering commitment to excellence. As Sebastian was away participating in the World Coffee Championships in Greece, we were graciously received by his right-hand man, Leandro. He took the time to showcase the new facilities and set up a captivating cupping table where we indulged in a wide variety of coffees, ranging from washed and honey processed to natural and co-fermented.
Mesmerizing Pereira and Chinchina:
Our next destination was Pereira in Risaralda, where we spent a day with Julio Madrid at Finca Milan, Riviera, and Buenos Aires. Two years had passed since our first visit to Finca Milan, and we were greeted with awe-inspiring improvements—an upgraded processing station and an upcoming dry mill project. At Finca La Riviera, we met the remarkable women overseeing the meticulous hand sorting of micro and nano-lots destined for export. Julio guided us through the breathtaking coffee plantations, educating us on their pest management techniques, including their battle against the borehole beetle. By the year’s end, Finca Milan will proudly boast its very own dry mill and packing facility. Before bidding farewell to Pereira, we visited Café Uba, where Julio graciously hosted a cupping session. The table showcased an array of amazing coffees, some familiar processes, and others that completely blew our minds. We also take this opportunity to extend our congratulations to Julio Madrid, Julio Quiceno and their team for their outstanding achievement of securing second place with their coffee at the World Coffee Championships.
Ending and Embracing our Colombian journey with La Cristalina’s Legacy:
Our journey settled in Chinchina, Caldas, where we had the privilege of meeting Luis José Valdes and his family for the first time on their farm, La Cristalina, also known as Café Cuatro Generaciones—a testament to four generations dedicated to sustainable coffee farming and production. Luis, representing the fourth generation, continues the proud tradition of his family in nurturing the amazing coffee legacy of La Cristalina. Our time spent there was once again heartwarming and filled with gratitude.
While we yearn to share these experiences with everyone in South Africa, our best contribution is to return with newfound knowledge, passion for Colombian coffee, and a solid commitment to serve as the direct link connecting you with the extraordinary coffee producers in Colombia.