What's the story
Some background about our beans
Coffee that is grown in this Colombian state, Santander, is one of the last few shaded grown Colombian beans, if not the last.
Coffee shrubs around the world have been genetically modified to grow under the sun, Colombia is no exception being the 3rd largest producer in the world.
This type of modified coffee shrub is typical of the vast plantations everywhere in the producing countries. Moreover, it now accounts for more than 95% of all Colombian coffee.
As for the origin of our green beans, we partnered up with local women associations in Santander, in the area of Charala where the UN has actively been promoting the union of women to run coffee-growing lots in the hopes to improve these families’ chances of a more economically sustainable life. They receive training in both good coffee-growing techniques and basic healthy finance management. Women in these associations get paid themselves as opposed to their husbands who sometimes put self-interests first before those of their families which are usually in detriment of their wellbeing.
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The coffee bush in its original state, needs shade to grow and flower. This in itself makes coffee plants to be ecological. The shade is usually provided by taller trees and/or other compatible crops. Among the later are bananas and plantains, both types of trees are taller plus their leaves are gigantic canapes that shade greatly on the coffee bushes making them ideal companions.
Our Santander coffee, from Charala, actually grows in a forest, where you can find not just bananas and plantains that help the diet of the locals, but also its original indigenous flora. No deforestation occurs. The coffee plants, some bananas, and plantain trees are planted within the forests of the region.
These forests soil, flora, and fauna are therefore far richer than the soil of other Colombian states where coffee crops are large and made of modified coffee shrubs to grow under the sun. This causes extensive deforestation.
The soil of shaded coffee plantations is nurtured naturally by the falling debris from a large variety of trees, birds’ droppings as well as those of other animals that inhabit the forests. Also, many types of insects and animals serve as natural pest control that helps diminish the use of insecticides, pesticides, and fungicides.
Another outstanding trait of shaded coffee crops is its harvesting doesn’t occur once or twice per year like their counterparts, but year-round. The berries mature to their best tasting selves, that is when they turn bright red, throughout the life of the coffee shrubs. Therefore such quality makes these coffee crops highly labor-intensive. More so for the following important reasons. Firstly, pick only bright red berries, Colombian coffee’s biggest differentiator from the rest of the world. Lastly, when berries mature and are not picked soon enough, their sweetness attracts pests, needing chemicals to control them. Thus shaded crops are checked almost daily, generating plenty of jobs for the people of the region.
To make it simple, we are purists in the roasting process of our beans. Beans are acquired and brought in green form. Locally, they get about a City full (medium-high) roast by our master roaster. Such a roasting profile has been hard-earned. It has been in the making since we first began our specialty coffee adventure back in 2004. Certainly, with each new crop, there is a tweak to be performed to achieve the best possible flavor profile. Being the fruit coffee is, weather conditions do have an impact year on year. And even though the main characteristics of our Santander Beans remain very much the same in its core, some small changes do happen. The roasting, therefore, is adjusted; again, not a whole lot but just enough to deliver to our customers, not just consistency, that wouldn’t make the bean justice, but the best possible version of the current crop.
Curiously enough Cafe Los Andes’ roasting profile, happens to satisfy drinkers of espresso and filtered coffee alike. We’ve chosen to go with a purist approach and stick to it directly clashing with new trends of roasting all beans to a medium cinnamon level.
Why it works. Simply because our Santander beans’ flavor is that rich and complex. At a medium level, Its high acidity would ruin the taste of an espresso shot. We rather not make your tummy upset, least curdle your milk!
Higher roast, but not too high that would make it taste burnt, translates into lower acidity, leaving yet a good bite of it, the right amount to allow you to taste our beans’ specialty quality standard. It’s quite the balancing act.
We are two Colombian ladies who arrived many years ago in the Czech Republic. We came to do our internship but ended up loving it here to the point of making this wonderful country our home. After a few years, we did notice that the coffee offerings were lackluster. There was no specialty coffee when the idea came to fruition. In the beginning, we brought the coffee roasted all the way from home. This was less than ideal because the trip simply shortened its best tasting days. So we looked and finally found a well seasoned and great person to be our roasting strategic partner.
A little nugget if you will. All Colombian coffee is ‘fairly traded’
All Colombian coffee is fairly traded even though you might not find the famous and recognizable Fair Trade logo. The FNC (Federación Nacional de Cafeteros) is the official aggregation of Colombian coffee growers. The non for profit body operates coffee warehouses all over the country so that any coffee grower can come and sell its crop to at an assured and fair price. Such price is published in all newspapers plus the FNC website, on a daily basis. The local official price depends mainly on the international price of the coffee (coffee is a commodity, NYSE). However, when the coffee price falls internationally, to a low level that doesn’t quite cover the minimum cost of living of the growers, the FNC takes money from its fund to up the internal price and bring it to the minimum. In the same way, the FNC fund is made of money that is saved up when the opposite happens, coffee price is high and not only does it cover the minimum cost of living but there is money left to fatten the fund for the hard times when the intel’ price is low. Therefore, all Colombian coffee is fairly traded.
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