HUGO SUPULVEDA, URRAO, COLOMBIA
The microlot of Caturra and Colombia was produced by Hugo Sepulveda from Urrao, Antioquia and was specially selected for Mercanta by Pergamino Coffee Exporters, Mercanta’s good friend and exporting partner in Antioquia. Mercanta has worked with Pedro and Leo at Pergamino for many years and has greatly supported their quality-improvement work with small producer organisations. By working with small growers such as Hugo and his family, Pergamino and Mercanta ensure a great price for the small holder producer and highlight the work that small coffee farmers in Antioquia, Colombia are doing to improve the quality of their coffee.
Finca La Primavera is very small even by local standards at only 1.5 hectares. This has meant that Hugo has had to work extra hard throughout his life to make the farm as productive as possible. This hasn’t stopped him from smiling, however! Don Hugo receives you with a smile every single time you visit, and that smile tends never to fade away throughout your stay at la Primavera.
As an original member of the Pavón group, Don Hugo has been crucial in helping Pablo Emilio Montoya (the group’s leader) keep the group cohesive and working together. His wife, Doña Yaneth, is also a smiler - always joking, usually at Don Hugo’s expense. She will cook you a lovely meal out of nowhere in 5 minutes flat.
Don Hugo’s two dogs are famous in the area and they never stay behind when he does the tour of his meticulously kept farm. Hugo is famous amongst his neighbours for the attention he puts into both cultivation and processing so as to ensure his crop receives the best placement possible on the market.
Over the course of two days, each day’s pulped cherries are added to a fermentation tank with the previous days’ pickings. In this method of ‘extended’ fermentation, each consecutive batch raises the ph level (i.e. makes more alkaline) of the fermentation tank, permitting longer fermentation times that will produce a fruit-forward cup but without the acetic acid produced by bacteria at a low ph. In this way, the producer is able to maintain the correct ph level and avoid very low ph levels during processing that can lead to over-fermentation and vinegary qualities. In addition to giving more control over ph levels also gives more control over yeast and bacteria activity. Interestingly, the practice is common with small farmers throughout Antioquia and Huila, who often have two or three day fermentation as their farms are so small that one day’s picking is often not sufficient to make up an entire lot. Don Hugo works with these traditional methods, but puts extra attention into making sure every step is perfectly executed.
Hugo is a member of Coocafisa (Coop Salgar), one of the largest cooperatives in Antioquia. Coocafisa is the only cooperative with a presence in Urrao, a remote municipality of Antioquia that was hard hit by FARC violence in the 1990s due to its remote location and lack of infrastructure. While the region is known for agriculture, it is less identified with coffee, and because of the remote location and the violence, the area has been slow to develop the necessary infrastructure for specialty production. With the steps towards normalisation between FARC and the Colombian Government, however, some small scale producers in the region have seized the opportunity and begun to make the most of their location – which presents the perfect conditions for high quality coffee.
The group has recently begun working with the Pergamino team on various quality improvement programs. High quality lots are cupped and graded by the Pergamino team (who also provide quality assessment training within the cooperative). Not only has Pergamino committed to monthly visits to the cooperative in order to cup and advise on quality, they have committed to purchasing all coffee produced by the group that cups at 84+ points. For this coffee, the producers receive and exceptionally high price that covers cost of production along with reinvestment in the cooperative itself and includes a specialty coffee premium once the purchased lot has been sold. Very high scoring lots, such as this one, are separated out as a microlot and are assured of being marketed under the producer’s own name. Lots such as this one also receive a very high premium, far above local market prices.
Hugo and his neighbours have been heavily inspired by Jose Arcadio of Finca la Falda, two-time winner of Cup of Excellence and, coincidentally, also from Urrao. Though working smaller farms than La Falda (which is still small, at approximately 10 hectares), they decided that if they worked together they just might be able to improve their coffee quality so that they could access the speciality market. They succeeded! In 2014 the group achieved 3rd place in Colombia´s COE of 2014, under the name of Pablo Emilio Montoya (one of the group’s leaders), and 2 Top 60 positions in the local Best Cup of Antioquia Competition
(In partnership with Mercanta Coffee Hunters)