Walnuts, raw sugar and red apple.
State: Tolima & Cauca
Municipality: Ibagué & Inza
Elevation: 1,800 - 2,000m
Variety: Colombia & Castillo
Sourced Through: Melbourne Coffee Merchants
This coffee is named after the Great Colombian Massif, or Macizo Colombiano, a vast mountainous area that covers part of the states of Cauca, Tolima and Huila in the West of Colombia. Part of the Andean mountain range, this area is covered in snowcapped mountains, with elevations as high as 3,500m above sea level. The region is Colombia’s richest water source and many of the country’s largest rivers are born here, including the Cauca and Magdalena Rivers. Abundant, clean water and rich volcanic soil makes this area ideal for extensive agriculture, and it is known in particular for exceptional coffee production.
This lot of Macizo Colombiano was blended from coffees produced smallholder farmers from the area around the towns of Inza, in Cauca State, and Ibagué, in Tolima State. The coffees were selected by cup quality and profile to make up this special lot.
The farms that contributed to this lot are very small – on average just 1.5 hectares in size – and are located between 1800-2000m above sea level in the high hills and valleys of the Macizo Colombiano. Coffee producers in these areas farm traditionally, and grow a mix of Colombia, Castillo and Caturra varieties. Fertilisation occurs around three times a year, usually after manual weeding, and pesticides are rarely used.
The word ‘Tolima’ comes from the local indigenous language and means a “river of snow or cloud”. The region sits on the Cordillera Central, in the middle of the three mountain ranges that provide a range of microclimates well-suited to high-quality coffee production. Coffee is the leading agricultural activity in the region, followed by beans and cattle.
The most well-known regions in Tolima for specialty coffee are Planadas and Chaparral in the south. This coffee comes from the areas surrounding Ibagué, which is further north in the state. The city is also known as the “Ciudad del Abanico” or the “city of the folding fan”, because when you look at it from the sky the rivers running from the mountains split up the crops of rice and cotton, and it looks like a beautiful handmade folding fan.
About Inza & Cauca
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. This region has excellent growing conditions for growing high-quality coffee, with high altitudes and rich volcanic soil. The plateau also has a very stable climate year-round, thanks to its proximity to the equator and the surrounding mountains, which protect the coffee against the humidity of the Pacific and the trade winds from the South. This region is an important source of water and wildlife, in addition to being prime coffee growing land.
Coffee from both Cauca and Tolima has historically been very difficult to access due to the region’s isolation and instability. For many years this part of Colombia was under the control of Colombia’s notorious rebel group, the FARC, and as a result it was unsafe and violent. Since 2012, safe access to this region has been possible as a result of peace talks between the Colombian government and the rebels. Since this time some stunning coffees from small producers have become accessible.
How This Coffee Was Sourced
The coffee is sourced by MCM's export partners, Pergamino, who work with small producers in five different regions of Colombia; Cauca, Tolima, Nariño, Antioquia and Huila. Pergamino have actively been working to source and support coffee producers in regions where there is a high potential for quality, but that have historically not had access to specialty buyers. Through their Allied Producer program, Pergamino has done a lot to help promote commercialisation of specialty coffee throughout the regions they work in and to connect small producers to buyers who pay quality-based premiums, thereby improving the livelihood of the producing communities.
During harvest the farmers deliver small lots (around 100-150kg) of dried parchment to Pergamino’s local warehouses every 2-3 weeks. Upon delivery, a sample of the dried parchment is milled and assessed for physical attributes, including uniformity of size, presence of defects, moisture content and seed to hull ratio. If the coffee passes the physical assessment it is accepted and the farmer receives their first payment for the coffee, calculated by the weight delivered and a base rate related to the physical quality of the parchment.
The coffee is then cupped and assessed for sensory attributes. After being accepted by the local QC team the coffees are transported to Pergamino’s QC lab in Medellin, where they are further assessed by an expert team of cuppers. Each lot is carefully evaluated and, based on the cup score and profile, the coffee is sorted into different grades of quality and combined into exportable sized lots. Feedback on each lot is relayed back to the producer and after it has sold a second payment is made to the producer according to premium the coffee attracted.
The team at Pergamino cups through hundreds of small lots at their QC lab in Medellin, to select the coffees that are blended together into this special regional lot. The coffees included were chosen for their outstanding cup profile and distinct regional characteristics.
How This Coffee Was Sourced
The coffees in this lot were selectively hand-harvested, with most labour being provided by the farmers and their families. They were processed using the washed method at each farm’s ‘micro-beneficio’ (mill).
The coffee was pulped using a small manual or electric pulper, and then placed into a fermentation tank, where it was fermented for around 48 hours (depending on the weather and the farms location) and then washed using clean water from nearby rivers and streams.
It was then carefully dried (over 10–18 days) on parabolic beds, which are constructed a bit like a ‘hoop house’ greenhouse, and act to protect the coffee from the rain and prevent condensation dripping back onto the drying beans. The greenhouse are constructed out of plastic sheets and have adjustable walls to help with airflow, and temperature control to ensure the coffee can dry slowly and evenly.
Once dry, the coffee was delivered to Pergamino’s warehouse, where it was cupped and graded, and then rested in parchment until it was ready for export.
Read more about MCM's Colombian export partner Pergamino here.